PITTSFIELD - By next summer three destroyed homes along Route
100 coming into Pittsfield from the south will be under
construction to become a town park.
The homes have served as a constant reminder, for both the town
residents and the travelers along Route 100, of the devastation and
havoc wreaked on the state of Vermont by Tropical Storm Irene. But
with funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA)
towns across the state, like Pittsfield, have been able to buyout
floodplain properties from residents whose homes were wiped
Last month the Town of Pittsfield purchased four properties for
$498,000, with the assistance of Two River-Ottauquechee Regional
Commission (TRORC) which is helping to manage the 135 FEMA-assisted
town buyouts across the state.
The purchases occurred within a month of the two year
anniversary of the storm's destruction. "It's the complexity of the
program, the inevitable delays in getting grants approved, getting
all the paperwork in - which there is a lot of," Robert Ennis,
grant administrator for TRORC, explained of the long wait the town
has endured. "Nobody is happy with the timeline that we're dealing
This onerous process involved the owners of the properties
filing applications to the towns who then turned in an application
to the Vermont department of public safety where a commission
reviewed the application and then forwarded the claim to FEMA. Only
then, if the agency approved the application, did the town receive
75 percent of the property's value to allocate towards purchasing
The remaining 25 percent is garnered from state grants and from
the department of Housing and Urban Development.
"The program never makes people whole," said Ennis. "They've been
through so much and lost belongings and had a two-year delay. In a
lot of cases they're trying to pay for mortgages that they still
have while they pay rent or pay another mortgage… these two
years were, for a lot of folks, financially very difficult."
Despite the slow process, thus far, Ennis is hopeful that many
of these closings will be completed before the winter weather
As for Pittsfield, they are wasting no time. "We'll have the bids
coming in, hopefully by Monday, for the removal of the property, so
we can hope to get them cleared by the time snow flies," said
Donald Flynn a buyout coordinator for Pittsfield.
"FEMA stipulates that it can be used as a park or sporting
grounds and you can put toilets on it. The town can never sell it
and they can never put a house or a building on it," said Flynn,
adding "I guess a park is easier to repair."
For the locations not able to accommodate a green space or serve
as a parking lot, such as the fourth property purchased in the
Pittsfield buyout, they must remain vacant.
When asked what the plans were for the fourth Pittsfield
property, Flynn quickly responded "Nothing. The town may mow the
grass, but that's all."
These former property lots will no longer house members of the
community, therefore they will no longer generate tax revenue for
the towns. "Raise the taxes on everybody else in town. That's the
only alternative," said Flynn speculating on actions required to
make up the lost revenue.