Shandaken properties set for FEMA buyout

By Jay Braman Jr.
The Town of Shandaken is set to lose two-dozen properties from the tax roles as the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA) begins buyout talks after Hurricane Irene swept though Ulster County last year.

FEMA has its eye on no less than 33 properties following the catastrophic event in August/September of 2011 when flooding ravaged much of the region.

According to Art Snyder, director of Ulster County’s Emergency Management Services, the proposed activity is the voluntary acquisition and demolition of up to 33 properties substantially damaged by flood waters from Hurricane Irene and/or Tropical Storm Lee.

33 in county
The subject properties are in the towns of Kingston, Olive, Shandaken, Ulster and Wawarsing. All are located within the base, or one percent annual chance floodplain (also known as the 100-year floodplain) of the Esopus Creek, Birch Creek, Stony Clove Creek, Roundout Creek, the Saw Kill and other unnamed tributaries.

Acquisitions will be from willing sellers only. Properties will be acquired, structures demolished, and sites graded and seeded. Deed restrictions will prohibit future development and sites will be maintained in perpetuity as open space under municipal ownership.
On Monday, Shandaken Supervisor Rob Stanley said that the properties in play are not on Main Street, Phoenicia, where high currents entered the doorways of those structures and caused millions of dollars worth of damage.

Following the storms last year, there were calls from New York State Assemblyman Kevin Cahill to move Phoenicia’s business district away from the banks of the Esopus and Stony Clove creeks, which intersect right at the entrance to the hamlet.

Phoenicia fallout
The idea was met with tremendous animosity from Phoenicians.
Stanley said he believed many of the properties are located in the Mount Tremper area, where homeowners were particularly hard hit along old Route 28, Route 212 and the Route 28 highway.

On Monday, Snyder’s office would not make available the specific location of the properties.
While a buyout does mean that it is likely that the town would lose part of its tax base, Stanley said the town might be able to take over some of the parcels and use them in some way, such as for a park or stream access.

“Right now we are looking at all the options,” he said. “Nothing has been decided yet.”
Federal Executive Orders 11988, Floodplain Management, and 11990, Protection of Wetlands, require federal agencies to review proposed actions in floodplains and/or wetlands and explore practicable alternatives to avoid, minimize or mitigate potential impacts.

The alternative to acquisition/demolition would be to leave these flood-prone properties in private ownership for the potential repair and rebuilding of structures or for future development. The proposed project will remove structures from the floodplain and create open space to restore the beneficial values served by floodplains and wetlands.

The public is invited to provide comments about this project. Written comments may be submitted by mail to: FEMA Region II, Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, Leo O’Brien Federal Building, 11A Clinton Square, Room 742, Albany, New York 12206-5421 or by email to FEMA-R2-HMA@fema.dhs.gov. Comments should be submitted within 15 days.