Image: Grand Forks Gazette

Image: Grand Forks Gazette

Grand Forks residents seek better buyouts

“All I want to come out of this with is what I had 15 months ago,” said one homeowner Aug. 29.

Residents whose properties form a key component of the city’s flood mitigation plans met with officials last Thursday at the River Valley Community Church to hear what the city had to offer in terms of in-kind options for buyouts.

With the city short approximately $6.6 million in grant monies that it would take to offer homeowners the values of their homes before the floods hit, the city has instead been weighing the value of offering serviceable city lots to people that can move their homes, and other types of support. But, many residents say, those sorts of solutions are inadequate.

“All I want to come out of this with is what I had 15 months ago,” said one homeowner at the Aug. 29 meeting.

Currently, said Jennifer Houghton, another resident in the buyout territory, “We’re talking about values where, in most cases, people won’t be able to replace what they had, but won’t be able to buy a property, period.”

“From our side,” said Grand Forks corporate officer Daniel Drexler at the meeting, “we are not optimistic that we will receive pre-flood values.”

Nevertheless, the city council has said that they will be meeting with provincial ministers this month to ask for more funding on behalf of residents. After a late-August meeting with B.C. Minister of Public Safety Mike Farnworth, Boundary-Similkameen MLA Linda Larson said that the minister expressed concern and would be responding to letters and a petition presented to him by Grand Forks buyout residents.

Raising taxes to

compensate

Some homeowners at the in-kind solutions meeting offered the option of raising local taxes to fund the estimated remaining cost. Like the parcel tax raised to pay for a fire truck – which was presented to land-owners as a $51.61 charge per parcel of land for five years. The vehicle’s cost was just over one million dollars.

In an emotional presentation to council on Tuesday, residents on the buyout list again made the case.

“You asked for pre-flood because you know it’s the right thing to do,” Dave Soroka at the committee of the whole meeting.

“Yes,” Coun. Neil Krog replied.

“Then why don’t you do the right thing now? Borrow the money and pay us what we’re worth.

“You keep telling us that the taxpayer wouldn’t sit still for that – you haven’t asked them yet.”

Any large borrowing plan, said Coun. Christine Thompson, would require a city referendum.

Residents on the buyout list say that the purchase plan is not about helping out residents who were hit by disaster. Instead, they put the buyout in with the overall plan for future flood mitigation, noting that their properties are slated to be used to divert flood waters away from other residents’ homes and businesses.

“As long as we’re not getting full replacement value along with costs associated to the move, we are being sacrificed,” said Houghton.

While some residents in the buyout zones are wanting to take a buyout and move, others at the Aug. 29 meeting urged the city to review its flood mitigation plan and evaluate whether a full buyout is necessary.