STANFORD — Janice Rowe’s family has owned a small trailer park along U.S. 27 for 40 years, but these days, it’s all but a ghost town.
Besides the trailer Rowe lives in at one end of the park, the rest are empty and disheveled, damaged years ago by flooding.
“We’ve had three floods in that 40-year period,” she said. “Before, if you were flooded, you were able to pull your trailers out and put something back. But now that zoning has gone in, zoning says that if you pull out in a flood zone, you can’t go back in. So I’ve lost the use of my property.”
But Rowe’s luck has turned around with the approval of almost $600,000 in Federal Emergency Management Agency funding that Lincoln County is using to buy and clear away 21 flood-prone properties.
Any properties purchased through FEMA’s Substantially Damaged Acquisitions project are deeded to Lincoln County with a requirement that they become permanent green space. All existing structures will be demolished, and no structures can be built on the properties again, Lincoln County Attorney Daryl Day said.
Day said the property-purchasing program is intended to reduce potential liabilities for the Federal Flood Insurance Program.
“You lose a good little chunk of money on the program now if you’re FEMA, but at least they know from now on they will never pay another flood claim on that (property),” he said.
The program also helps improve public safety, he added.
“It takes some people out of harm’s way,” he said. “On 27, the Dix River comes up fairly quickly there, so when it rains, the river starts rising, those people have to be on edge and be ready to evacuate.
“Sometimes when it comes up really quick in the middle of the night, someone may be in there, and the water could get up around them before they know it.”
Participation in the program is completely voluntary for property owners. Day said whenever a FEMA grant like this comes around, the county identifies properties that have had problems with flooding and contacts the owners to see if they want to sell.
Eligible owners can receive a set amount of money for selling, which is based on the property valuation administrator’s value for the land, Judge-Executive Jim Adams said.
To ensure that no renters are getting kicked out so a landlord can make a quick sale, tenants living in the properties are eligible for relocation funds, Adams added.
For Rowe, the amount offered for her land was plenty to convince her to participate.
“Never ever have we ever had any help whatsoever until now. This is our only hope of ever getting off of the river,” she said. “I’m excited. I mean, super-excited.”
For others, the government’s offer was too low.
Mike Asberry runs Asberry Excavating across the road from Rowe’s trailers. He said he was initially interested in the program, but when he found out the government would only pay $36,000 for his land, he decided against it.
Asberry said he’s been running his business from his current location about three years. There have been floods where the road was covered, but the water never got inside his building or caused any damage.