Supervisors Turn Down Floodplain Exemption

Homeowner says flood regulations put his new home up eight feet

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Roger and Francie Phillips might need stilts to enter their new Tonto Basin home.

The couple applied for a height variance from the county to avoid setting the home six feet above the floor of their garage, in accordance with a floodplain ordinance. According to Francie, that puts their door eight feet above ground level. Their house sits on two feet of piers.

“Eight feet high is ridiculous,” Roger told sympathetic but unyielding county supervisors Tuesday.

The couple wants to replace the manufactured home that’s sat on the property since 1989 with a new one, and must comply with current floodplain regulations.

Because Roger has diabetes, wears a pacemaker and has neuropathy in his legs, the Phillips wanted to set their house four feet up from their garage, which they say is still two feet higher than their present home.

“Even if a ramp was built, it would have to wrap around the house to be at a gradual enough level to rise the eight feet for Roger to walk up,” read a letter Francie wrote to county officials.

Supervisor Mike Pastor, who represents the Phillips, told Roger he commiserated with him, but that being nice once would lead to being nice twice.

“If we grant one, we’re going to have to grant two. If we grant two, we’re going to have to grant three,” he said.

Roger railed against the cost of following the federal regulations. The couple estimated that bringing in four feet of dirt would cost $10,000, with another $3,000 for soil testing.

Roger implored supervisors to consider the financial toll.

Public Works Director Steve Stratton said Federal Emergency Management Agency requirements leave no choice.

“I think it is asinine that you have to have that trailer up eight feet,” said Supervisor Tommie Martin, but she agreed with Stratton.

County staff recommended that the supervisors deny the Phillips’ request because the homeowners based their justification on personal issues and not property characteristics, according to county documents.

Tonto Basin occasionally floods, leaving residents stranded and requiring emergency services. Residents living in homes installed under the flood elevation could need rescuing by county officials at taxpayer expense, the documents read.

Martin said the long-term solution involves moving Tonto Basin residents out of the floodway and onto higher ground. The river has continued to change its course since the Roosevelt Dam’s construction, exacerbating flood risk.

“That creek is not in the bed it was 20 years ago,” said Supervisor Shirley Dawson.

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