UPDATES AT BOTTOM OF STORY:











Anyone remember the massive flooding in Branson about this time last year?
Well, there were some fireworks at the Board Of Alderman meeting in Branson tonight that may shed some light on what could be an ongoing problem related to flood plain issues, permanent certificates of occupancy, and flood insurance for retailers at Branson Landing.

Interim City Planning and Development Director, Ruth Denham (b.), who is a 13 year employee of the city, accused the city of defrauding FEMA in a memo she presented to the mayor and council members.





Denham contends that two buildings at the waterfront shopping mecca have basements (Waxy O'Shea's Irish Pub and The Hilton Promenade Hotel) that are/or were below the base flood elevation but that documents that the city filed with FEMA don’t show that.

She said she is tired of being told to sweep the problem under the rug and to make it go away. Denham added that city employees are being terminated or resigning because the city wants the problem to go away.

Hometown Radio has audio of Denham pleading with the board to investigate dealings at Branson Landing concerning the flood plain.

The Landing officically opened in May 2006 after more than two years of construction.

On July 25, 2007, after the building supervisor refused, Branson's city attorney signed off on the report to FEMA, saying the city will need "additional dry or wet flood proofing," and that it's in the works.

Denham's attorney says there is no way it was in the works, since waterproofing the basement walls was cut from the project more than a year earlier.

In the Lake Taneycomo area, the base flood elevation is 719 feet above sea level, according to Branson City Engineer David Miller said.

Any area below that elevation is considered to be in a 100-year flood plain, and structures built there are subject to stricter requirements in the National Flood Insurance Program according to a FEMA representative.

Miller said the floor of the basements at Waxy's and The Hilton Promenade sit at about 709 feet above sea level......and added that
the basements were not built to be flood-proof because the project was outside the flood zone.

Miller also has said the city did inform FEMA about the basements.
According to Miller, Branson Landing now sits at about 723 feet above sea level after the developer backfilled the city's crown jewel with rock and dirt.

FEMA representative Pam Franke told the Springfield News-Leader that the city could have applied for a conditional letter of mapping revision if it knew the project would move its elevation above the base flood elevation but said Branson didn't do so.

Without that conditional letter, Branson was supposed to build to the standards set forth in the National Flood Insurance Program, according to Franke.

Miller said that the developer (HCW) told officials in Branson that the conditional letter was optional and that the developer for the Landing chose not to apply for it.

FEMA used that information last year to remove the Branson Landing project from a flood plain.

Denham said in a memo she presented at the Board Of Alderman meeting that she believes the omission was intended to cover up flooding concerns at the city's new multi-million dollar waterfront shopping center.

Denham's attorney, Jay Kirksey, said Thursday that she made the allegations after being pressured to issue a final occupancy permit for six buildings at the development.

According to Denahm, some businesses are having problems acquiring flood insurance and getting certificates of occupancy.

Denham told the board that she blew the whistle on the dealings at Branson Landing when she met with FEMA official Connie Wisniewsk at FEMA's Kansas City office on Friday, March 20th, after becoming tired of misrepresentations and the failure of the city to address what she referred to as the "white elephant" of our citizens of Branson Landing, relating to buildings 1 through 6.


Denham says that at least two extensions of temporary certificates of occupancy at the Landing expired in October 2008.

Officials with the city, the Benham Group and The Landing's developer HCW say that they will address the issues brought up by Denham at a public meeting scheduled for Monday (03-30-09) at 7:30 p.m.in chambers at city hall.

Franke says that FEMA's Kansas City office has requested all of the mapping revisions for The Landing project from Washington and expects to have them in about two weeks.


AUDIO OF DENHAM HERE (03-24-09)





UPDATE 03-30-09:




In a public meeting held at Branson City Hall tonight, the mayor and board of alderman have voted to bring in an impartial third party to investigate an employees claims that the city defrauded FEMA of over one million dollars.

Interim City Planning and Development Director, Ruth Denham maintains that FEMA never would have re-mapped the 100 year flood plain if they had known that there were basements at The Branson Landing that had not been waterproofed in The Hilton Promenade Hotel and Waxy Oshea's Irish Pub.
Denham addressed the board last week with her grievances in a memo she presented to the mayor and board of alderman.

During construction from 2004-2006, Branson Landing remained in the 100 year-flood plain of Lake Taneycomo.

The Landing officially opened in May 2006 after more than two years of construction.

Just about this time last year The Landing flooded after torrential rainfall in southwest Missouri.

On July 23, 2007, Branson's Building Division supervisor wrote to the city attorney and city manager with a warning."If FEMA does approve the application, and certain buildings that are non-compliant are removed from the flood plain due to insufficient or inaccurate information, the city will have participated in misleading other regulatory agencies, lenders, tenants, etc."
The city attorney responded, "This proposed letter looks good to me."
On July 25, 2007, after the building supervisor refused, Branson's city attorney signed off on the report to FEMA, saying the city will need "additional dry or wet flood proofing," and that it's in the works.

Denham's attorney says there is no way it was in the works, since waterproofing the basement walls was cut from the project more than a year earlier.

In the Lake Taneycomo area, the base flood elevation is 719 feet above sea level, according to Branson City Engineer David Miller said.

Any area below that elevation is considered to be in a 100-year flood plain, and structures built there are subject to stricter requirements in the National Flood Insurance Program according to a FEMA representative.

FEMA only approved the new flood plain map that moved the shopping and "lifestyle center" out of the flood zone in 2008.

FEMA representative Pam Franke told the Springfield News-Leader that the city could have applied for a conditional letter of mapping revision if it knew the project would move its elevation above the base flood elevation, but said Branson didn't do so.

Without that conditional letter, Branson was supposed to build to the standards set forth in the National Flood Insurance Program, according to Franke.

Miller said that the developer (HCW) told officials in Branson that the conditional letter was optional and that the developer for the Landing chose not to apply for it.

The Building Supervisor for the city would not sign permanent certificates of occupancies for the buildings in quesiton because they are not compliant with city code.

So technically, because the temporary certificates of occupancy have expired, and permanent certificates have not been issued, thefore the buildings in question are in violation of city code.

No word on when the city administrator will sart the bidding process for an impartial third party to investigate both sides of the issue.
According to Franke there are only two assistance funds that would have been available to the city; the public assistance grant, and a hazard mitigation grant. Franke said that Branson has not recieved any money from FEMA from either of those programs.

A FEMA rep in Kansas City told me today that they had received some of the planning maps and other documents related to The Landing project that they had requested from Washington and would like to study them for a few weeks before making comment.
UPDATE (04-01-09):
The City of Branson has hired Little Rock native Jim Lawson as the new Planning and Development Director.

The search for a Planning Director has been going on for some time now, however, the hiring of Lawson comes about ten days after interim Planning and Development Director Ruth Denham, took her concerns about the controversy involving the city, Branson Landing and FEMA public.

Lawson replaces Don Stephens, who resigned as Branson’s planning and development director last October.









****meeting image from Hometown Radio

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