A Greenwood couple has more than 20 years of memories at their home, but none as vivid as the summer of 2008, when flooding that plagued much of Johnson County forced them out of their house.
For most of that summer, Keith and Jan Ettis were displaced from their Bo-Mar Lane home while flood-damaged drywall was cut out and carpet was torn out and replaced.
Now, the city of Greenwood is reaching out to the couple and 11 other homeowners on the street just south of County Line Road — an area prone to flooding — to see if any of them would be interested in selling their property to the city.
The city wants to buy the properties and have the houses demolished as a part of a preventative effort to spare homeowners the headache of recovering from a flood, stormwater superintendent Chris Jones said.
Story continues below gallery
And Bo-Mar Lane is the first of many areas where the city wants to approach property owners about selling, Jones said. City officials have a map that highlights the floodway throughout the city, and their goal is to apply for a federal grant each year to buy properties in those areas, Jones said.
Homeowners that live in a floodway have to buy flood insurance, which can cost as much as $100 per month in addition to their homeowner’s insurance.
Property owners don’t have to sell to the city. Rather, the city is offering the homeowners a chance to sell and move elsewhere, where they wouldn’t be faced with the potential of flooding, Jones said.
“This is a voluntary thing. This is a pre-hazard grant to buy properties within the floodway. It’s a benefit for the homeowner,” Jones said. “We’re going to try and follow the city’s flood path and do this every year.”
City officials want to apply for a grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency for the money to buy about 12 properties along Bo-Mar Lane, including the Ettis’ home. The 12 properties are located in the floodway of Pleasant Run Creek — an area that would flood badly during a 100-year event. The city decided to start with Bo-Mar Lane because officials have received calls from residents in the past on that street concerned about not being able to sell their homes due to the chance of flooding, Jones said.
A similar grant was used after the 2008 flood to buy more than 100 flood-damaged homes in Johnson County.
The city of Greenwood is in the very early stages of the process, Jones said.
Under the grant requirements, no structures or buildings could be built on the properties because of the flooding hazard. But if property owners on the south end of the street sold to the city, it would be a prime location for a trail that would connect Northwest Park to the Northwest Park Annex, parks director Rob Taggart said.
The city’s grant application must first be sent to the Indiana Department of Homeland Security where all the cities and towns applying are reviewed and then ranked, said John Erickson, director of public information for the Department of Homeland Security. From there, the applicants are passed onto FEMA and a decision to award or deny grant funding is made in the fall, Erickson said.
Applying for preventative grants reduces how much cities and towns rely on federal funding after a natural disaster occurs, Erickson said.
“We look at preventative work in a positive way,” Erickson said. “When we can take properties out of areas where there has been repetitive damage, it saves those families anguish and financial strain.”
Keith Etter came home last month to find a note on his door, asking him to call Jones to discuss the city’s plans for the area, he said.
The city posted similar letters on the front doors of each property on Bo-Mar Lane that it’s looking to buy. Keith Etter had never thought about selling the home he and his wife lived in for about 23 years, but if someone is interested in making an offer, he would listen, he said.
After the 2008 flood, Keith Etter heard about FEMA’s interest in getting homes out areas where severe flooding could occur, so he isn’t surprised that the city is looking into buying homes, he said.
“We love where we live. But in 2008, (flooding) got everybody,” Keith Etter said. “I would consider it. If my house is worth $100,000 and they offer me $50,000, no. So, I’m waiting to see how it plays out. It’s vague right now. I would be interested if I saw more information.”
Under the grant program, Greenwood would be required to have each of the 12 houses appraised twice. City officials would then make an offer for the average price of the two appraisals, Jones said. Then, after city officials know which homeowners agreed to selling, the city would be given 75 percent of the funding from FEMA and pay the remaining 25 percent out of the stormwater utility fund and other departments, Jones said.
The city has heard back from five of the 12 property owners, and each wants more information about the idea of selling their home to the city, Jones said.