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January 22, 2018 - 10:49pm

City Council touts work of 'Habitat,' looks to vote on floodplain build proposal

Batavia City Council members voiced their support of Habitat for Humanity of Genesee County tonight as they agreed to consider a proposal to back to a building project in the flood zone on the City’s south side.

“Habitat for Humanity does an outstanding job, and the best thing about this project is that it’s going to be in the Sixth Ward,” said Councilwoman Rose Mary Christian, who represents residents of that district.

Habitat for Humanity leaders are seeking a $17,395 grant from the City to cover engineering and architectural costs to design a flood-compliant home at 116 Swan St.

Mike Fahey, Habitat for Humanity board president, said the funds are needed because the property is in the 100-year flood zone – and a complete demolition of the existing home is the only way the organization can make the project work.

“Habitat, about a year ago, acquired the property and we were not aware at that time that it was actually in the flood plain,” Fahey said following the Council meeting. “Because of that, we are required to meet FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) requirements to have the property acceptable to everyone, and to make sure that flood insurance can be obtained on the property at a reasonable cost to the homeowner.”

Calling it a “unique challenge” (as it is the first Habitat project in the City’s floodplain), Fahey said it also presents an opportunity “because we’ve always been concerned that the south side of the City of Batavia has not been usable for Habitat or allowed us to go in there and look at home sites because of the floodplain problem.”

The proposal before Council calls for the City to take money from the former Vibrant Batavia fund (there is $48,000 left) – paying half to Habitat when the building permit is obtained and half when there is a certificate of occupancy.

Matt Worth, interim city manager, said that the engineering and architectural design study would become “a blueprint for future (Habitat) homes.”

Fahey said that the design work would be the “property” of Habitat for Humanity, but the group would be willing “to use those plans on any property in the City needing FEMA requirement.”

The total cost of the project is $104,000, an amount that “would be too much for a homeowner,” Fahey said.

“It would exceed any mortgage that they could comfortably handle. So we’re asking for some money to offset the cost to Habitat for the engineering,” he said.

Fahey said the property is in terrible condition and has to be demolished.

“We attempted to see if we could elevate the property, but it’s structurally unsound so that is an additional cost that Habitat, itself, is going to accrue,” he said. “That will not be handed off to the homeowner.”

He said that the structure is only about two-tenths of a foot below the floodplain, but still has to come down in order to meet FEMA regulations.

“The concrete slab has to be engineered in such a way so that if there is a flood, the water can escape from the building and not cause any future damage,” he said.

“Once we bring the building – the new build – to FEMA compliant, that reduces the cost of the flood insurance by two-thirds. Flood insurance will still have to be obtained for the property, but at a much more reasonable cost.”

City Council moved the resolution to its Business meeting on Feb. 12.

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