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Erik Burgess, Published September 17 2012

Moorhead to resell seven buyout houses

MOORHEAD – As the city was combing the riverfront here buying up homes and replacing them with levees, riverfront homeowner Jack Christianson said they came to him with an ultimatum – let us build a levee in your backyard, or we’ll put one in front of your house instead.

“They had the right to put it in front of us so we’d be on the wrong side of the dike, and we’d be on our own” in the event of a flood, he said.

But Christianson, 51, who enjoyed the view from his backyard and the many evergreen trees shading his home, didn’t want a dike in his backyard either.

He and his family opted for the third choice – they accepted the buyout and moved away from the home they had built in the early ’90s.

Two-hundred-six homes have been purchased by the city here as an 11.6-mile levee system has taken their place along the Red River with the intent to protect Moorhead from a 42.5-foot flood event.

All of those homes have been destroyed or moved off the river and resold – except for seven, including Christianson’s.

These seven homes were purchased in 2011, left in their original place and are now being resold by the city via a local Realtor. The City Council officially passed a listing agreement on Sept. 10 with Kvamme Real Estate Inc. here to resell the properties on the open market.

This marks the first time following the 2009 flood that Moorhead has bought homes for mitigation purposes and resold them in their original location, city staff said.

“It really had to do with obtaining more detailed geotechnical analysis,” City Engineer Bob Zimmerman said. “Initially we didn’t believe that it was going to be feasible to construct backyard levees in many locations, but as we developed more detailed soil analysis it became evident in some locations that it was feasible to do that.”

All other bought-out homes that weren’t moved have been demolished to make way for flood mitigation efforts, but Zimmerman said the option of backyard levees has become more viable for future acquisitions.

Christianson said he was made aware that the city might buy his home and not demolish it or even move it, but living with a dike in his backyard was not something he wanted to do.

Zimmerman said other homeowners have shared that attitude.

“Even if you put a levee in the backyard, it could be as high as the roof of the house, and certainly that was not a situation that anybody would be interested in,” Zimmerman said.

Christianson, who now lives in south Moorhead, has since stopped by his former home, and while he said he’s happy it hasn’t been torn down, he is sad to see the view has changed.

“They were all perfectly healthy trees,” he said. “That kind of made up the beauty of the landscaping there.”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Erik Burgess at (701) 241-5518

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