By Vanesa Brashier, firstname.lastname@example.org
Liberty County is approved for $6.1 million in grant funding to begin buyouts of flood-prone properties along the Trinity River. The target areas that have been prioritized for the first grant funding are Sam Houston Lake Estates and New River Lake Estates, both in north Liberty County.
“We have the distinction of being the very first contract for buyouts in the State of Texas,” said David Douglas, engineering administrator and grant coordinator for Liberty County.
The contract between Liberty County and the General Land Office of Texas, which is coordinating the FEMA grant funding within the state, will be signed by Liberty County Judge Jay Knight Tuesday afternoon, Douglas said. County commissioners approved the contract during Tuesday morning’s commissioners court meeting.
The contract now will be sent electronically to the GLO for formal authorization and execution of the contract with Liberty County. After that, the money will begin to be available for the buyouts. In the coming weeks, the county will start the formal process of accepting applications and appraising the homes of interested individuals.
“If their house was damaged in Harvey, they will not be penalized,” Douglas said. “Appraisals will give them pre-Hurricane Harvey value for their property.”
The process is non-binding until the homeowner accepts the agreement and signs a contract to sell the property.
“After they accept, there will be an exchange of funds. They will vacate the property. Then we will go out for bids to raze the property to the ground,” Douglas said. “The transaction sets that piece of property aside and it can never be built on again. Our plan is to turn over that land to Texas Parks and Wildlife, but we are still working on that agreement.”
For properties with liens and mortgages, those must be paid out of the proceeds of the sale.
Homeowners in New River and Sam Houston lake estates are being encouraged to take the buyouts. After the program ends, the county will no longer be required to maintain the roads leading in and out of the communities.
“The road to New River Lake Estates has a makeshift road right now. The other road is impassable. Part of it has already fallen into the river,” Douglas said. “We would like to buy out all of the houses in there.”
Not everyone appears to be willing to sell despite the adversities residents face should their road be washed out in the next flood.
“We went up there in April for a neighborhood meeting thinking everyone would want to leave, but that is not necessarily the case. Some of these people say they have lived there all their lives and they will die there even if that means getting to and from their homes on a four-wheeler,” Douglas said. “As long as they understand that Liberty County is not going to maintain the roads any longer, then that is their choice.”
Once all of the available properties in those two communities have been purchased through the grant, the remaining funds will be used for buyouts in the flood-prone communities of Snake River and Knights Forest.
“I’ve already had some calls from people in other areas. I’ve been referring those calls to Tyler Smith with Grant Works in Austin. He is a housing specialist working on the grant,” Douglas said. “We are going to go after our primary targets first. Any funds left after that, we will go to the other areas on a first come, first served basis. The people who got on the list first have a better shot of getting grant funds.”
If you are a resident in one of these flood-prone communities and are interested in hearing more about buyout options, contact Tyler Smith at 512-420-0303 ext. 401 or send email to email@example.com.