Mary and Joe Sturm did not initially plan on taking a buyout after their home near the Iowa River flooded in 2008.
In fact, they made $90,000 in repairs — with about $25,000 of that from the government — and intended to retire in the home at 800 Eastmoor Dr. in Iowa City’s Parkview Terrace neighborhood.
But the Sturms came to believe the city wanted all of the residents out and would not make the neighborhood a priority in future floods. So two years after the flood, they sold their home to the city and moved to the east side of town.
“It makes you feel so sad,” Mary Sturm, 68, said of the visits they still make to the area. “It was a once-in-a-lifetime neighborhood.”
In July, Iowa City purchased the final property it expects to acquire through the flood buyout program, a process that started in May 2009. Demolitions should be finished this fall.
In all, the city purchased 93 residential properties in Parkview Terrace, which is west of City Park, and along Taft Speedway Street across the river. The cost to buy and demolish the homes and pay for relocation expenses for the owners will be about $22 million, with the federal and state governments picking up the tab.
Statewide, 928 properties have been acquired for nearly $43.2 million under the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program, according to the Iowa Homeland Security and Emergency Management Division. Another 1,720 properties were bought for about $240 million with Community Development Block Grants, according to the Iowa Economic Development Authority.
In Cedar Rapids, the city has acquired more than 1,300 properties at a cost of $88.9 million, also with no city money used.
Coralville had 54 buyouts costing $11.9 million. The city used $8.8 million of its own money on 34 of those so that it could redevelop the properties, which is not allowed with federal buyouts.
Buyouts are mostly wrapping up throughout the state. Iowa City, though, is done with that aspect of its flood recovery. David Purdy, a community development planner who has been the city’s point person on flood buyouts, called it an important milestone.
“When the next big flood occurs, those properties, obviously, won’t be damaged and the homeowners won’t be in jeopardy,” he said.
The city’s position was that the only way to remove people from the danger of future flooding was for them to no longer live in the two neighborhoods.
Plenty of people have stayed, though, and others, like the Sturms, left reluctantly.
Mark Phelps and his wife and two children didn’t take a buyout for their home at 115 Taft Speedway St., which took on 6 1/2 feet of water in June 2008. For one thing, he said, they were mostly done with repairs by the time buyout offers were made. The home has been elevated 9 1/2 feet.
Also, they love the location and had no desire to sell.
“We know the price that we have to pay for living along the river,” said Phelps, 39.
Taft Speedway residents have been particularly resistant to the buyout process, with only four of the 13 properties on the street having been sold. They also have been fighting against a 10-foot-tall levee city officials want to construct on the road to protect a 92-unit condominium complex
A study of that plan, and a City Council vote on whether to move forward with the project, is expected in the coming weeks.
Another 53 homes remain in Parkview Terrace, giving the neighborhood a checkerboard look of vacant lots next to homes.
The median value of the 62 homes left in the two neighborhoods decreased 25 percent between 2008 and this year, according to an analysis of Iowa City Assessor’s Office records.
Iowa City’s standard buyout offer was to pay 112 percent of the pre-flood value of a home, although some homeowners appealed and received higher amounts.
Property that is acquired through the federal buyout programs cannot be developed.
In Parkview Terrace, the city plans to extend a trail through the neighborhood and also create a secondary access to City Park. It also wants to keep a historic structure, the Ned Ashton House, to rent for events like meetings and weddings.
The work will cost an estimated $200,000, said Mike Moran, Iowa City’s parks and recreation director.