BRATTLEBORO — Worried whether the town could lose its flood insurance and its community rating score could suffer, an agreement was drawn up to address a buyout approved three years ago.
"The voluntary transaction agreement is in essence a purchase and sale agreement between the town of Brattleboro and the property owners," Assistant Town Manager Patrick Moreland said at last Tuesday's meeting. "Unfortunately, however, one of the conditions that the town will place on purchasing the property is that we receive clear title. And the property owner has struggled to produce clear title to date."
Moreland said he had a very limited understanding of why a clear title was not available. The property was sold between banks several times over the last three years, which he said could present challenges for the owner. The agreement gives the owners a six-month window to close on the property then the offer would expire.
Moreland said damage from Tropical Storm Irene flood waters to a residence at 805 Western Avenue was estimated to be beyond 50 percent of the assessed value at "pre-event value," making the property a candidate for a FEMA buyout. The town was awarded a $319,468 grant from Vermont Emergency Management in 2012 to purchase the property, demolish the structure and turn the parcel into a greenspace, with $194,644 of it to be offered to the owners. The rest, he said, was for demolition, shutting and capping of utilities, and landscaping.
"We have an opportunity in the wake of a presidentially declared natural disaster to provide assistance to a household that experienced severe loss as a result of the flood while on the other hand, we have an obligation to the broader public to enforce our ordinances uniformly," Moreland said. "At this moment, we have not taken action against this particular property owner to bring their property into conformance with our flood hazard regulations largely because we're anticipating the potential for a buyout."
Without a clear timeline, he worried that the town's commitment to enforcing flood hazard regulations could be called into question under the National Flood Insurance Program.