Marlinton Town Council Votes Against FEMA Buyouts
Marlinton, WV – After lengthy discussion, Marlinton Town Council voted against allowing FEMA to negotiate buyouts with property owners who have sustained repeated flood damage to their homes and businesses.
Earlier this year, FEMA representatives invited property owners to an information session about buyouts from the agency and funding for elevating flood-prone homes. Most of the 31 people attending the meeting were interested in the buyout program, according to town building inspector Dick Groseclose. To be eligible, a property must have had four or more flood insurance claims of at least $5,000 each, or two or more claims that total more than the current value of the property.
In cases were FEMA purchases a flood-prone home, the agency would demolish the house and turn the lot over to town, with a series of restrictions. Groseclose explained to council the decision that was before them.
“There can be a garden there. There can be a lawn there. [But] no structures, period. You will have a loss of revenue for water, sewer, garbage collection, taxes, etc., versus someone on the other side, who has had the misfortune to be located in a flood area and has withstood losses over the years.”
Town Recorder Robin Mutscheller observed that at least one of the potentially eligible properties lies in the path of the proposed flood protection walls currently under study by the Army Corps of Engineers.
“If that property were accepted into the program, that would stop the local protection project” says Mutscheller “and it would have to be redesigned to go around that property.”
One of the residents who has seen repeated flooding at her home did speak up. Eugenia Boggs Anderson asked council members to consider doing something for victims of repeated flooding if they rule out the possibility of a FEMA buyout. Mayor Dennis Driscoll responded that homeowners could still look to FEMA for assistance of up to $30,000 to elevate their homes. After town council’s vote against allowing FEMA to negotiate buyouts with property owners, Mutscheller said it wasn’t an easy decision to make.
“It’s not an easy thing to tell people who are flooded repetitively that you don’t want to allow them to participate. But it’s important for everybody on this list, when people leave this room, to let them know that there are consequences for everybody.”