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Published on Oct 20, 2011
Art Snyder speaks to Wawarsing residents about DEP buyout of flooded homes. Oct 20th, 2011.
Wawarsing residents review DEP buyout offer for flooded homes
More than fifty homeowners packed the Wawarsing courtroom at town hall Thursday evening, to attend an informational session for the Catskill Flood Remediation Program. Ulster County will be administering a second round of funding for $3.6 million. The first round took place in 2009 with $2 million.
New amendments to the program allows homeowners located within two miles of the New York City aqueduct system to apply for a buyout. Strict guidelines and tight deadlines lend difficulty for relief. Roughly fifty homes have been affected for eight years by constant flooding from a 435 breach in the underground tunnel passing beneath Wawarsing.
Application deadline is end of November. Eligible structures must be single or 2 family homes, and the primary residence of the applicant, said Ulster County emergency management director Art Snyder, who explained the program requirements. Appraised value must be less than $250K, with preference given to homes worth $150K or below. Additionally, a cap has been set at 150% of the area's median income, as defined by the US Dept. of Housing & Urban Development.
"Once the program moves forward," Snyder stipulated, "the county must insure that any homes that we take over will be razed, and maintained in perpetuity as open space. It can never be built on again." Ulster County retains the ability to sell properties in the future, subject to conservation easements, Snyder added.
Affected citizens grumbled about the complicated process. "The conditions have been established by the State of New York -- we're obligated to follow those," Snyder responded. "I completely understand that you want to get out of your home. The most needy will move to the top of the list," he said.
"Let's focus on what we could do to help those who need the help," chimed county planning director Dennis Doyle, appearing on behalf of county executive Mike Hein. "We have a finite amount of money, we have program rules -- we can't change that," Doyle apologized. "We are working to try to find alternative sources of funds -- both on the FEMA side, and the DEP side, to make sure that we can maximize the effort here."
Officials admitted that the first round of $2M funding in 2009 only purchased ten homes. NYC DEP will be matching the $3.6M in state funding, to assist Ulster County with administrative costs associated with the program. Members of the Wawarsing town board expressed concern about loss of property tax revenues resulting from future home buyouts.