Many in Flood-Prone West Virginia Community Accept Buyouts

July 3, 2014

Most year-round residents in a flood-prone area in Berkeley County have accepted government buyouts through a hazard mitigation effort that began following a flood in 1996.

Fewer than 10 year-round residents remain in the flood plain area of the Sportsman’s Paradise community along the Potomac River. The county has acquired 114 parcels, including 30 in the latest round of buyouts, outgoing program coordinator Donna Seiler told The Herald Mail of Hagerstown, Maryland.

Sixty-five parcels remain privately owned. Several property owners are interested in the buyout program, said Seiler, whose position will be eliminated at the end of the fiscal year on Monday.

“They’re ready; they want it,” Seiler told the newspaper during a tour of the area on Friday.

The county has used a combination of funding from the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the state to acquire properties and remove structures.

Seiler said the latest round of hazard mitigation cost about $400,000 less than the estimated $1.6 million budget, in part because of the absence of asbestos material in the buildings.

Despite the flooding risk, residents Austin Stup and John Foster say they plan to stay in Sportsman’s Paradise.

“They’d have to pull me out kicking and screaming,” Stup told the newspaper.

Foster said he has spent his entire life on the Potomac River, and he has flood insurance for his property.

“Is it going to flood? Sure, it’s just a matter of time,” Foster told the newspaper.

Sportsman’s Paradise initially was a site for weekend visits and summer vacations. Over the years, it became a year-round community and then became known for criminal activity, illegal dumping and blighted property.

Stup said every lot in Sportsman’s Paradise had a cabin or a trailer when he bought his property in 1987.

“It was pretty rough,” Stup said.

County Administrator Alan Davis has said the hazard mitigation grant program would be handled by remaining planning department staff since Seiler’s position is being eliminated. She also served as the county’s litter control/code enforcement officer, and those duties will be reassigned.

“I hope Berkeley County follows it through and allows people to leave that want to get out,” Foster said.

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