Whiteville leaders unanimously pass buyout program for flood-prone homes

Whiteville leaders consider buyout program for some flood-prone homes

WHITEVILLE, N.C. (WECT) - Whiteville city leaders unanimously passed a new program on Tuesday night that could solve some flooding issues for some residents.

The North Carolina Office of Resiliency and Recovery is working with the city for a possible buyout program in part of the flood-prone areas.

The properties within the yellow blocks on the map below are part of the program. It’s 28 properties in total.

Homes in the floodplains. (source: City of Whiteville)
Homes in the floodplains. (source: City of Whiteville)

In October, state leaders met with Whiteville leaders to discuss the potential buyout. They agreed that many of those homes have been through several losses during recent hurricanes. Many residents were forced out and some never came back.

“There are areas that we just can’t stop the flooding and that’s in the floodplain," said Hal Lower, Whiteville Director of Emergency Services. "Over the years, people have built there. The only practical way and the economical way sometimes just do away because you have repetitive losses. These areas that we’re talking about, I know for a fact, that we’ve had three or four repetitive losses in that area.”

Floodwaters in that area reached six to seven feet deep during both Hurricane Matthew and Florence. Many residents applied for funding but were never rewarded.

Cassie George’s home of 50 years is one of the homes eligible for the buyout. She’s been displaced three times for three different hurricanes. Cassie knows she shouldn’t stay and the town’s buyout plan would help her move and leave behind the high water. But she can’t decide if it’s worth leaving behind her home and the memories.

“It floods," said George. "If I could move my house, I would stay in this house. You know. But I don’t have that option to move it. And I really don’t know right now, what I’m going to do.”

The state will administer the program, meaning they will go door-to-door of these homes and ask if they want to participate in the buyout. The city will have a loss of revenue in property taxes, but if the city doesn’t have utilities in the area, it will even out.

“In the scheme of things, it’s not a huge loss with revenues,” said Lowder. “But it’s worth the loss because of the damage and the reconstruction and the insurance rates and then you have the vermin, the rats, garbage. Then you have the criminal activity, squatters. You know, vacant structures contribute to the crime rate and they’re just not safe.”

Now that its been approved by city council, there will be a community meeting where the city will answer questions and provide more information on January 23.

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