September 27, 2011 10:59:00 AM
Columbus residents who received considerable flood damage to homes, businesses or other properties have the chance to get away from the unsafe land and get paid all in one process.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency's Mitigation Grant Program provides municipalities money to purchase properties that have received flood damage and have a high number of flood claims. The city uses the funds to buy the properties, demolish them and use the land for greenspace.
"We can't sell it to a commercial person or for industrial uses," Christina Berry, city planner, said.
The process starts with interested residents filling out an application. The city of Columbus will host an application workshop Thursday at 2 p.m., 3:30 p.m. and 5 p.m. at the Trotter Convention Center.
Around 20 residents showed interest in the program at last week's Flood Mitigation Grant informational public meeting for residents in flood-prone communities, and the upcoming workshops are to help those interested in the program fill out applications, Berry said.
"Once we get to the meeting, we'll see an exact number of who will actually submit their applications," Berry said. "They can still pull out until they sign the contract."
The program is a two-way street, Berry said, and applying doesn't guarantee FEMA will fund the city's purchase of a property. FEMA will decide if the property received enough flood claims to fund the city's purchase. The two criteria for determining this are: the health and safety of the resident; and the "cost-benefit analysis" for FEMA.
"If there's more claims, then you'll probably get bought out because it's expensive for FEMA to keep you in the program," Berry said, noting FEMA chooses properties worthy of a city's purchase on a case-by-case basis.
The bigger issue, Berry said, is the health and safety of the property owner.
"The more claims against your property, health and safety is a bigger issue," she said.
According to Berry, there are parts of the city that require flood insurance on properties and identified East Columbus as an area of the city that receives flood damage.
"East Columbus is a pretty bad part of the city for flooding, but other parts of the city also can apply," Berry said.
Ward 3 Councilman Charlie Box also said the East Columbus area, which includes his ward, has low property value, in part due to flood damage, and this program allows property owners an out.
"Especially for an older person, maybe a widow, or someone who wants to recover money for something else but doesn't think he or she could sell her house and get anything out of it," Box said.
Applications are available at the Office of City Planning, located at 1621 Main St., and all applications must be turned in during the workshops to be considered for the grant project.
Residents will need to bring the property deed, a damage letter or certificate, photos of the property and a property tax card.
1. Murder, arson trial begins for Lowndes teen COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY
2. Shifting to local: Coffee shop rebrands after getting new owner COLUMBUS & LOWNDES COUNTY