One vote down. One to go.
Mayor Paul TenHaken’s proposal to use $1 million in surplus money from last year’s budget to buy flooded-out homes near Tomar Park Tuesday night cleared the first of two legislative hurdles.
After nearly an hour of discussion and public testimony from impacted homeowners from the Rose-Lotta neighborhood where several properties suffered costly damages during last month’s flood event, the City Council voted unanimously in support of funding the program that will target 55 properties for future green space. A second and final vote is scheduled to happen at a special meeting next week.
T.J. Nelson, deputy chief of staff in the mayor’s office, said it’s unclear how many properties the $1 million would purchase as assessments of damages and property values still need to be determined. But he said the most significantly damaged homes that are “unlivable” would likely benefit from the first round of funding, should the owners wish to sell.
“We feel that the million dollars should be able to cover all of those folks,” Nelson said, noting the program is voluntary and no home owner will be forced to sell.
Councilors had questions about why surplus dollars are being spent instead of finding savings in the 2019 budget, if homes would be assessed at pre-flood values or after they were damaged by the most recent flooding, and the timeline to begin making purchases.
“I need more details,” Councilor Pat Starr said, adding that he might bring an amendment to find an alternative funding source for the program during the second reading.
Public Works Director Mark Cotter said the $1-million appropriation will allow the city to hire experts to begin appraisals and damage assessments before making the first purchases sometime this summer. But it will be years before enough homes are taken out of the neighborhood and any measurable improvements to the drainage and flooding situation in the area is seen, he said.
“This is going to take time,” Cotter said.
Crystal River, one of the many homeowners in the Rose-Lotta neighborhood that had water in their home last month, said people are in limbo wondering what direction the city is going to take. And that’s causing uncertainty as people consider whether to invest in repairs, put their homes up for sale on the market or hope the city steps in.
“Take everybody into consideration. It’s important to every one of us for us to know what we’re doing next,” she said. “We need a concrete plan.”
Pending the Council’s final vote of approval next week, Nelson said home purchases would be prioritized based on whether they’re in the 100-year floodplain, if they’re at or below the base flood elevation, if properties have already had 50 percent of their value reached in renovations, if they’re adjacent to other homes that are selling to the city and if they have flood insurance.
Of the 55 properties in the target area, 38 are in the 100-year flood plane designated by the Federal Emergency Management and all are in the 500-year flood plane.
Nelson noted one home in the neighborhood is historical in nature and will be preserved, whether it remains in its existing location or is moved to a different location. The property at 208 West Lotta Street was built in the late 1800s and was originally owned by Jacob Schaetzel, the first mayor of Sioux Falls, at a different location. It was moved to the Rose-Lotta neighborhood in 1988.
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