New Milliken and Evans floodplain rules too costly #COflood

Evans Colorado September 2013 via
Evans Colorado September 2013 via

From The Greeley Tribune (Analisa Romano):

Although they may meet different fates in the end, the owners of flood-ravaged mobile home parks in Milliken and Evans face similar plights as they navigate new floodplain rules and regulations the park owners say make it impossible to continue doing business. Some suggest it’s an underhanded way to drive the parks out of their respective cities.

But local officials say it doesn’t make sense to build in an area that could again be flooded , and they are obligated to ensure homes and structures aren’t seriously damaged for the public’s health and safety.

In Milliken, town officials’ first priority was to house flood victims through the winter, said Jim Burack, Milliken town administrator and chief of police. The town allowed the two mobile home parks that sustained flood damage — Evergreen Mobile Home Park and Martin Family Trailer Park — to reopen immediately for that reason, he said.

Since then, Evergreen has continued redevelopment on the property, where 21 mobile homes were destroyed in the flood, said Jerrie Solomon, who owns the mobile home park with her husband. Per new floodplain standards implemented by Milliken, Solomon said they hired a geotechnical engineer, did a soil sample and installed backfill to raise the undamaged homes and bring in four new ones. But she said the park can’t keep up with the new rules.

“Every time we get one more thing done, they invent another set of rules and regulations,” Solomon said.

Burack said the town has been working cooperatively with both mobile home parks since the flood struck, and he said they have been transparent about all of the possible scenarios that could come out of redevelopment. Among other options, Burack said the town is looking into purchasing the damaged mobile home parks through a Federal Emergency Management Agency hazard mitigation grant, which would cover 75 percent of the cost of the parks at pre-flood prices.

Solomon said that isn’t welcome news, as she fears the purchase price would be too low. After paying for debris cleanup, down payments on the new homes and the cost to set them in the park, Solomon estimated she and her husband have invested more than $300,000 since the flood.

“If we had not gone in there and started work on that, Milliken would have the same kind of park as Evans,” Solomon said.

In Evans, city officials this week said they may seek to condemn Eastwood Village and Bella Vista mobile home parks to eliminate the health hazards posed by contaminated flood debris.

Keith Cowan, owner of Eastwood Village, filed a lawsuit against the city in February, saying the city’s new floodplain rules prevented him from reopening the park because it would be too costly to comply.

Perry Glantz, the attorney representing Cowan, said Cowan would need compensation not just for his property, but for the loss of his business, which together he said are worth several million dollars. Glantz said last week the whole situation places a financial burden solely on Cowan, which is unfair because his property — the land where the mobile homes sat — technically wasn’t destroyed in the flood.

In Milliken, much depends on a floodplain map the town board will consider Wednesday. The map, commissioned by the Colorado Water Conservation Board, is meant to provide a temporary resource for flood-ravaged communities as they attempt to redevelop, said Kevin Houck, chief of the Watershed and Flood Protection Section of the Colorado Water Conservation Board. After the flood, the Little Thompson and other rivers had erosion and, in some instances, changed course, meaning old floodplain maps may no longer be a trusty resource. Some communities were left with nothing to work with, he said.

Houck said Icon Engineering, a Centennial-based civil engineering firm, is using automated methods to at least provide communities with better data.

“What we are trading off here is quick information to localities at the expense of higher detail,” he said.

Milliken officials may adopt the floodplain temporarily because it could take years for the updated FEMA map to be approved, said Anne Best Johnson, Milliken’s community and economic development director. She said the town is currently working with a FEMA floodplain map crafted in 1978. But if the land where Evergreen Mobile Home Park sits is deemed unsuitable for homes, Solomon said she fears there will be little to no affordable housing left in Milliken.

Burack said the town is working on a housing needs assessment, which should be done in a few months. He said the town is working aggressively alongside the Milliken Housing Authority and Habitat for Humanity to find solutions.

Burack said he is also heartened by the announcement that more federal money will soon be available. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development last week announced $199.3 million more to be added to the $62.8 million pot of money for flood-ravaged Colorado communities.

The money will be doled out by the state through a competitive application process, and Burack said he expects Milliken will fare well once those funds are available.

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