BY LOHR McKINSTRY
---- — ELIZABETHTOWN — Essex County got the final word this week that its requested buyout of flood-damaged homes has been OK’d by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
The county was notified in late 2012 that it had received tentative approval for the buyout. Now that officials have confirmation, they will proceed to notify property owners, Essex County Community Development Director Michael Mascarenas said.
“After nearly 19 months, Essex County received approval from FEMA for those properties damaged by (Tropical Storm) Irene,” he said in an email.
“Twenty-six homes that were deemed substantially damaged by FEMA met final approval.”
Nineteen of those homes are in the Town of Jay, four are in the Town of Keene, and one each in the towns of Essex, North Hudson and Westport. All are either on the Ausable River, Bouquet River or East Mill Brook.
Mascarenas said 67 homeowners originally filed applications for the buyout.
“Many of them have since decided to opt out or were deemed ineligible by FEMA, due to the percentage of damages to the home or the home not residing in the 100-year flood plain.”
The FEMA definition of “substantially damaged” is properties that are within the 100-year flood plain and received more than 50 percent damage.
The final approved application totals $2.67 million, Mascarenas said.
That represents 75 percent of the total project cost of $3.57 million. The award requires a 25 percent non-federal share of $892,800, which the state has pledged to cover.
ONLY OPEN SPACE
Mascarenas said FEMA told them a contract is being sent.
“Once that contract is in place, Essex County will then have 120 days from the signed contract to determine pre-disaster fair-market value of the home,” he said.
“Once an offer of purchase is made to the property owners, they have 30 days to inform the county in writing as to whether or not they accept the offer price and wish to proceed.”
He said that once the deal has been made with the homeowner, Essex County will take ownership of the property.
“It will then be the job of the county to demolish the home and restore the site, which can only be utilized for open-space use.
The county will then turn the property over to the town in which the buyout occurred.”
The only use for the land will probably be something like a park, officials said. Nothing can be built on it in the future.
There are still 11 properties throughout the county in a different FEMA program, Mascarenas said, for homes that were damaged, but non-substantially, during the floods.
There has been no word yet from FEMA on payments for those homes.
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