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Dave Olson, Published December 08 2012

Fargo to offer buyouts for 56 homes in 2013

FARGO – Ann and Todd Haggart are 26-year residents of River Drive South in Fargo.

Ann Haggart says even though they’re ready to accept a buyout from the city, they will miss their yard, the trees and the parade of wildlife a riverside home provides.

And as the Haggarts get ready to move, they now realize how special their property is, based on a fruitless hunt to find a replacement home in the area.

“We’re not finding – for that $300,000 mark – anything,” said Ann, who is glad for one thing: The uncertainty that has hung like a cloud over their neighborhood for years is finally lifting.

“They (city officials) talked about a wall. And then a wall with openings, and a wall with no openings,” Haggart said, referring to options considered for flood mitigation along the Red River.

“None of us knew what to repair on our homes for those five years. It was a funny way to live,” she said. “At least now we know.”

How much?

The Haggart home is one of 56 properties the city will extend buyout offers to in 2013 for an estimated potential cost of about $24 million.

The offers will consist of a sales price set at 110 percent of the assessed value of the property, plus a $5,000 moving allowance.

For homeowners who relocate to another house in Fargo, the city will pay up to $15,000 toward any special assessments on the home they move into.

Haggart said that while her family and a number of other longtime residents of the neighborhood are ready to take a buyout, she knows some won’t take the deal.

“I don’t know how the city will tie (levees) into their properties, but that’s up to them,” she said.

Fargo’s buyout program has been voluntary to this point, and it will remain that way, said Nathan Boerboom, an assistant Fargo city engineer.

Boerboom said the city has no plans to use eminent domain to take homes that don’t accept buyouts. He said the city will continue to help owners protect homes during floods.

Connecting permanent levees to sandbag dikes protecting individual homes should not be an issue, he said.

Residents who pass on a buyout will remain on the city’s buyout list, Boerboom said.

“When we’d get back to them would be the unknown,” he said.

Upscale

Many homes on the 2013 buyout list carry prices north of $400,000.

The home with the highest assessed value is about $900,000, while the average value of all 56 homes is about $370,000.

A phone message left for Karen Burgum, owner of the highest-valued home on the list, was not returned.

The city is setting aside $30 million for the buyout program next year, with about $24 million of that connected to the cost of buyouts and incentives.

The rest will go toward things like removing homes and starting construction on dikes that will be built where homes used to be.

The money for the program comes from city sales tax revenue earmarked for flood mitigation efforts.

Fargo will conduct auctions to sell as many buyout homes as possible for relocation, with bids to start at 10 percent of the home’s assessed value.

For homes that can’t be moved, the city will conduct auctions giving high bidders salvage rights.

“High bidders will be given the right to take as much out of that home that they choose to,” Boerboom said.

He said the city has heard from some homeowners who say they are willing to accept a buyout, while others “just feel they’re not quite ready to move yet. That’s fine with the city.”

Boerboom acknowledged that several homes on the buyout list are high end.

“They are more of our at-risk neighborhoods, currently, so they are necessary for buyouts,” he said.

The city is still developing its hardship policy regarding buyouts, which will be on the City Commission’s agenda Monday.

Boerboom said the policy will be based on medical need. Those seeking a priority buyout will have to have their medical condition confirmed by a health care professional.


Readers can reach Forum reporter Dave Olson at (701) 241-5555