2017-11-08 / Front Page

Delaware Supervisors want NY City to relocate buyout residents locally

Flood program is causing loss of population
By Eddie Donoghue
Information gathering
Flood mitigation strategies

The Delaware County Board of Supervisors made its formal response to the New York City’s proposed Land Acquisition Program (LAP) last week, arguing that the City has a responsibility to re-locate flood impacted residents within the hamlets and villages from which they came.

The county is also anxious to implement buffer zone land control so the City is not buying more land than it actually needs to protect water courses. Additionally, county officials note that in many communities the City has already achieved it’s land control objectives and should therefore stop purchases completely in some areas so they are not buying more land than they actually need.

The county response noted that for residents of the region and those who represent them, flooding issues and DEP land purchase issues are inseparable.

“The impact of acquisition has a direct correlation to the socio-economic sustainability of the municipalities in the WOH watershed area.” Given the area’s history of flooding, city funded buy outs of flooded property and relocation of private owners is one of the key issues.

In 2010, the City funded Local Flood Analyses (LFAs), scientific studies designed to gather information about flooding, particularly its impact on communities.

Commissioner of the Delaware County Watershed Affairs, Dean Frazier told the News this week, “We want to relocate people inside the community, so we don’t erode the tax base.” He went on to say, “There’s not a lot of places to relocate and in some cases, the city may own the property that would be a good site for people.”

Part of the flood analysis work was to determine strategies that would lessen the impact of floods. “In many communities, the strategies include acquisition and relocation of homes and businesses located in flood-prone areas. In order for a community to support these efforts, they need some assurance that there are lands in or around the population centers that can support these projects.”

The County wants more emphasis on an optional “buffer program,” similar to those used by the Conservation Reserve Enhanced Program (CREP). This would promote the City to rent, instead of buying or easement, more sensitive land, next to rivers and lakes for example. This approach would allow more land to remain as is, while still enabling the City to maximize the safety of the water. The County feels this approach would of greater benefit to both the water quality and the sustainability of the WOH.

“It’s one more tool in the toolbox to limit these lands from being purchased,” Frazier said of buffer programs, “The amount of land we have left is so, so small relative to what’s left in the watershed.”

In the 2017 analysis, the City used a four-part methodology, made up of 1) identifying developable land in each town, 2) projecting the developable land LAP could acquire through 2025, 3) projecting the land required for residential development through 2025, and 4) figuring out how much developable land will be remaining by 2025.

The County’s main gripe derives from the last section, how much developable land will remain by 2025. By using its own methodology to determine what land is considered developable, taking into consideration the land’s soil composition, zoning standards, and its relation to a wide array of bodies of water, the County has come to a different conclusion than that of the City.

Since 1997 when the original Memorandum of Agreement (MoA) was signed to make a deal between the City and the West of Hudson Watershed that was beneficial for both sides the towns and counties have been in a constant state of negotiation over one thing or another.

Delaware County has made a compelling case that over time, the deal has come to disproportionately favor the City. This response to the City’s latest plans is more than just a formality.

Molly Oliver, Assistant to the Commissioner of Watershed Affairs said, “In the short-term, we’re somewhat limited because the city has to solicit a certain number of acres a year by law. But we’re going in a more common-sense direction. Longer term is where this would have some potential benefit if the State can change the solicitation benefits, and those conversations are in the works.”

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