By The Gazette Editorial Board
Cedar Rapids city leaders’ efforts to get an exception to the rules on developing some flood buyout properties has paid off. The Iowa Economic Development Authority’s recent decision, as we see it, recognizes that some risks outweigh others.
The rule change announced in late August will allow redevelopment in four areas that are in the 100-year flood plain: New Bohemia, Czech Village, an area directly across the Cedar River from downtown and a proposed commercial corridor along Ellis Boulevard NW. Those areas have been identified as key commercial development spots in the city’s core. The ruling can help attract investment in flood-damaged property that was bought out and demolished in the city’s buyout program since the 2008 flood.
Already, the state had allowed the redevelopment of flood-damaged historic buildings that were not demolished and were purchased with federal funds. This latest ruling can encourage investors to “fill in the gaps” and enhance the recovery process in those historic neighborhoods.
While we continue to oppose any broad rebuilding program in the 100-year flood plain without permanent flood protection assured, we support these targeted exceptions. First, any redevelopment must elevate the property at least a foot above the flood plain or be floodproofed in other ways. Since the major flood of 1993, Davenport is an example of making that approach work for the community’s benefit.
On our city’s west side, a growing commercial area could help convince federal officials and Congress to eventually help fund permanent flood protection.
And without timely redevelopment, there’s a greater risk that these neighborhoods will decay instead of realizing their full potential and putting buyout property back on the tax roles.
n Comments: thegazette.com/category/opinion/editorial, firstname.lastname@example.org