Janesville66°

Owners of flooded properties must make decisions

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MARCIA A. NELESEN
August 7, 2008
— Some city residents with flood-damaged properties are “at the ends of their ropes,” and a meeting tonight will start the process for those who eventually decide to accept buyouts, a city employee said.

About 15 properties in the Mole & Sadler’s subdivision have been declared “substantially damaged,” said Kelly Lee, city development specialist. The owners eventually must decide to accept a buyout or raise their homes above flood level.


Most of the homes affected are on Joseph Street, with a few on Charles Street, one on Hamilton Avenue and one on Elgin Avenue.


A property is declared substantially damaged if repairs are estimated to cost more than half the property’s equalized assessed value.


Residents can sell their homes to the city at pre-flood fair market value.


The federal government will pay 75 percent of the cost, with the state and city chipping in 12.5 percent each. The city can use in-kind matches to come up with that money, such as doing the demolition or paying landfill fees, Lee said.


If residents choose not to sell, they would be required to raise their homes 2 feet above flood plain level.


That might not be financially feasible for some.


If the owners sell their properties to the city, the city would demolish the buildings. No structures could ever be built on those properties, Lee said.


The only other properties that the city believes are substantially damaged are at 451, 457 and 463 N. Main St. near Adams Roofing Co. and owned by that company, Lee said. The foundation of one of those buildings collapsed.


The owners are not interested in a buyout and will tear down the buildings, Lee said. They want to retain the property for potential reuse.


Those residents interested in buyouts will give the go-ahead tonight to the Department of Natural Resources and the Environmental Protection Agency to perform environment studies.


Residents do not have to make a final decision tonight.


At a recent council meeting, a Mole & Sadler’s property owner said she wants to fix her property but can’t because her home was assessed too low. Many homes in the subdivision have low assessments, putting the cost of repair above 50 percent of the assessed value, she said.


Christine Wilke said her rental property at 1822 Charles St. could be repaired for $34,000, but she didn’t think it was financially feasible to spend an additional $45,000 to raise the home 2 feet above the flood plain. According to the city’s Web site, the home’s assessed value is $50,000.


Wilke was told the assessment couldn’t be changed.


Lee said no commercial properties have been declared substantially damaged.


The soonest residents could get reimbursed for their properties as part of the buyout program would be six months, Lee said.


“The majority of the property owners are kind of at the end of their ropes, and they want additional options,” Lee said.


“Day to day, more people tell me they are interested in the buyout,” Lee said.


Their homes remain vacant, and many still are living with family.


People are getting worn down, and Lee said she has heard that many with flood insurance are having difficult times with their insurance companies.


“They need to have answers so they can plan their life accordingly.”


But just because it’s called the 100-year flood doesn’t mean it’s not going to happen again next year, she said.


That’s why the DNR requires that the buildings be raised above the flood plain.


“(We) can’t continue to provide assistance to people if they continue to live in the same circumstances,” she said.



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