Wendy Reuer, Published February 18 2014
Cass commissioners agree to ask for FEMA help to buy out 47 homesFARGO – Cass County plans to buy out 47 homes in the area along Highway 81 in the Chrisan Subdivision and Forest River Road south of here.
The county will ask the Federal Emergency Management Agency to help fund the buyouts so that a permanent levee can be built in that area.
Officials said buyouts will come in time for some homeowners in that area who may soon face large increases in flood insurance rates when new rate maps are adopted this fall.
But that doesn’t mean all property owners are on-board with buyouts.
Commissioner Mary Scherling said during Tuesday’s commission meeting that some homeowners were adamant at a Feb. 5 public hearing that they are not interested in a buyout.
“It didn’t appear to me that everybody that lives in those neighborhoods is 100 percent on-board,” Scherling said.
County Engineer Jason Benson said many of the properties in the area would be in the 100-year-floodplain when the new maps are released this fall. For those homes, flood insurance rates will increase 20 percent per year for five years.
Those costs could change some homeowners’ opinion of buyouts, and some have called his office to say they are now considering a buyout since the meeting, he said.
Flood insurance is mandatory for any federally backed mortgage holders.
“We heard loud and clear that there are many people that own their homes and they don’t really care if their home floats down the river in a flood,” Commissioner Darrell Vanyo said.
The buyout offers will be based on 2011 house values. Scherling said that with a housing shortage in the metro area and home values rising by 6 percent each year since 2011, homeowners may not feel a buyout is a good option at this time.
“I share Commissioner Scherling’s concerns on that because people will think they are getting short-changed there,” board Chairman Ken Pawluk said.
County commissioners voted unanimously Tuesday to approve moving forward with the buyouts by applying for $5.2 million in FEMA funds. The county will use $1.9 million of its emergency mitigation funds to match the buyouts.
“I think we have a difficult decision and the people have a difficult decision, but it’s no different than what we have been experiencing in all of our home buyouts,” Pawluk said.
The commission also designated a west-side alignment for a permanent levee as its preferred option. The buyouts will clear the way for a permanent levee proposed by the city of Fargo on the west side of Cass County 81 from 64th Avenue to 70th Avenue South. The levee could eliminate the county’s cost for a $6.4 million levee and floodwall on the east side of Briarwood, Benson said.
Temporary levees constructed in the Chrisan and Maple Prairie areas cost the county about $518,000 in 2011 and $115,000 in 2013.
Affected homeowners will be notified of the plan. The county must complete its application for funding by March 14, and a decision from FEMA will likely come in June.
Buyouts would then be completed by around September.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Wendy Reuer at (701) 241-5530