The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Council sends city staff to the wood shed over buyout letter; Read the letter for yourself

In Brian Fagan, City Hall, Floods, Tom Podzimek on January 31, 2009 at 12:08 pm

The City Council has gotten an earful in recent days from property owners apt to have their properties bought out in the future because they are will be in the way of the city’s proposed new flood protection system of levees and flood walls.

What got the phone ringing at City Hall was a letter — see it at these owners seeking signatures to allow permission for JCG Land Services Inc., of Nevada, Iowa, to enter on to their property.

To some homeowners, the letter was unclear and seemed to be seeking permission to allow some unknown company to invade a property to prepare for buyouts that the city has not yet committed to.

Jon Galvin, vice president of the Northwest Neighbors, fired off a letter to City Hall telling it to take care of first things first: Buy out the properties, and then worry about the rest.

Council members across the board acknowledged that the letter was less than artful, and council member Brian Fagan asked city staff to write a new, clearer one. There was the suggestion, too, that staff run a draft of such letters past a few citizens to see how the letter might be improved before launch.

Council member Tom Podzimek said the letter caused citizen headaches while a clearer letter would not have.

“This isn’t anything harmful,” Podzimek said of what the city is asking in the letter. The letter, he said, only makes it seem so.

The letter seeks to get permission from property owners so surveyors and geologists and others can walk on property to conduct tests needed to build a new flood system. Having to find a property owner – particularly when most of the properties are not inhabited – at the time the work is being conducted would add months to the work, city staff added.

Of the 750 or so parcels so far identified as ones slated for possible buyout in the future, 192 are in an area closest to the Cedar River that is proposed to become a greenway.

To date, 157 owners in the proposed greenway have signed buyout agreements with the city, 22 have declined and 13 have not been located.

Another 554 property owners likely will be subject to buyouts because they are in an area identified as a possible construction area for levees and  flood walls.

A third group of property owners also may have their homes bought out: Those are ones whose homes are beyond reasonable repair and are outside the proposed greenway or construction area.

As the city pursues federal money, the hope is that some will arrive to be used to buyout homes more quickly than had been thought, city officials have said. 



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