Repeated flooding from a stream in Brookhaven’s Ashford Park neighborhood has prompted a multimillion-dollar buyout plan of 11 homeowners whose properties would become permanent open space. The city recently approved the first two buyouts at a municipal cost of $128,000 through a federal matching-fund program.

During a March 24 City Council vote to approve the buyouts on South Bamby Lane off Dresden Drive, Councilmember John Park recalled a resident there crying while talking to him the flooding impacts.

The 11 properties on Dresden Drive and South Bamby Lane, shown inside the red box on a Google Maps image, that are eligible for buyouts in under a federal flooding mitigation grant.

“This is an important landmark for those residents that have suffered through years of repetitive flood events,” said Mayor John Ernst in a press release issued later. “While we declare victory here, there are still many more that are eligible for this voluntary buyout, and we will continue to work with them to give them an option to participate in this program.”

The federal Hazard Mitigation Grant Program offers money to buy properties in floodplains. The idea is to demolish houses or other structures on the properties and make them open spaces so that future flooding won’t damage anything, while the current owners get their market value.

Last year, the city applied and was approved for a grant for the 11 Ashford Park properties — nine on the west side of South Bamby and two on Dresden. The city did not respond to questions about how those 11 were chosen and whether other properties around the city might be the subject of similar buyout plans in the future.

The total amount of the Ashford Park property purchases would be $3,667,800. Of that, the Federal Emergency Management Agency would pay $2,750,850; the city would pay $550,170, using its Stormwater Fund; and the state would pay $366,780.

The first properties whose purchases were approved were 2652 South Bamby from Benjamin and Julie Copan Mizell, for $385,000 plus closing costs; and 2668 South Bamby from Carolyn Wright, for $255,000 plus closing costs.
For those particular purchases, according to the city, $480,000 came from FEMA funds; $32,000 came from the state; and $128,000 came from the Stormwater Fund.

The program is voluntary, meaning that homeowners can’t be forced to sell and eminent domain will not be used.

The program ends on March 31, 2021, by which time all deals would have to be done.

The terms of the grant agreement requires the demolition of all houses purchased in the deal within 90 days of the real estate closing.

The program requires the properties to be deed-restricted as “open space in perpetuity.” It remains to be seen exactly what kind of open space that will be in this case, as the city has made no decisions yet, according to spokesperson Burke Brennan.

Under the program terms, “open space” can include: parks; wetlands management; nature reserves; cultivation; grazing; camping, if evacuation from flooding is possible; unimproved or unpaved parking lots; buffer zones; or any use consistent with keeping an open floodplain. Any new structures must also stick to that principle, with such exceptions as restrooms or open-sided park buildings.

The 11 properties eligible for buyouts and their appraised values in the city grant application include:

  • 1756 Dresden Drive, $340,000
  • 1764 Dresden Drive, $370,000
  • 2652 South Bamby Lane, $385,000
  • 2658 South Bamby Lane, $250,000
  • 2662 South Bamby Lane, $240,000
  • 2668 South Bamby Lane, $255,000
  • 2674 South Bamby Lane, $270,000
  • 2680 South Bamby Lane, $270,000
  • 2686 South Bamby Lane, $200,000
  • 2692 South Bamby Lane, $395,000
  • 2696 South Bamby Lane, $340,000

John Ruch is an Atlanta-based journalist. Previously, he was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.