Greenwood wants to purchase nearly a whole block of properties along Pleasant Creek in the downtown area, converting the land into a park and gateway into the city.
The city previously had received approval to purchase 13 properties in flood zones across Greenwood as part of a $1 million grant from the Federal Emergency Management Administration and now is seeking to expand the scope of its buyback program using city funds and another FEMA grant, with a focus on an area north of where Pleasant Creek crosses under Main Street.
The city wants to eventually purchase 15 homes, a church and a small apartment complex that make up 22 properties in flood-zones in an area bordered by Main, Water and Broadway streets and the railroad. If all of the properties were to be purchased and demolished, a whole city block of Greenwood would be designated as park space, as the city would not be allowed to rebuild inside the flood zone, Greenwood Stormwater Department Director Chris Jones said.
Of those properties, five homes and St. Paul the Apostle Evangelical Orthodox Church will be purchased through the previously approved FEMA grant. Another property, 330 E. Main St., has been offered to be purchased by the Greenwood Redevelopment Commission for $97,000.
How the remaining nine homes and the apartment complex will be purchased hasn’t been determined yet, Jones said.
No property owners will be forced to sell as the process is entirely voluntary, he said.
Potential funding sources include money from the stormwater department, redevelopment commission, park impact fees and another FEMA grant, Jones said.
The Greenwood City Council voted 9-0 to give its initial approval for the stormwater department to look into purchasing the additional properties. The council will need to vote once more to gives its final approval.
The city wants to purchase these properties to give homeowners the chance to get out of a flood-prone area, avoid damage from future floods and create a downtown park, Jones said.
Jones cited Province Park in Franklin, which frequently floods after heavy rainfall, as an example of what this area in Greenwood could eventually be like.
Clearing out the land around Pleasant Creek also will help lessen the impact of future flooding. Water will have more room to collect before it is forced to spread out further from the creek, and the removal of homes and driveways will provide more areas for water to be absorbed into the ground, Jones said.
Earlier this year, the stormwater department was awarded a nearly $1 million FEMA grant earlier to cover 75 percent of the cost of purchasing and demolishing 13 homes in flood zones near Pleasant Creek and on a cul-de-sac at the south end of Bomar Avenue. The city portion of the purchases is to be paid by the stormwater department.
The city was only able to apply for a FEMA grant for property owners who were interested in selling voluntarily, which is why the city wasn’t able to get a grant to cover the entire site that it was interested in, Jones said.
Now, with the first grant approved, the remaining property owners have become interested in selling their homes as well, and the city is looking into requesting additional FEMA funding, which could be available as soon as 2020, he said.
But even if that request is successful, getting the money will be more challenging this time, as funding will also be needed in areas of Texas and Florida damaged by hurricanes in the past month, Jones said.
While the city waits for FEMA funding, it will consider purchasing properties on a case-by-case basis as homeowner become willing to sell and if the city has money available to make the purchases, he said.
The city wants to move ahead with some of these purchases prior to any additional FEMA grants to help homeowners move when they are ready to and to take advantage of purchase opportunities that come up, Jones said.