Guidelines for acquiring property for a flood-control project in Minot are nearing completion, even though funding for any buyouts has yet to be determined.
Howard Swanson, an assistant attorney general working with Minot flood issues, spoke with the Minot Flood Recovery Committee's Housing Subcommittee Tuesday about the considerations involved in acquiring property. He is drafting a proposed plan for accomplishing acquisitions, and the subcommittee agreed to work with him in completing that draft.
"It's a huge task," he said of acquisitions, "and the expectation is that a program will be rolled out in the near future, following the legislative session. The expectations that I have heard is this is just going to happen, and if I leave you with anything, it's that it won't happen until decisions are made and someone shepherds the program through."
Swanson said there are many factors that go into acquiring property. Among them are:
- Will mineral interests be purchased?
- Will a homeowner be allowed to move a house and sell the land?
- Will a homeowner be allowed to salvage certain items, and if so, how will that affect the property purchase price?
- How will property values be determined?
- How will taxes and special assessments be pro-rated at the time of closure?
- What happens to property acquired by the city for flood control if that property turns out to not be needed?
Swanson said flood insurance, federal assistance or other private insurance must be subtracted from the price to avoid duplication of payment under the federal hazard mitigation program. However, homeowners who can show receipts related to property expenses may be able to offset the duplication.
There has been some confusion regarding demolition notices sent to 104 Minot property owners and 18 Ward County and Burlington residents last week. City planner Donna Bye said some people apparently have mistaken the notices for buyout letters.
The city is not buying the properties and demolishing the structures. Rather, First District Health Unit has ordered the buildings removed for safety reasons, and homeowners will be assessed for the cost of removal. People can appeal the demolition if they plan to repair the properties or do their own removal.
"Our intent is not to demolish as many homes as we can. Our intent is to preserve as many homes as we can," Swanson said. "But if there is a threat to life, health and safety, we want to address that as soon as possible."
Swanson also advised the subcommittee that the proposed flood control map to be released on Nov. 3 isn't likely to give residents the answers they want about property acquisitions. In Grand Forks, after the 1997 flood, the initial plan offered three different alignments, and the final alignment was different than the initial three, he said.
Connie Feist, subcommittee chairwoman, responded that her concern is that instead of getting answers on Nov. 3, residents will be more confused than ever. She suggested the subcommittee begin working on answers to potential questions now.
"It would be negligent on our part as a city to release a plan that is just a concept without at least having the answers so people know how it affects them," she said.
Subcommittee member Jim Jensen said people won't have all the answers when the initial map is released, but they will have more information than they have now.
"At least people will have an understanding whether they are more likely to have their property taken or more likely not. That's as good as it's going to get on Nov. 3," he said.
Feist appointed a task force to identify possible questions that residents will have and seek out the answers before Nov. 3.
The subcommittee also proposed surveying landlords to determine their intentions to rebuild and need for assistance. The Minot Area Community Foundation sent landlords survey information, but because landlords aren't eligible for assistance through the Minot Area Flood Recovery Fund, the foundation assumes that landlords account for many of the non-responders.
Estimates are that there were 800 units in three-plex or smaller rentals in the flood zone, Feist said. There were 52 larger, multi-family projects with no total on number of units. Some flood victims also rented mobile homes.