Local News

Private residence likely to become public open space

By Brett Yates

The Pittsfield Select Board signed documents on July 21 to begin a municipal buyout of a flood-damaged home.

The property at 593 Route 100 in Pittsfield reportedly faces structural and septic challenges owing to its proximity to a branch of the Tweed River. According to Board Chair Ann Kuendig, the homeowner reached out to Town Clerk Tricia Fryer following a contractor’s recommendation of demolition, eventually finding herself in contact with State Hazard Mitigation Officer Stephanie Smith.

In the interest of public safety and water quality, Vermont Emergency Management administers grant programs to remove man-made structures from floodplains. In Special Flood Hazard Areas, FEMA dollars cover the bulk of the cost, and this year, the Vermont General Assembly approved an allocation from the state’s general fund to pay for the smaller fraction of the bill for which the municipality typically bears responsibility.

This means that, pending approval of its grant application, the Town of Pittsfield won’t have to open its own coffers to acquire the parcel in question or to hire a contractor to raze the house. It will, however, cease to receive tax revenue from the property.

“We’ve done about 150 of these across the state since Irene. We have a pretty good system in place now at this point for the buyouts,” Smith said. “We get the property appraised, and then it’s typically funding for the town attorney to pull the title and develop closing documents. The property owner and the town would work together to schedule the closing.”

Under town ownership, the land will revert to nature — of one sort or another — following the demolition, which must take place within 90 days of the sale.

“You’re required to maintain it as green, open space in perpetuity,” Smith told the board. “There are a couple of minor things you can do, like making it a little bit of a park space, planting trees, restoration work along the river. If there’s anything extensive, you’d need to send a reuse request to me, and I’d send it to FEMA, proposing what you’d like to do. But the type of thing that they’re concerned about is anything that would potentially be a liability: no new structures on the site.”

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