Sportsman's Paradise buyout delayed

March 24, 1998|By AMY WALLAUER

Sportsman's Paradise buyout delayed

FALLING WATERS, W.Va. - Property owners in the Sportsman's Paradise subdivision will have to wait a little longer for the federal government to buy their flood-prone properties and some will have to settle for less than the properties are worth.

But none of the 29 properties most recently submitted for acquisition have been taken off the list, as some property owners feared.

The subdivision along the Potomac River lies in a flood plain, which becomes submerged when rain hits and the river rises.


Al Lisko, state hazard mitigation officer, said the state requested a delay in the review process to discuss what could be funded using Federal Emergency Management Agency money.

At a Feb. 25 meeting, vacation homes were removed from the program. Three of the Sportsman's Paradise properties were vacation homes, Lisko said.

Jill and Frank Bercaw of Falling Waters own one of the 29 properties submitted for acquisition and feared the delay meant FEMA had reconsidered the plan.

They were flooded out of their home in January 1996, even though it has an elevated foundation.

"We had 2.5 feet (of water) in the house, which was rather minor compared to the people surrounding us," Jill Bercaw said.

A neighbor had water just an inch from her ceiling, Bercaw said.

"If our house was down on the ground, we would've had 61/2 feet in the house," she said.

They rented an apartment until May, then returned to their Falling Waters home. Four months later, another flood hit and they moved.

The Bercaws are expected to receive $28,000 for their home in Sportsman's Paradise, although it is assessed at $41,000.

"Most of the people are getting back what they paid," Jill Bercaw said. "I'm very glad to be out of the property - we suffered major losses since 1996."

The property of Edward and Barbara Kave of Falling Waters was assessed at $97,000 for a house, garage and rental property. They're being offered $68,000, Barbara Kave said.

"It's supposed to be fair market value," Kave said.

But she said she won't fight the assessment.

"It really all depends on how bad you want out of the area," Kave said. "The way I understand it, no bank will finance it because it will be in a flood zone now, so you're between a rock and a hard spot."

The Kaves have lived at their Sportsman's Paradise home for 20 years. Their home didn't flood, but they moved in August because of the buyout.

Across the state, 255 properties are to be acquired and six elevated for $12.95 million. Berkeley County properties will cost $1.65 million.

The properties are to be acquired or moved from flood plains as part of the federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, which provides funds for states to lessen the possibility of damage in flood-prone areas.

"FEMA is working on a timeline that they would like, if possible, to approve projects by the end of April," Lisko said.

How quickly property owners are reimbursed depends on whether FEMA gives approval and what additional information the agency needs.

If FEMA approves the project, it will notify Berkeley County, which will begin the acquisition process, Lisko said.

"There's no guarantee the project will pass FEMA's review," Lisko said.

Deborah Sheetenhelm, Berkeley County administrator, said the property is to be bought with 75 percent federal funding and 25 percent state funding. It will be transferred to the County Commission, which plans to transfer the properties to the Department of Environmental Protection for river access.

Berkeley County had the third largest application with 29 properties. The largest was Keyser, W.Va., in Mineral County, with 48 properties, Lisko said.

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