Safely Building on a Major Waterway
As Chattanooga, Knoxville, Decatur, and other towns along the Tennessee River are doing or have done, Huntsville, Alabama will develop its Tennessee River front along with Hobbs Island. When finished, Butler Basin alone will have 600 plus homes planned in a TND (Traditional Neighborhood Development) built around a River Town. Since development on the Tennessee River is new to Huntsville, let’s take a minute to go over some relevant information as to safely building your new home on a major waterway.
As a registered architect and land planner, I have performed extensive research in order to safely plan a development on the Tennessee River. There are at least six terms which you need to understand when building on a waterway. They are floodplain, flood zone, flood hazard district, flood fringe, floodway, and the 100 year flood elevation (event). Unfortunately many, including individuals, real estate agents, and media outlets use these six terms indiscriminately, although they can have very different meanings.
A large portion of Huntsville, including downtown, is in the floodplain (zone), or flood hazard district, and all river land is in a floodplain. Actually, all three mean the same thing. The floodplain’s boundary is determined by the 100 year flood elevation, being defined as the water level having a one percent chance of being equaled or exceeded in any given year. The floodplain is then divided into the flood fringe and the floodway. Generally speaking, you will be required to build your finish floor one foot above the 100 year flood elevation on any site in the flood fringe. All designated building areas at Butler Basin are safe to build. We are on high ground located at the foot of Wallace Mountain.
It is the floodway that you need to be aware of! It is difficult if not impossible, without extensive and costly engineering studies showing a 'No Rise', to get approval to build in the floodway unless it is at existing grade with no fill. For example, you could pave an area to park or store you boat or RV at existing grade or place the structure up on piers. Appreciate the floodway for what it is ...an area clear of buildings and other obstructions so that flood elevations will not be increased significantly during a flood event. The floodway can be the most beautiful part of your site. When you hear the term 'floodplain', 'flood zone', 'flood Hazard district' and 'flood Fringe', all with the word 'flood' in them, don’t assume the home site is in the more serious 'floodway'. Do your own due diligence or better still go to a license engineer, surveyor, or the city/county where the property is located and ask this specific question, “In relation to the property I’m considering buying, where is the floodway and what is the 100 year flood elevation?” After you find this out, see if there is sufficient land left over not in the floodway to build your home. If there is, make sure your finish floor is at least one foot above the 100 year flood elevation. Unless your lending institution has guidelines stronger than FEMA’s, and they probably don’t, you will, after submitting the proper paperwork, probably not be required to carry flood insurance.
There is one more factor I would consider when buying riverfront property. Consider how your site is affected by a localized rain event, since localized events are the hardest to predict. When you hear on the news that many localized areas of, in this case North Alabama, are flooding, the Tennessee River at Butler Basin may not have come up any. In fact it may have dropped. Rising water on the Tennessee River is usually only affected by a major rain event that covers the whole Tennessee River drainage basin from eastern Tennessee to the Ohio and Mississippi River. If this does happen, the water is more controllable and predictable because of the computerized lock/flood gate system on the river. Butler Basin has never been close to the 100 year flood event since 1925. This data is available on USGS’s web site at: http://nwis.waterdata.usgs.gov/al/nwis/peak?site_no=03575500&agency_cd=USGS&format=html Because we’re on a controlled river, you are less likely to have your home flooded at Butler Basin than any other flood fringe area not on the Tennessee River. Want to know what the level of the Tennessee River at Whitesburg Gage about a half mile from Butler Basin is this minute...Try this link... http://water.weather.gov/ahps2/hydrograph.php?wfo=hun&gage=whia1&view=1,1,1,1,1,1,1,1
In conclusion, you have a duty and owe it to yourself to be diligent when buying on any waterway. Even if you decide to buy water front property (Floodplain property) somewhere else, still follow the guidelines above to be safe. It is as safe to build your home on the water as it is to build on the side of a mountain, but you need to do your due diligence either way.
Forest Knowles, Commodore, Great Bend Yacht Club (Fancy title for President of the Home Owners Association)
PS. And yes, although I put on my architect hat to write this…I’m also “Light Bulb Man”
The Doughnut Tree
Years ago, under the alias, Light Bulb Man, I started writing stories with 'key' words that I thought search engines would pick up on my site. After a while I stopped, perhaps because I couldn't think of any more key words...Or just got lazy. There is one more story Light Bulb Man would like to tell and it is not his story. Catherine L. Knowles wrote a historical fiction novel, The Doughnut Tree, about Huntsville and, yes, the old town of Taylorsville here on the Tennessee River in the 1900-1926 time frame. She brings to life how it must have felt to be living in Taylorsville in that era. Fate may have it that it is her story that is the catalyst to resurrect Taylorsville. I know the author very well...She's the one that dubbed me, 'Light Bulb Man', and I believe she has a best seller and a shot at a movie. I have provided a link to her web page, www.thedoughnuttree.net
Lake Lots and Lake Houses, Huntsville, Al
I apologize for the “trickery” used to get you to this story. Light Bulb Man actually doesn’t have any particular story about lake lots or lake houses. Today Light Bulb Man has on a different hat… He’s Web Site Man. The ritual is always the same. I stare at the computer screen and try to remember how I updated it last time. If you don’t do it every day, one tends to forget. Thus, I guess, is the reason I’m good at changing light bulbs. Like horse shoes or remembering your wife’s birthday, close doesn’t count. Computers and wives demand you be exactly right.
Anyway, I digress. Why a story about lake lots and lake houses? Because I Googled everything about river lots I could think of… Riverfront, river lots, Tennessee River, waterfront, water access, boat slips, yachting, water recreation, boating, water skiing, etc. My site did well. Even came up first in some searches. But, when I typed in lake lots Huntsville, Al and lake houses Huntsville, Al (there’s that trickery again), nothing came up on my site.
I called my site provider about this problem thinking he could wave his hand and solve this with ease. Mike, why is it that I get good results hitting my web page when I type in river lots, Huntsville Al, but when I type in lake lots, Huntsville, Al or lake houses, Huntsville, Al (I know…Enough! computers are exact…one time would be sufficient). Mike told me I was selling river lots and houses, not lake lots and houses. I am to selling lake lot and lake houses. We may call this section of the water shed the Tennessee River, but it is actually Wheeler Lake just like Guntersville Lake or Lake Guntersville. What if someone, looking to move to Huntsville, typed in lake lots Huntsville, Al (had to do one more time)? They wouldn’t know Great Bend at Butler Basin existed. To which he replied:
Tell a story!
PS. You know some of us (not you and me, of course) will keep hitting the elevator button thinking this will make it move faster…lake lots , Huntsville, Al, lake houses Huntsville, Al, lake lots , Huntsville, Al, lake houses Huntsville, Al, lake lots , Huntsville, Al, lake houses Huntsville, Al, lake lots , Huntsville, Al, lake houses Huntsville, Al… Really enough! Let’s go change a light bulb. At least it’s honest work.
Yes, Virgina, Light Bulb Man is for Real! So are a lot of other stories at Butler Basin...Some for fun and others must read for living on the water. Below is a sample collection of wisdom, wit and ramblings of Light Bulb Man:
When the Town Square of Taylorsville is finished, Taylorsville Realty will be the first to have an office there...To be part of developing Huntsville's Tennessee River Front with river lots, homes and commercial. Besides serving your real estate needs, Taylorsville Realty offers architectural services through an architect on the development team and we are a licensed residential home builder. You are able, if you choose, to use your own architect and builder, but we do understand design and development on this Tennessee Waterway and promise to make your home or commercial building experience a pleasant one. Give us a call and keep in mind....initial planning during lot selection is free.
Huntsville's River Front
As Chattanooga, Knoxville, Decatur, and other towns along the Tennessee River are doing or have done, Huntsville, Alabama has started to develop its river front along with Hobbs Island. When finished, Butler Basin alone will have 600 plus homes planned in a TND (Traditional Neighborhood Development) built around a river town to be named Taylorsville after the 1800s river town that existed on the site. Taylorsville was a small farm town on the Tennessee River. Its claim to fame was a railroad depot where the train turned around at the "Y". Also in the town was a feed store, general store, post office, blacksmith, a bed and breakfast, several homes and a river port where the old river barges would meet the train. The barges and 2 tugs were actually part of the railroad and the only known incidence of "A Railroad Navy". Munitions from Redstone Arsenal used this route to ship to the European Front in World War II.
Have You Seen the Lighthouse:
Dedicated at dusk Saturday July 21,2001
The Lighthouse at Great Bend at Butler Basin was dedicated at dusk on Saturday, July 21, 2001 long before any homes were built. Work continued into the afternoon to ensure that the light was ready for dedication. At the flip of the switch, the halogen light started to rotate at a standard four revolutions per minute. For those of us there, including the Guntersville Yacht Club, it was a memorable experience, with fireworks, food, music and dance, Since July 21, it automatically comes on every evening right after sunset.
The lighthouse stands approximately 36 ft. 4 in. above its base, with the base adding another 5 ft. at rivers edge for a total of 41 ft. 4 in. With circular stairs going up to the working light, and a door going out onto the observation deck, it is truly a functional lighthouse. One can truly say it is the only lighthouse in Huntsville, Alabama, and to this author's knowledge, is the only lighthouse on the Tennessee River. Butler Basin's Lighthouse is listed in the Lighthouse Directory, which provides information and links for more than 12,300 of the world's lighthouses? With restrooms on the first floor, pool equipment on the second, and a spectacular observation deck, the Great Bend lighthouse was designed for the sole enjoyment of the owners and guest of Great Bend at Butler Basin.The association, The Great Bend Yacht Club, will be looking for one home owner to become the light keeper. As light keepers of the past, their primary duty will be to keep the light burning 365 days a year. Fortunately, you will not have to carry oil up to the light. It is somewhat automatic with only light cleaning, bulb replacement, and maintenance required. As a symbol of our yacht club, we want to be able to say that the light at Great Bend always guides our friends and love ones home at night.
Light Bulb Man and Other Pseudonyms?
Cathy (my wife) and I have now been living in paradise at Great Bend at Butler Basin for over five years. Retired from commercial architecture and waiting for the right time to continue my passion of developing Huntsville’s Tennessee River front, I find myself doing a lot of maintenance. Cathy has dubbed me “Light Bulb Man” because between the sidewalks, entry, pool, gazebo, lighthouse, and street lights, I have changed a lot of bulbs. She could have just as easy have said maintenance man, lawnmower man, pool boy, or dock boy, but Light Bulb Man stuck, I guess, because of my obsession to keep all the lights on.
Perhaps the sidewalks, street, and other light are more important for safety/ security reasons, but that is just a job for Light Bulb Man. Keeping the lighthouse burning, and I should add the flag pole illuminated, is an honor and duty. I feel it an absolute responsibility to keep the lighthouse burning even though I suspect there would be no navigational problems if it didn’t come on every night. But then I do recall a friend of mine, George Shanks, coming in one night in heavy fog, damage to his stern due to a storm, and running on instruments only in a 300’ channel saying, "The Great Bend Lighthouse was the prettiest sight he had ever seen." The lighthouse keepers of the past would not have let their light go out…Boats would run aground and good men could die. I don’t think anyone is going to run aground if I let the bulb go out…But, I think I’ll keep the light on anyway.
Light Bulb Man
Great Bend at Butler Basin was the first phase of the rebirth of the old town of Taylorsville. When the town is revived, you will be able to drive your golf cart down to the town center with its shops, restaurants and marina on the riverfront. As any well planned TND, Taylorsville (click to see) will offer everything. You could retire here and never have to leave, but you will still be connected to downtown Huntsville 12 miles away, Gate 3 Redstone Arsenal 5 miles, and by boat to other towns along the Tennessee River and, yes, you could cruise on down to Mobile, the Keys or the Caribbean.
Individuals looking to live on the Tennessee River in the city limits of Huntsville, Alabama and investors looking for a great return, this may be the best property in North Alabama. Located just 3 miles from South Memorial Parkway on Hobbs Island Road. Yes, you can live on the Tennessee River in the city limits of Huntsville, Alabama with all underground utilities and city sewer. No need for the lake home an hour or more away on a troublesome septic tank. One home in Huntsville has the best of both and the cost, maintenance and upkeep of one.
I Can Tell Stories?
I just discovered from my web provider last Thursday that my web site, www.butlerbasin.com, is set up to log stories. Who would have thought? Since it is a perfect avenue to update friends and customers on what's happening at Butler Basin and the Great Bend Yacht Club, I now have something else to worry about. If I don't write a newsletter, I'll feel guilty. I guess all other organizations do newsletters. It could help lot sales…Or, since there is not a 'spell check' option on this uplink, it may hurt lot sales.
Tennessee River or Mississippi, perhaps I could be like Tom Sawyer and talk one of the Yacht Club members into doing it for me...Delegation. After retiring from owning an architectural firm, to continue developing real estate on my own, I miss being able to delegate. I have no one to delegate to but me. I don't seem to be able to delegate to Cathy, my wife, unless it was her idea.
Maybe, if my neighbors won’t take on the task of maintaining an up-to-date Marina News Letter, I could do something like taking a picture of the sunset every evening. We have beautiful sunsets over the Lighthouse at Butler Basin. But then that would be time consuming...Would have to have a camera with me every day, worry about the right light conditions for the best shot, and still more time to upload the picture. Probably too much work. It may even take away from the enjoyment of experiencing the moment behind the lenses we were born with. We had a wedding cocktail party here Friday evening. It would be nice years from now to go back and see the lovely sunset we had...Before it started raining.
There are a lot of stories here on the Tennessee River in Huntsville's back yard. Heck, there is a book here if we started when I first walked into the cornfield, looked around, and didn't have the foggiest idea that in a few years, there would be boat docks under me. What would the chapters be? Not sure, but the following come to mind:
It Cost How Much!, You Got to be Kidding, You Can Grow Sweet Potatoes, The Mower is Where, Light Bulb Man…The Story of a Retired Architect, You Want a Payment When, I’m With The City and here to Help, I’m Your Banker and I’m Here to Help, I’m an Attorney and Not Here to Help, I’m a Realtor and I Know Everything to Help You, Bottom Feeders and Other Slimy Creatures, Mr. Big, He was Jack Wright and He Did Help, We’ll Start your Side First, You want Garbage Pick Up, What’s a LOMA, You Want me to Swim up River and Count What, Why Don’t You Stick to Architecture, You’re a Dreamer, My Great Granddad Saw Water over the Whitesburg Bridge, and Darn It, for the Last Time…It Doesn’t Flood, No Flood Insurance Required
I’m sure there are other Stories (chapters) to write, but Light Bulb Man needs to go and check if all the street and Sidewalk lights came on.
Submitted by Forest Knowles, Commodore, Great Bend Yacht Club, alias Light Bulb Man