Monday, June 27, 2022

New Hanover County residences up for FEMA buyout using taxpayer money, public comment opens

A flooded neighborhood on Alexis Hales Road near the Black River in Currie, North Carolina, Wednesday, September 19, 2018. (Port City Daily photo | Mark Darrough)
A flooded neighborhood on Alexis Hales Road near the Black River in Currie, North Carolina, Wednesday, September 19, 2018, New Hanover County has submitted applications for FEMA buybacks for seven homes in the area. (Port City Daily photo | Mark Darrough)

NEW HANOVER COUNTY — Coastal living comes at a cost, sometimes it’s a higher price tag for the property, other times it means repairing storm damages from hurricanes. But when a home faces flood damages it could end up costing more than just the homeowner — taxpayers could be on the hook to buy out their neighbor’s homes.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) offers a property buyback program in certain situations utilizing Hazard Mitigation Grant funds to work with state and local governments to ‘reduce future disaster losses.’

“After a presidentially declared disaster, local officials may decide to request money from the state to purchase properties that have either flooded or been determined substantially damaged. The decision to offer buyouts is made by the state using money that FEMA allocates through its Hazard Mitigation Grant Program to reduce future disaster losses.  Seventy-five percent of any buyout cost is paid by FEMA and the rest is paid by the state and/or local government,” according to FEMA.

It’s been more than a year since Hurricane Florence wreaked havoc on the region but the program is a lengthy process and New Hanover County is finally ready to submit several properties for consideration.

“As part of New Hanover County’s Long Term Hurricane Recovery Plan, New Hanover County applied on behalf of residents for buyout of their properties, or elevation of their properties, that had extensive damage from Hurricane Florence. The county also applied for funding to address stormwater drainage to help improve the flow of streams and creeks in our area. Before funding is approved for these projects, FEMA is seeking public comments,” according to a press release from the county.

The county has submitted applications for seven different property owners with properties located on: Gilbert Curry Drive, Avon Court, Apple Road, Pilgrim Circle, Parmele Road, Blue Clay Road, and River Road.

How it works

According to county spokeswoman Jessica Loeper, the buy out program is voluntary and the county was actually asked by residents to apply for it.

“The county was asked by the homeowners and worked hand-in-hand with each homeowner to submit their application,” she said.

The process is not an easy one, according to FEMA, and many properties do not qualify for the buyout and funding is limited.

According to FEMA, “Buyouts are voluntary and no one is required to sell their property. It is a lengthy process and many factors are taken into consideration before a decision is rendered. What are the factors?

  • After a disaster, the state sets priorities for how it will spend its FEMA mitigation funds and this may or may not include the acquisition of properties.
  • Local officials will make the decision whether to request funds from the state to acquire flooded properties and owners interested in a buyout will express their interest via their local emergency manager or floodplain administrator.
  • The state will review the requests and will determine the communities that will be considered for buyouts.
  • Communities interested in buyouts will submit letters to the state and the state will review the proposals.
  • FEMA will review all proposals and ensure that they follow regulation and are environmentally sound and cost-effective.”

FEMA only picks up 75% of the bill, the rest is up to state and local governments.

Houses that are eligible for the buyout need to be located in special flood hazard areas and are considered primary residences.

There are also 15 different properties being submitted for an elevation project.

“The area affected by this project consists of potentially 15 properties located on the following streets in New Hanover County: Pilgrim Circle, E Brandywine Circle, Avon Court, Sandy Lane, N 23rd Street, Cheyenne Trail, Heritage Park Drive, Candlewood Drive, Castle Hayne Road, Birds View Court, Marathon Landing Court, Millhouse Road, River Road, Bayshore Drive, Vintage Club Circle and Wooster Street. Maps of the project areas associated with the grant applications can be reviewed at HurricaneRecovery.NHCgov.com,” according to the county press release.

Finally, the county is requesting assistance for nearly 30 different stormwater projects to help mitigate flooding issues.

The public comment period is now open and will close late next month.

According to the county: “Comments are solicited from the public; local, state or federal agencies; and other interested parties in order to consider and evaluate the impacts of the proposed project. The comments should be made in writing and addressed to New Hanover County, attn.: Hurricane Recovery Coordination Office, 230 Government Center Dr., Suite 195, Wilmington, NC 28403 or emailed to HurricaneRecovery@NHCgov.com by October 26, 2019.”


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