Water Street in Jamaica was severely damaged by Tropical Storm Irene, including several homes that were completely washed away. (Zachary P.
Water Street in Jamaica was severely damaged by Tropical Storm Irene, including several homes that were completely washed away. (Zachary P. Stephens/Brattleboro Reformer)
Thursday May 9, 2013

JAMAICA -- Although Tropical Storm Irene took out four homes on Water Street, there are still about 13 homes left on the block.

The Jamaica Selectboard last week listened to current homeowners' concerns about the future of their street. If buyouts occur for the previous homeowners, the town will own that property along the Ball Mountain Brook.

A greenspace and park were two possibilities for that land but without knowing if the buyouts will occur, the Selectboard cannot make too many plans.

"We learned very quickly that money doesn't come pouring in," said Selectboard Chairwoman Lexa Clark. "I mean, you have to jump through hoops to get that money. And, we spent a lot of money getting the roads fixed and we have to. It's part of the town's responsibility. But we still aren't sure."

When buyouts through the FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program fell through, previous Water Street homeowners were told that buyouts could still potentially happen through a different set of means. The funds would come from Community Development Block Grant, provided by the state's Housing of Urban Development program.

If these buyouts occur, the town will own the property. Then, the Selectboard will decide what will be done with that land.

"This is my opinion: to just leave it as it is and see what happens with the buyouts," said Clark. "We have no idea if that program is going to fall through like the last one did. That was costly to the town, when (the FEMA) program fell through."

For now, the previous homeowners are waiting to hear back from the facilitators of the program, Two Rivers-Ottauquechee Regional Commission. Clark said this would be the first time the regional commission would be doing this type of program.

"They're just trying it out," she said. "They're working on how to get the kinks out of it."

An idea for that property that the current landowners proposed included planting trees and flowers to give the current homeowners privacy. They were vocal on not making the land a public park.

Clark told the Reformer that there are about 11 full-time homeowners on Water Street right now. She thought there were no more than two seasonal homeowners.

One current homeowner asked, after widening the street and taking rocks off the road, if the street was complete and if it was measured.

Selectboard member Lou Bruso said the board had hired a company that re-surveyed the street "back to where the right of way was."

"The street was put back into position," he said.

The question of paving then came up. The board had been told by attorneys not to do any paving until more information was gathered from Two Rivers.

"We could pave it but if we turn to the grant and they tell us we can't pave, we may have to rip it out," said Bruso. "There is some discussion that the grant might have a requisite that it can't be asphalt."

Bruso said the town's attorney looked into it and said there was no guarantee that the road could be asphalt even when and if the town owns it.

"We haven't heard from the grant people yet, so we don't know what their reaction is," said Bruso. "We can't fight it until we've heard what their reaction is. It's very preliminary as far as if we can asphalt that or not."

According to Bruso, the town attorney had told the Selectboard that the federal government "does take into consideration municipal right of ways on property they purchase."

"So they will recognize our right of way," Bruso added. "But it's not guaranteed they'll recognize our asphalt. If for some reason, they come in and tell us they wouldn't put asphalt down, we'd probably fight that. But we can't guarantee we're going to win that fight."

One current homeowner complained of the conditions of the road, which has been causing dust to come inside his house through the windows.

"I can't even open my window," he said.

The road commissioner said he'd put something down on the road to help with the dust, which he had done during previous work on Water Street.

Another resident said that plow trucks caused rocks and dust to go on the Water Street home's property. Mold and mildew were an outcome from this, she added.

There had been some concern over "Residents Only" signs that had been taken down, stolen or were missing. This had caused people to come down the street fast, making the dust situation even worse.

Also, with sidewalk construction under way, people are avoiding Main Street and going down Water Street, a resident said. Other people are going through Water Street to get the Jamaica State Park.

Board member Andy Coyne, who lives on Water Street, had to tell a bicyclist who parked his car at one of the previous home owners' property, that this was private property.

Chris Mays can be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 273, or cmays@reformer.com. Follow Chris on Twitter @CMaysReformer.