24 Middletown properties in flood buyout program

By Geoff Samuels
“We want to get everybody on the same page” said Marjorie Miller, chair of the East Branch Flood Commission as she opened last Monday’s monthly meeting.

Topics of discussion at the meeting ranged from FEMA land buy-outs, to this summer’s Emergency Watershed Protection (EWP) projects, to the possibility of swapping parcels of land with New York City.

Kent Manual from the Delaware County Planning Department gave an update on the FEMA land buy-out program.

Manual explained that phases one and two, which include 12 parcels in the Town of Middletown, four in the Village of Fleischmanns, and eight in the Village of Margaretville have received a verbal go ahead. “We’re waiting on the written letter (of approval)” he said, adding that Delaware County is the actual applicant for the grant rather than the individual property owners. “This will allow the county to be in contact with FEMA to start the process as far as incurring costs, surveys, title searches and appraisals,” he said adding, “That will give us the ability to make offers to the property owners involved.” Manual also pointed out that there were six additional properties that were in the process of being included in “phase three” of the buy-out plan.

Buyouts can hurt
Miller expressed her concern about the significant number of land buyouts in Sydney. “Since Middletown pays a good chunk of Delaware County tax,” she said, “any time there is a negative impact on the tax base in Sydney, it affects us all.

Manual acknowledged that there were at least 32 parcels in Sydney that have received verbal approval for the buy-out program, but he also pointed out that some individuals currently in the plan might opt to “elevate” their properties instead of sell them, which would potentially diminish the number of buy-outs. “It’s a willing seller situation.” He said.

Maps, maps, maps
Middletown Code Enforcement Officer Pat Davis gave the commission and meeting attendees an update on some of the recent work he has done to create useful maps of the community. He said he had met with Mike Jastremski of Delaware County Planning, and Spencer Devaul, a coordinator for Global Information Systems (GIS), to put together what are called repetitive loss maps, which are maps that delineate areas in municipalities that have received flood damage over and over again.

He also said they have put together maps called open space maps that detail areas that will never be developed due to various deed restrictions or conservation easements. These maps, said Davis, will go to the Community Rating System (CRS) and the Insurance Service Organization (ISO) to help fight the higher flood insurance rates.

Move to higher ground
Davis then explained that they would also be putting maps together to better delineate properties that are owned by municipalities in the Town of Middletown. This, he said, could open up the possibility of swapping low-lying parcels of land for properties with higher elevations currently belonging to the city.

As an example, Davis put forth the possibility of relocating a trailer park from its current location in the floodplain, to a better location higher up on a hillside.

“If we have a map showing where our properties are,” he said, “we have a better idea of what we’re doing with what we have…the more information the better, it’s a negotiating tool to be able to sit down and know what we’re talking about.”

Building the communities “rating”
Davis continued his presentation explaining to the commission that the FEMA Emergency Watershed Protection projects that are slated to be completed this summer will all need to be documented so that they can be included in the CRS program, (a program that helps lower insurance rates according to the amount of flood mitigation that has occurred in the community). “This is a program that we really want to get our foot in the door,” he said, adding that using projects that have already been paid for is a very cost-effective way of getting ourselves into the system.

The beginnings of serious flood mitigation
Davis went on to say how he had met with both the Village of Margaretville and Village of Fleischmanns Board members, in order to come up with an expanded proposal for the study of the East Branch of the Delaware River and its tributaries.

He explained that the Village of Margaretville had wanted to add a few sections to the study to
make sure that the entire Binnekill Stream, including the bulkhead, would be covered. The study will also include the Bull Run stream “all the way to its headwaters.”

According to Davis, the Margaretville study will now extend all the way from the confluence of Dry Brook and the East Branch of the Delaware, all the way down to the causeway bridge below the stone schoolhouse.

Big meeting in May
Miller concluded the meeting with the announcement of a larger gathering to take place on May 20 at 6p.m. “We’re having a public meeting,” she said, “and that’s when we make a push to get as many people who are invested in this community to come…and here all the explanations of what’s been going on in the flood commission and what still needs to be done.” The meeting place is tentatively set for the Margaretville Central School gymnasium.