Award winning photo by former Grand Forks Gazette reporter Kathleen Saylors showing the devastation of the Grand Forks flooding in 2018.

Grands Forks makes land offers for flood mitigation

26 of the first 40 contracts in final stages

At least forty property owners have accepted offers for their land from the City of Grand Forks, as part of the city’s massive flood mitigation buyout plan.

As of April 17, the contractors in charge of the project had approached nearly 100 residents with offers and was finalizing contracts with 26 of the first 40 offers.

The agreements, said Grand Forks’ manager for strategic initiatives Graham Watt, are sale agreements that do not so far take into account some of the in-kind options the city is looking at (such as house relocation and serviced city lots). However, some of them may end up being deferred sales, meaning that residents could get the bulk of the price for their property up front without having to move right away.

“If the engineering means that we can provide more time and [residents] still want to stay longer, we can defer that as needed,” Watt said.

Watt said that heavy work in North Ruckle is not slated to begin for several years, for example, where dike work along the river will start in 2021.

Based on the deals struck thus far, Watt said that buyouts are costing more than had originally been budgeted for, noting that the city’s original grant application was based in part off of preliminary appraisals, and that real estate value in the region has also generally increased since the application was submitted. An upcoming May report to council from Keystone Appraisals, the company contracted to negotiate with residents, is expected to offer an updated look at the plan’s budget next month.

The city said that, based off current pickup for Keystone’s offers, it expects around 90 per cent of the 140 property owners to accept offers presented. Keystone’s own timeline identifies September 2020 as when it will have sent out offers to everyone. Property owners who wish to appeal can file for appeal within 30 days of receiving an offer.

From there, a review panel of at least three independent members will evaluate each case and recommend an adjusted price.

At its April 6 meeting, Grand Forks city council unanimously approved the review process in general terms, but has yet to identify how pannelists will be selected.

“It’s critical that […] it’s not the city or Keystone that will be choosing these individuals – that we’re going to have a very independent process of review,” said mayor Brian Taylor before approving the review process.

A selection process is expected to be presented to council next month.

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