Irene: Flood plain buyouts could be on table

Homes in flood plains that were ravaged by recent flooding could be eligible for a 75 percent buyout

Homes in flood plains that were ravaged by recent flooding could be eligible for a 75 percent buyout, according to officials, but there is no indication that the state run and federally funded program will be implemented imminently.

Included in the relief from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for counties declared a major disaster area in the last month is money for a buyout program that would be administered by the state as part of a flood mitigation program. The program would require groups of homeowners interested in moving and the presence of a local emergency manager to advance their case to the state. Homes that are bought out would then be razed and turned into parkland.

Whether the state will choose to undertake this program is still up in the air, according to state Emergency Management Organization spokesman William Peat Jr.

“Nothing is set in stone,” he said.

Echoing the fluidity of this situation was Assemblyman Peter Lopez, R-Schoharie. “There has been nothing formally broached at this point,” he said.

Lopez, whose district has been a target for these types of buyouts in the past, said his constituents have mixed feelings about the program. There is definitely some interest in moving outside of the flood plains, but he noted that many home owners are interested in funding to prevent flood damage.

If the buyout program is implemented, Lopez said he wants it to be accompanied by development money for nearby areas outside the floodplains. He said it would be a shame if there was a mass exodus that made existing communities disappear.

Chris McKniff, a regional spokesman for FEMA, said that the program will go into effect at the behest of the state, with the federal government’s role only to respond to applications for a buyout.

People voluntarily offer … to have their homes bought out because they’ve been either repeatedly flooded .. or in a situation where they don’t want to live there anymore,” he said.

These people need to be part of either a street or neighborhood of home owners interested in moving. Their properties are then assessed and McKniff said they’re offered 75 percent of the fair market value by FEMA. That offer can then be approved, rejected or a second assessment can be requested.

McKniff said he wasn’t aware of any plans by the state to start this program yet, but characterized the process as a lengthy one that couldn’t necessarily be started right away. “It’s not a process that will take place over night,” he said. “ It will probably take a year to complete.”

Categories: Schenectady County

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