A multi-department effort made multiple water rescues in the greater Des Moines area. The Clive fire department shows some of the area they worked.
Rodney White, firstname.lastname@example.org
Editor’s note: The flood-prone property buyout program was approved by the Clive City Council on Thursday.
Flash flooding inundated businesses along University Boulevard in June, damaging equipment and destroying vehicles.
It’s not the first time nearby Walnut Creek has jumped its banks. This area has dealt with six floods since 1986 — four have happened in the last 10 years.
Now, Clive wants to see changes before the next flood strikes.
The City Council approved a multiyear plan Thursday to buy and demolish 65 homes and businesses near University Boulevard between 73rd and 81st streets.
All of the properties are in the Walnut Creek floodplain and have sustained repetitive flood damage.
“When it rains, this is where we get nervous,” said Doug Ollendike, Clive’s community development director. “In terms of the severity of the damage and the potential for loss of life … this is the area of concern.”
Most of the properties — about half homes and half businesses — were built before floodplain regulations were in place and prior to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s flood mapping system, Ollendike said.
“At no fault of the original builder, they simply built property in the wrong place,” he said. And there isn’t a good way to “take 50- to 60-year-old homes and raise them eight feet in the air,” he said.
Clive estimated it will cost more than $27 million to purchase all 65 properties.
Clive plans to spend up to $1.25 million buying out flood prone properties along University Avenue near Walnut Creek. (Photo: City of Clive/Special to the Register)
The program is voluntary. Owners have to reach an agreement with the city on the purchase.
Clive expects to offer 110 percent of each property’s assessed value.
The city plans to spend $1.25 million to buy up to eight properties this year. It will prioritize the worst-hit properties in the first year. To qualify, homes and businesses must have sustained repeated damage from two or more floods.
Clive will seek grant money from federal and state agencies to help purchase other homes and businesses over time.
Sheri and Larry Bever are considering taking a buyout for their business, University Photo, located at 7827 University Blvd.
Their building has taken on water twice since they purchased the business from Sheri’s parents in 1987. In June, they lost a $40,000 photo printer and all the furniture used in their photo studio.
University Photo has reopened for business, but Sheri Bevers said there is still damage from the June storm that needs to be repaired.
“We don’t have mold growing in the building. … It looks fine, but we know the damage is there,” she said.
The couple must determine whether it makes more sense, financially, to remodel their building or move to a new location, she said.
Next door, the owner of Metro Glass said he likes his central location and doesn’t want to move.
“I’d rather deal with a flood once in a while than move 10 to 15 miles away from this place,” Sead Doric said.
Metro Glass, at 1285 NW 78th St., has taken on water twice in the last six years. This summer, the company lost three vans in the flood and was closed for 10 days.
Doric said he wants Clive to build up levees and add pump stations along Walnut Creek to better protect homes and businesses in the area.
“I want the city to bring our value up instead of just tell us, ‘Hey, you’ve flooded; you’re not worth anything,'” he said.
Clive worked with the Army Corps of Engineers in 1986 to analyze the levee system and determined at the time it was not economically feasible to pursue improvements, Ollendike said.
Those suggested improvements from 1986 would cost about $20 million in today’s dollars, he said. And that doesn’t take into account rising flood levels and standards for flood control, which would make that price higher.
It also doesn’t take into account the investment homeowners and business owners would have to make to bring their properties up to those standards of protection, Ollendike said.
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“Rather than fighting Mother Nature, we’re looking at more of a retreat kind of approach,” he said.
Clive does not have a plan for what it would do with the land purchased through the program, but the city intends to “make it an asset to the neighborhood,” Ollendike said. That could include it being an open space, a set of parks or some type of commercial redevelopment.
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