Iowa City Completes Purchases Prompted by Flooding

August 27, 2012

Iowa City has bought the last of 93 residential properties in a flood buyout program that began in 2009 and expects to complete demolitions this fall.

The Gazette reported Friday that the city made its final purchase in July.

Some, like Mary and Joe Sturm, didn’t initially plan on taking a buyout of their home near the Iowa River.

They made repairs to the house after it was flooded in 2008 but later decided that city officials wanted residents to leave and wouldn’t make the neighborhood a priority in future floods. They moved to the east side of Iowa City.

“It makes you feel so sad,” said Mary Sturm, 68. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime neighborhood.”

The federal and state government will pay the roughly $22 million cost of buying and demolishing the Iowa City homes and paying to relocate owners. After it finishes demolishing buildings this fall, Iowa City plans to extend a trail through the area and create another access to City Park.

In Cedar Rapids, the city has acquired more than 1,300 properties.

In Iowa City, officials said removing homes from the area near the Iowa River was essential to avoiding future danger to residents and property losses.

David Purdy, a community development planner, said the final purchases were an important milestone.

“When the next big flood occurs, those properties, obviously, won’t be damaged and the homeowners won’t be in jeopardy,” he said.

However, not everyone has left the area.

The owners of 62 homes in two neighborhoods along the river have opted to remain.

Mark Phelps, his wife and two children will remain in a home swamped by more than 6 feet of water, but they have repaired the structure and elevated it by more than 9 feet.

Phelps said they love living near the river and didn’t want to sell.

“We know the price that we have to pay for living along the river,” said Phelps, 39.

Was this article valuable?

Here are more articles you may enjoy.