(Updated at 1 p.m. on 03/21/23) Arlington County is looking to buy its first home for flood prevention.
The county has entered an agreement to buy the home at 4437 18th Street N. in the Waverly Hills neighborhood for $969,200, according to a staff report to the Arlington County Board.
The Board is set to review and approve the agreement during its meeting on Saturday.
The single-family home and detached garage is located in the Spout Run watershed, which has been hit hard by recent flooding events, such as the floods seen in July 2019. It will be torn down and the property will be replanted to serve as “overland relief,” at a cost of around $350,000.
Overland relief is a safe flowpath for flood waters to the nearest stream or storm drain during a large storm event. (An earlier version of this story incorrectly explained overland relief.)
Arlington County is looking to step up its mitigation efforts in response to severe weather events. While the 2019 flood has been described as a “100-year flood” — or a flood that has a 1% chance of happening each year — some research suggests these may occur more frequently due to rising sea levels and more frequent and severe storms, which are linked to climate change.
As part of this effort, last year county staff sent letters of interest to 38 properties in parts of the Waverly Hills and Cherrydale neighborhoods where overland relief is “an essential element” to manage extreme flooding, the report says. Funding for this voluntary property acquisition program was included in the adopted one-year 2022 capital improvement plan.
“The County will pursue acquisitions of properties whose owners are willing to sell to the County, and whose properties would allow for greater access to existing stormwater infrastructure for potential future upgrades, provide overland relief during periods of intense rainfall,and other future engineering solutions,” it says.
“Several” owners have indicated interest in selling to the county, the report added.
ARLnow last reported that there is some interest among residents in selling, while a number of others say that uprooting their families would come at too high a cost.
We were also told several had unanswered questions about the process and how these properties will be managed. One concern is that a piecemeal acquisition process would result in a “checkerboard” of homes and blighted-looking properties.
That “checkerboard” could result in “community fragmentation, difficulty with providing municipal services, and inability to restore full floodplain functionality,” and is one reason local governments may have a hard time getting enough community support for buyouts, according to a Congressional Research Service report.
Other reasons include the potential impacts on property values and housing stock and fears of displacement, it says.
Still, people are more likely to be interested in selling after a major flooding event.
“Buyouts are often a politically unpopular option unless there is a particularly catastrophic event that changes people’s willingness to move and creates unified state and local support for relocation,” the report noted.
Other research shows that property buyouts are one of the most effective tools at the disposal of local governments to combat frequent flooding.
“At their best, they provide a permanent solution,” according to Pew Research. “Effective buyouts prevent future damage, make people safer, and ideally protect entire neighborhoods or communities. Moreover, once bought-out properties become natural open space, they can provide an added benefit of absorbing additional stormwater, further reducing flooding and helping to conserve habitats.”
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WHS Spring Festival
Join us at the WHS Spring Festival on April 22, 2023, from 10am- 3pm at Wakefield High School(main parking lot). Come out to shop, play, and eat!
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District 27 Toastmasters 2023 Virtual Conference
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