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County buys another home for flood mitigation as first purchase is teed up for demolition

4434 19th Street N. in the Waverly Hills neighborhood (via Google Maps)

This weekend, the Arlington County Board approved $1.6 million to buy its next property for flood mitigation.

The property is located at 4434 19th Street N. in the Waverly Hills neighborhood, where the county has already purchased three homes this past year.

This happens to be the most expensive purchase thus far. The other homes in Waverly Hills sold for $969,200-$1.3 million, with one in Westover selling for $1.5 million.

Arlington County has told residents of the flood-prone Spout Run Watershed that it is willing to buy their homes. The county plans to tear down the homes on the properties it buys and re-landscape the vacant lots to prevent erosion.

These lots will provide “overland relief” during floods — that is, a safe path for flood waters to flow to get to the nearest stream or storm drain during a large storm event. They act as backup when existing stormwater systems and public space cannot handle floods, like those seen in 2019.

Arlington will be responsible for maintaining these properties and possibly developing long-term stormwater plans for some sites.

As it buys its next property, the county is gearing up to demolish the first home it acquired, this March, located at 4437 18th Street N.

This property “is projected to begin demolition before the end of the year,” says Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien, adding that a public meeting about the work is scheduled for next Thursday, Oct. 26.

“A schedule has not been finalized for the other properties,” she said. “The County will notify the community prior to any work beginning.”

Several steps have to take place after the property is acquired to get to the demolition stage and this generally takes about six months, O’Brien said. This includes work such as disconnecting utilities and assessing any hazardous materials that require removal.

Demolition schedules depend on when a contractor is available as well as site-specific details and designs. Getting the necessary permits requires about two months and nailing down contractor price quotes and issuing purchase orders requires about one month.

While the immediate plan for each site — to demolish and replant it — is the same, eventually, some properties could serve other functions, too. This depends on how big the property is and if it abuts other properties acquired by the county, among other factors.

Some properties could get additional stormwater infrastructure, including detention vaults, co-located with water quality and stormwater capacity projects.

Others could be used to provide county access to existing stormwater infrastructure. Not having the proper easements has previously stymied county efforts to stabilize part of Donaldson Run and provide flooding relief to residents of a nearby townhome association.

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