Nov. 6, 2008
MECKLENBURG COUNTY TO PURSUE GRANT
TO BUY PART OF DORAL APARTMENTS
Charlotte, NC – Mecklenburg County has approved the first step in a plan to stop repeated flood damage at a portion of the Doral Apartments. The proposal: Buy half of the complex closest to Briar Creek, tear down the flood-prone buildings and return the land to open space.
Last night, the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners authorized staff to apply for $3 million in federal grants to acquire a portion of the Doral property. Doral currently has 264 apartments on 20 acres. Under the proposal, the County would purchase approximately half of the complex, or 160 apartments on 10 acres of floodplain land closest to Edwards Branch and Briar Creek.
From 1995 to 2007, flood damages to those 160 apartments exceeded $4 million. A damage estimate is not available yet from flooding that occurred at Doral on Aug. 27, 2008, but is expected to exceed $1 million. In the portion of the Doral Apartments targeted for purchase by the County, 80 first-floor units have been vacant since the August flood because of extensive damage. As many as 80 second-floor units in the targeted section are occupied.
Cost: approximately $5 million
Approximate Cost Share:
60% federal or $3 million
40% Mecklenburg County Storm Water fees or $2 million
Purchasing 10 acres of land and 160 apartment units
Relocating as many as 80 families
1) Request the support of the North Carolina Division of Emergency Management
2) Apply for a Pre-Disaster Mitigation (PDM) grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
A decision from FEMA is not expected until the spring of 2009. There is limited PDM funding this year and possibly greater competition from communities damaged by Hurricanes Ike and Gustav. Even if FEMA funding is approved, the owner of the Doral Apartments could decide not to sell the property to the County. If the grant is approved, it typically takes six to 24 months to complete the purchase, relocate the tenants and demolish the buildings.
In 2006, Mecklenburg County won FEMA grant funds to buy the Cavalier Apartments across the creek from Doral. The County took ownership of Cavalier in June 2008 and was in the process of relocating tenants when that apartment complex was flooded in August. All residents of the Cavalier Apartments have now moved out.
Mecklenburg County expects to tear down the Cavalier Apartments in early 2009. Meetings have begun with nearby residents to discuss recreational opportunities and water quality features that might be added to the 13-acre Cavalier site. If part of the Doral Apartments is eventually purchased by the County, floodplain restoration and open space preservation will take place on both sides of the creek.
Doral Apartments was built in 1966 before floodplains were mapped and before there were restrictions on building in floodplains. Engineering studies show it is not feasible to stop local creeks from overflowing in heavy rain events. For structures like Doral and Cavalier Apartments, Storm Water Services has determined the most cost-effective way to permanently reduce flood losses is to buy and tear down buildings that have the greatest risk of repeated flooding.
Storm Water Services' Floodplain Buyout Program has purchased more than 180-properties in local floodplains since 2000, moving 300 families away from high risk areas. The floodplain is restored as open space, often with greenway trails and water quality features to remove pollutants from storm water runoff.