Sunday, February 22, 2004

23 Fairfield homes could go

Flood-prone homes would be bought, then razed

By John Kiesewetter
The Cincinnati Enquirer

FAIRFIELD - Greg Adams said he'll soon remove the "for sale" sign from his Banker Drive home because he's finally found a buyer - the City of Fairfield.

Adams lives in one of the 23 flood-prone homes eligible for the city's new $3.4 million buyout plan funded mostly by a Federal Emergency Management Agency grant received last week.

"We've had it on the market for five months, but we've never had an offer," said Adams, 52.

Prospective buyers lost interest when they realized that the drywall and carpeting were replaced last summer after Pleasant Run Creek, in Adams' back yard, raged out of its banks. About 100 homes were damaged by the June 14-15 flood.

"I'm thrilled to find some resolution to this. Now we can move on," said Adams, who has lived there 41/2 years.

Twenty-one homes in Adams' neighborhood - the 1970s brick ranches and tri-levels along Banker Drive and Crystal Drive, west of Fairfield Middle School - have been designated for acquisition and demolition by the city. The land would become a park or green space.

Those homes - plus two more upstream, on Bandelier Court and King Arthur Court - were selected by the city because they had severe flood problems due to low elevation, said Jim Turner, city engineer.

"We looked at close to 100 homes in the general area, and put together the best list of homes that we thought would be eligible," Turner said.

In addition to being in the flood plain, the Banker-Crystal target relief area also is in the "flood way," the area where water flows during a flood. The federal government made the designation in its 1979 National Flood Program, after the homes were built.

Banker and Crystal residents have greeted news of buyouts with guarded optimism. Some worry if the city's fair market value offer will be acceptable.

"Every time it rains, we're scared. We're always looking at the creek," said Dawn Alfers, 37, who lives on Crystal Drive with her two sons and fiance, Rick Henry. "But how much are they going to give us? Are we going to be able to buy another home?"

Neighbor Donna Smith said her family won't make any decisions until they see the city's offer. And the process may will be agonizing, she said.

"It's hard to think about the house where your kids grew up being bulldozed," said Smith, 51, who has lived on Crystal since 1980.

"We didn't think we'd be on the list. We really don't want to start over. We really figured we'd spend all our life here, because no one would buy the place," she said. "But anyone would be interested (in selling) if they had ever cleaned up after a flood."

Many flood victims plan to attend the City Council meeting at 7 p.m. Monday to ask about acquisition and demolition plans, said Judy Morgan, president of Fairfield Flood Victims 6/14 advocacy group founded last June.

"The people whose homes didn't get picked have a lot of questions," Morgan said.

According to the city's timeline, a consultant will complete appraisals by July. Offers will be made to homeowners by September. The city wants to close on all 23 properties before next April.

Homeowners do not have to sell, said David Bock, public works director. If any of the 23 reject the offers, city officials don't know if they'll be able to buy other area homes.

"That's a question we will be asking (federal officials)," Turner said.

The city also may apply for another round of federal buyout funds later this year, Turner said.

Buyout homes

These 23 homes are eligible for purchase and demolition under the city's $3.4-million buy-out program.

1031 Nilles Road$122,920
5205 Banker Drive$98,490
5213 Banker Drive$121,210
5219 Banker Drive$105,090
5225 Banker Drive$135,040
5233 Banker Drive$119,970
5238 Banker Drive$119,460
5239 Banker Drive$118,830
5245 Banker Drive$117,760
5251 Banker Drive$116,810
5257 Banker Drive$118,740
5265 Banker Drive$124,070
5273 Banker Drive$120,510
5274 Banker Drive$118,650
5281 Banker Drive$115,350
5289 Banker Drive$120,650
5299 Banker Drive$130,430
5274 Crystal Drive$118,650
5282 Crystal Drive$113,950
5291 Crystal Drive$118,500
5292 Crystal Drive$132,720
5495 Bandelier Court$144,240
11 King Arthur Court$135,100/$145,000

Sources: City of Fairfield; Butler County Auditor's office


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