Fort Worth

Fort Worth is buying up homes to stop flash flooding. Will it work?

A Fort Worth plan to buy up Arlington Heights homes in an attempt to mitigate flooding will move forward.

The City Council Tuesday approved purchasing four properties for more than $1.66 million as part of a plan to convert residential lots into green space on Western and Carleton avenues. City engineers see it as the only effective and affordable solution to flash flooding in the historic neighborhood, but some residents have voiced concern it will damage Arlington Heights’ character.

At least 10 property owners voiced interest in the voluntary buyouts, six on Western and three on Carleton, according to city documents from October. Renderings show a green space with native vegetation as well as small stream channeling water from a storm drain on Western to one Carleton. The design is meant to capture storm runoff from the street.

The four properties purchased Tuesday are between 2201 and 2205 Western and 2234 and 2300 Carelton. They come at hefty price for the city beyond the total $1.66 million purchase price. The city is also funding the occupants’ moving costs, a total of $57,600 for all four properties, and relocation costs, another $124,000.

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But the buyouts may be cheaper than alternatives.

The city arrived at voluntary property acquisition after studies between 2006 and 2011 showed it was the only affordable solution. Fully fixing the problem by tunneling a pipeline system to the Trinity River was estimated to cost as much as $80 million in 2017, according to Star-Telegram archives. A simpler solution had a price tag of $25 million to $35 million.

The voluntary acquisition of 10 homes is estimated to cost about $8 million, with more than $500,000 coming from FEMA. The four purchased Tuesday are among eight that would be paid for with local dollars. Two more could be purchased with the FEMA funding.

Councilman Dennis Shingleton, who represents the area, said the city hasn’t finalized precise plans for what will happen to the lots after they’re purchased.

“This is a plan we’re going to try on a limited basis,” he said.

The concept is similar to a work already done in the neighborhood.

Two detention ponds were constructed in the neighborhood between 2014 and 2016, both on former commercial property. One, off Hulen Street behind the Walgreens, was graded down well below street and features a short walking path dotted with small trees.

As part of that project, a large underground retention space was installed under Western Avenue.

The properties in question include one owned by Kenneth Kirkwood who told the Star-Telegram in October the buyout plan would bring a needed remedy to flood prone homeowners.

At the time he said he had more than $100,000 in flood claims and “tens of thousands of dollars” in personal loss. Flood risk wasn’t disclosed to him, he said, because the area doesn’t fall a 100-year flood map.

But not everyone in Arlington Heights is convinced the green space will help.

Chris Reecer lives down the street from the homes being purchased on Carleton, and said he doesn’t recall major flooding in the last three years.

Buying up homes to be demolished seems destructive to a neighborhood where many houses date to the 1920s, he said. He and others worry the green space will not be adequately maintained and lead to a reduction in their property values.

“I just don’t understand why you would spend $8 million to destroy houses,” Reecer said.

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