Flood buyback plan sinks

Rotterdam sees little interest for program to purchase flood-damaged homes

— As quickly as a buyout program for flood-damaged homes resurfaced, Rotterdam officials have put aside the proposal.

The Rotterdam Town Board on Wednesday, Oct. 24, voted to not pursue a program to purchase properties severely damaged by floodwaters from Hurricane Irene. Councilman Robert Godlewski was the only board member voting in favor of the buyback proposal that he reintroduced earlier this month. Godlewski proposed tapping $100,000 in additional FEMA funds to purchase dilapidated properties.

Town Attorney Kate McGuirl said there are several requirements a potential applicant would have to have met. Godlewski had submitted 23 potential properties for the program, with the 2012 tax bills for those properties falling 73.5 percent, or $14,200.

“I was, I guess, a little bit surprised initially, but once I reviewed the potential 23 houses with the building inspector and the assessor I wasn’t surprised,” McGuirl said. “People have come in and they are either rebuilding or in the process of rebuilding.”

Supervisor Harry Buffardi said one person inquired about the buyback program, but the property was not eligible.

The buyback program would see the federal government covering 75 percent of the cost to buy out a home, with the town covering the remainder. Any expenses for razing the property would also be the town’s responsibility.

What concerned some town officials was any property purchased through the buyout program could never be redeveloped in any way or placed back on the tax rolls.

“I think the big thing there too is it would pockmark that community from redevelopment forever,” Buffardi said. “I have actually had people from Rotterdam Junction thank me for not supporting (the buyback.)”

Town Assessor John Macejka Jr. previously expressed reservations about the program since condemned properties could hold value again. Some people have already sold flood-damaged properties at higher prices than the town’s reduced assessment, according to Macejka.

Buffardi pointed to the town’s recently completed study to redevelop Main Street in Rotterdam Junction and said the buyback would hinder those efforts. McGuirl said vacant properties could hurt the value of surrounding properties, too.

“This would severely hurt the prospects of redeveloping it,” Buffardi said. “Main Street isn’t a flood plain and if we pockmarked it and made it ineligible for development, then we would have overgrowth in those areas.”

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