City choice: protect or acquire homes in flood mitigation
Published 10:31 am Thursday, March 10, 2016
Proposed project would have berm, levee, sewer upgrades
The Austin City Council is weighing whether to protect homes near Lions Park or acquire them to develop a flood mitigation plan, but council members want more information before choosing an option.
City staffers are working with Short Elliot Hendrickson Inc. (SEH) to develop a flood mitigation plan for an area adjacent to Second Avenue Northeast, which they’re calling the Lions Park Project.
The proposed flood project would include a 500-foot berm, 350-foot levee, a Second Avenue Northeast roadway closure during a high water or flood event, and extensive storm sewer upgrades. There are no immediate plans to replace or renovate the bridge on that road, Public Works Director Steven Lang said.
Email newsletter signup
Lang said there are about 17 residential properties and one business property in the floodplain area, which is between Fourth Avenue Northeast and Second Avenue Northeast.
The city has worked with SEH Inc., the same company that performed the comprehensive plan survey, to complete soil boring, preliminary layout and a construction estimate, which came to $3.5 million and that also includes a new program required by the Cedar River Watershed District to purchase credits upstream in the watershed to offset the displaced floodplain water, Lang said.
The other option is acquiring the homes and redeveloping that area, and the cost for acquiring those properties is $1.2 million.
Though city leaders just attended a housing summit on Monday, Lang said city leaders wanted to look at other options for protecting them versus acquiring them.
There aren’t any grants for this project right now, but Lang said it would be possible to get a 50-50 grant from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR). The city’s 50 percent could be used with local option sales tax and a DNR grant for the other 50 percent, but if that happened, it would restrict future development of the property.
On the other hand, if they acquired the properties with 100 percent local option sales tax, it would make the property more available for redevelopment with the requirement to meet all floodplain regulations, Lang said.
The properties would be appraised and an offer made to the property owner, but the acquisitions would not be forced, in case people can’t find another place to live, it would be voluntary.
Homes in that area range from $40,000 to $70,000, Lang said but Council member Judy Enright said a lot of the homes in that area have replaced windows, siding and roofs.
“They’ve spent some money keeping their homes up,” Enright said.
The other option is to leave the area as is, Lang said. Other homes near Lions Park were purchased in the 1970s by the city.
Lang said the berm could not go on the west side of the park next to the river because then flood water would go right over Oakland Avenue.
Enright made a motion to forward the berm choice to the next regular council meeting, but Council Member Steve King said they need more information from residents first to see if they want to be protected or bought out.
King’s motion, which included Lang sending a letter to those residents and gathering more information, passed unanimously.