Monday, October 5th, 2015

The Morris County Freeholders have approved a $925,000 grant allocation for the buyouts of four more flood-threatened residential properties in the Stirling section of Long Hill, marking the second such purchases in that township under the county’s innovative Flood Mitigation Program, which has previously approved $5.5 million to partially fund purchases of 57 homes in seven towns.

Freeholders Allocate Funds for Buyouts of More Flood-Prone Properties Through Innovative County Program

It brings the total number of properties to get funding through this county program to 61.

 

The freeholders voted unanimously to approve the allocation for the Long Hill properties at their Sept. 21st board meeting. Approval was based on the recommendations of the Morris County Flood Mitigation Committee, which reviewed the applications.

With this final approval, Long Hill may now proceed to closing on these properties, all located on a flood-prone area of Mercer Street.

The county has set aside funding for buyouts of other Long Hill properties in the Millington and Gillette sections of the township, which has long dealt with periodic Passaic River flooding.

“It is extremely important to help to get county residents out of harm’s way in places that are likely to suffer future flooding from storms of the sort that have been threatening us for the past several days,’’ said Freeholder Director Kathy DeFillippo.
 
Freeholders Allocate Funds for Buyouts of More Flood-Prone Properties Through Innovative County Program
 “We have learned from Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, and from following Hurricane Joaquin last week, that we must take action to ensure the safety of our residents.’’

“We are glad to be able to help Long Hill residents who have longstanding flood issues,’’ added Freeholder John Cesaro, who is the county governing board’s liaison on open space issues.

Freeholders Allocate Funds for Buyouts of More Flood-Prone Properties Through Innovative County Program
John Cesaro

“These buyouts also will help ease the burden on the town’s first responders, who are repeatedly asked to rescue threatened residents and families from flooding, and it also helps protect other nearby homes and businesses from subsequent flooding,’’

“For a community such as Long Hill Township, which is extremely flood prone, this program is extremely beneficial,’’ said Long Hill Administrator Neil Henry. “Not only does it assist the township in moving our residents who live in flood areas out of harm’s way, but it helps create pockets of open space which can now receive water during flooding to reduce the negative effects of flooding on other properties.’’

The goal of the county’s program, which currently has about 40 pending projects in six municipalities, is to help towns secure flood-prone properties from willing sellers and convert the sites to permanently preserved open space, which naturally captures and absorbs flood water.

Additionally, these acquisitions lower municipal costs. Every project is subject to a detailed benefit-cost analysis based on FEMA computer models. On average, these Morris County projects have yielded a 7:1 benefit cost ratio (for every $1 spent by the county, there are $7 in benefits to the towns and county).

In addition to Long Hill, the county has provided grant funding for buyouts in Boonton, Denville, Lincoln Park, Morristown, Parsippany, Pequannock and Riverdale. 

The board established the Flood Mitigation Program in 2012 in response to increased, repetitive flooding in the county, especially the excessive flooding caused by Hurricane Irene in 2011. It is an expansion of the Morris County Open Space, Farmland, and Historic Preservation Trust, and is funded by the county’s open space tax.

Freeholders Allocate Funds for Buyouts of More Flood-Prone Properties Through Innovative County Program
 

As flood insurance rates rise significantly due to federal legislation, more homeowners are considering flood buyouts to escape from repetitive flooding and the increasing cost of homeowners insurance in floodplains.

 In 2014, the average flood insurance policy nationwide cost $468; in 2015, this cost jumped to $708. As federal subsidies for flood insurance gradually diminish to zero, insurance premiums will continue to rise until they reach their true actuarial risk.

The Morris County Flood Mitigation Program was the first program at the county level in New Jersey dedicated to acquiring flood-prone homes and land. It was honored by the state DEP with a 2014 Governor’s Environmental Excellence Award.

According to Jennifer McCulloch, coordinator of the Flood Mitigation Program, the program is structured with two basic funding tracks. The “MATCH Program’’ provides a 25 percent county match for projects already underway with agencies, such as Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) or DEP’s Blue Acres Program.

The second funding track, or “CORE Program,” is designed to catch homes that have fallen through other agency’s funding nets, with Morris County providing up to 75 percent of the acquisition cost. All of the Long Hill buyouts are in the CORE category. The remaining 25 percent cost share is being provided by New Jersey DEP, Long Hill Open Space Trust Fund, and homeowner donation of value.

In addition to Long Hill, the county has provided grant funding for buyouts in Boonton, Denville, Lincoln Park, Morristown, Parsippany, Pequannock and Riverdale. 

Grant applications are considered from municipalities only for acquisition of flood-affected residences from willing sellers. All county funds go directly to municipalities, which purchase the properties and must maintain the land as public open space in perpetuity, said McCulloch.

Additional information is available at http://www.morrispreservation.com, or by calling 973-829-8120.