The Federal Emergency Management Agency offered buyouts last week to four families willing to leave flood-prone areas east of Fordham Boulevard, officials said.
The homes – on Tinkerbell Road, Willow Drive and Ridgefield Road – will be removed after the families agree and move out, Emergency Management Coordinator Barry McLamb said. The town would maintain the land, which Council member Ed Harrison suggested might make good water quality improvement areas.
Eleven other residents whose homes were flooded following a 2014 ice storm were not approved for buyouts because the homes are worth more than the state’s $276,000 cap, McLamb said.
The town is still working with property owners at Camelot Village Condominiums on South Estes Drive, McLamb said, and they could apply for FEMA grant money next spring. The complex, built before the first flood maps and rules were created, has flooded repeatedly, displacing residents and causing thousands of dollars in damage.
Previous FEMA buyouts at Camelot Village failed, because all the condo owners in a building have to agree to sell. Some second-floor condo owners weren’t interested, because they didn’t get hit by the flooding, officials said; others wanted to keep their units as rental investment property.
The town met with residents and some owners in March to talk about the options. Mayor Pam Hemminger said owners interested in selling have offered to trade their units with those who don’t want to sell, making it possible to demolish at least one building. Some residents could move into new units, and FEMA money would be available to help, she said.
The potential loss of some units has raised concerns among homeowners about rising association dues, HOA President Don Willhoit has said. He asked the town to help out by taking over maintenance of Camelot Village’s road and bridge.
It would cost roughly $500,000 to bring the bridge up to town standards, McLamb said. The bridge also could be closed to cars, Hemminger noted, since there is another route into the area.
Flooding across Chapel Hill goes back decades, Fire Chief Matt Sullivan said, and is due in large part to the town’s topography and the number of homes and businesses that were built before stormwater rules were established.
Studies show stormwater runoff drains from about 10 square miles of land into Camelot Village, which sits in a bowl between two floodplains. The topography from there to Jordan Lake only drops by about two inches, causing heavy rains to back up into homes and businesses built in low-lying areas.
The town is continuing to study the problem, install larger culverts and remove vegetation from creeks and drainage areas.
“While we expect there to be some improvement as we go forward and use our infrastructure and make our best effort, unfortunately, there is still going to be flooding in Chapel Hill,” Sullivan said. “The only way we can avoid all flooding in Chapel Hill is to get everything out of the floodplain and floodway.”
There are 418 buildings – valued at $259 million – with an identified flooding risk in Chapel Hill and 209 undeveloped properties, according to the 2015 Eno-Haw Regional Hazard Mitigation Plan.