The township has been working closely with FEMA concerning properties that are repetitively flooded, and now two of them are going to be purchased by the Department of Environmental Protection, with the township responsible for maintenance of the properties.
“We’ve been working with FEMA, which has identified some homes and two homeowners have agreed to have their properties purchased,” said township administrator James Naples at Monday’s township council meeting. “These are repetitively flooded homes.”
The council unanimously approved a resolution Monday to enter into a memorandum of understanding with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection through FEMA’s Blue Acres Program in order to acquire certain properties along the Raritan River floodway.
According to the resolution, the agreement states that FEMA will pay $98,000 for each home, and Blue Acres will pay the balance of the appraisal cost and other fees, while the ICC Coverage Fund will be used to demolish the two homes.
The two homes that have been accepted into the program are at 203 Old York Road and 205 Old York Road.
“We sent a letter of intent in March to all the properties [identified by FEMA], and these are the two the state selected to be part,” said township engineer Thomas Forsythe. “Blue Acres will get the appraisal, and make an offer to the homeowner.”
The costs of demolition will also be paid by Blue Acres, Forsythe said.
“We go out and get contractors and prices, but they would contract with Blue Acres, who pays the bills,” he said.
As for the township, the only responsibility borne by Bridgewater will be to maintain the property. The administration has worked into the agreement for annual maintenance on them.
“We want to clear the property once, maintain it, let the vegetation grow in and do the properties once,” Naples said. “We won’t keep it like a park.”
Forsythe said FEMA did not give a definition for a requirement of maintenance.
“There was no standard for annual mowing,” said township attorney William Savo. “As long as there are other houses around, there may have to be more mowing, but we didn’t want to open the door, so we put it out there annually.”
For council members, the biggest concern is about the maintenance of the property, and how often mowing should be done.
“The issue of property maintenance is a slippery slope because people will want to see the vacant lot next door carefully managed,” said councilman Howard Norgalis. “I can go along with annual cutting, but I think we will have adjacent owners coming here [with concerns].”
Savo said the township is free to do the mowing and other maintenance work more often, but the agreement requires once a year.
“You can do it more than annually if it becomes a problem,” he said.
As for the two houses chosen for the program, Forsythe said, they are identified as having severe repetitive flood damage, as found through claims made. A total of eight homes were identified as possibly being eligible, but only the two put together the paperwork to apply.
“The value of the homes are diminishing because of flooding,” said council president Allen Kurdyla. “No sooner do they get it fixed, then they’re flooding again, so it’s a no-win situation for anyone.”
“This is a way at least for residents to get something on their way out,” he added, “and lessen the burden on our emergency responders when these events do occur.”