Flood-zone leases run afoul of federal agreements - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Flood-zone leases run afoul of federal agreements

Jim Irvin Jim Irvin
Cathy Summerlin Cathy Summerlin
Co. Atty. Spencer Lee Co. Atty. Spencer Lee
Chairman Cohilas Chairman Cohilas

Dougherty County is not in compliance with a FEMA agreement, which could jeopardize future natural disaster aid.

 Two Dougherty County homeowners leased flood property from the county; land that was turned over to the county after the 1994 federal flood buyouts. The promise the county made with the feds and the people leasing the property is no building on the property.

Small improvements have been made, and FEMA found out. The county has to come into compliance, but the lessees will pay the price.

Jim Irvin, and his neighbor, Cathy Summerlin, asked county commissioners Monday to help them find a solution before they have to tear up their properties along Lovers Lane Road. "We are here at the mercy of the commission," he said.

 "If I have to tear down a fence and move on the other property and move a storage building that worth about $3,000 it's not the end of the world," Irvin said.

"But, it makes you wonder why the federal government would make such an effort to a homeowner to remove something, when I never received any GEMA or FEMA help during the flood."

The Irvins and their next door neighbors, the Summerlins, found out that portions of both driveways, this fence, and a large deck which is the staircase to the Summerlin's door, are on flood property, protected from development, even development this minor.

Now, the county has to decide how to proceed. "But the entire unincorporated area of the county would be at risk," County Attorney Spencer Lee says. "But if they decided we don't want to do anything then FEMA/GEMA/Homeland Security will simply say ok next time there is a problem in DoCo we are not going to give you any flood mitigation money."

"We appreciate the commission listening to us but we aren't sure what they can and can't do, if they want to go by the guidelines that could affect what they receive for future natural disasters, they have some decisions to make," said Irvin.

Commission Chairman Chris Cohilas said, "We have to be open for discussion with our citizens, but we also have to be completely aware and respectful of the obligations we have to our entire community."

Chairman Cohilas asked that the county do a better job of notifying property owners who lease flooded properties of what they can and can't do, to prevent this situation in the future.

The county owns 59 flood properties, and 25 have leases.  Only a handful had minor violations with movable structures.

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