Demolition will begin next month on 37 homes approved last month for a federal hazard mitigation program, shrinking the population near the Schoharie Creek and other waterways in Schoharie County.
Schoharie County Senior Planner Shane Nickle said FEMA has approved roughly $4.5 million in funding for the estimated $6 million cost to buy flooded properties from their owners.
The program, administered by the state Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Services, was open to landowners who sustained at least 50 percent property loss from tropical storms Irene or Lee.
So far, the state has sent applications to purchase or elevate a total of 832 homes due to Irene or Lee damage, according to state Office of Emergency Management spokeswoman Kristin Devoe. To date, Devoe said, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has issued approvals for 548 structures in 37 communities statewide.
The program can be seen as a major boost to flood victims who might otherwise be stuck with major rebuilding costs and the threat of future flooding. But it also represents a loss to the municipalities. None of the properties will be used for housing again once the process is complete. This will put a permanent dent in the tax bases of the towns of Schoharie, Esperance, Blenheim, Middleburgh, Fulton, Gilboa and Broome, and the villages of Schoharie and Middleburgh.
Nickle said officials can only hope property owners involved will consider finding another home site within Schoharie County. He said he is aware of several who intend to do so.
“We certainly want to see the flood plain protected and get people out of harm’s way. But the county can really not afford to lose people at this point. Our hope is that this is a way for people to get to a safer location but to stay in the county,” Nickle said.
FEMA’s funding will cover 75 percent of the cost, with the rest to be covered from a variety of other sources, including possibly the town or village itself. But that seems unlikely in this case; Nickle said few of the municipalities struck by flooding can afford to pick up the 25 percent matching cost, estimated at $1.5 million.
A total of 55 parcels will be gobbled up by the program. Nickle said they are situated on Priddle, Smith Camp and Junction roads in Esperance; Karkerdorf Road, Sunset Drive and Bridge Street in Schoharie; on Route 30, Middlefort Road and Scribner and Baker avenues in Middleburgh; in the hamlet of Breakabeen in the town of Fulton, in the hamlet of North Blenheim in the town of Blenheim; on Taibbi Road in the town of Gilboa; and on Route 145 in the town of Broome.
The removal of 15 parcels from the tax roll will be felt in Esperance, town Supervisor Earl Van Wormer III said.
“Obviously that’s going to affect our tax base. The hopes are that some of these people will relocate somewhere else within this town,” he said.
It’s likely many of the property owners will have to accept 75 percent of the pre-flood value of their properties rather than 100 percent, because no one is able to pay the other 25 percent.
“Obviously, the town doesn’t have the funds to cover it out of our budget,” Van Wormer said.
He said he’s lobbying state officials in hopes of getting state funding to support the 25 percent match.
“If that doesn’t happen, we’re hoping that the people will feel that the 75 percent is enough,” Van Wormer said.
The recent approval reflects the first phase of the post-disaster acquisition program. Nickle said 10 other properties are under review for additional phases of the program.