As Buyout Nears, Town Mulls Options

Published 08/18 2014 05:42PM

Updated 08/18 2014 10:40PM

BERLIN, Vt. - Just steps away from the Dog River in Berlin, a battered home on Muzzy Road, and the land it sits on, is vacant. It’s awaiting a FEMA buyout some three years after not one, but two rounds of serious flooding.

“In 2011 we were told it would be five to six months, so here we are in August of 2014," Chairman of the Berlin Selectboard Ture Nelson says.

The lengthy process is one that's played out all across Vermont after major spring flooding, and then Irene. But for this property, the end is finally near.

Once everything is finalized the town will receive federal funds to buy out the current owners. That’s the whole goal of the FEMA program. Instead of repeatedly repairing flood prone homes, FEMA tries to move the owners elsewhere to prevent future damage.

"There would be restrictions on the deed going forward. There cannot be any additional buildings on that property because that's the whole intent of the program,” Nelson added.

After the FEMA buyout and demolition are completed, the next step is deciding what's going to happen to this property. The town has two proposals on the table right now.

“One suggestion that's been made is to put up solar panels on the property," Nelson said.

The board is investigating whether that would be allowed under FEMA rules, and how much those solar panels would cost taxpayers.

Another option: build a community garden.

"A community garden in Berlin would be nice. This could be an opportunity for that," Nelson continued. "Everything's still on the table. No one suggestion looks more favorable than the others."

The Selectboard says a decision on the property’s use could be made within a month.

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