FAYETTEVILLE — City officials would like to purchase a vacant apartment complex so it can be torn down and turned into green space as part of an effort to address flooding on the west side of town.
The City Council next week will consider authorizing an offer to purchase the West End apartments off Wedington Drive just east of Interstate 49. The plan, according to city staff engineer Alan Pugh, would be to tear the complex down and convert it into an open area.
The 50-unit complex, which is located in a floodway near Hamestring Creek, tends to flood during heavy rainfall. The two most significant events occurred in April 2017 and in May 2022 when at least 2 inches of rain fell in a 45-minute period, Pugh said.
The May flood led to nearly 30 West End residents being evacuated by emergency crews. Many of the residents lost the majority of their belongings, and some people’s vehicles were totaled, Pugh said. Once the water receded, the residents were all relocated to other areas, and the owner listed the property for sale.
The complex isn’t the only property in the area that experiences high water during heavy rainfall, but its impervious surface contributes heavily to flooding issues in the surrounding neighborhoods.
The city commissioned a flood study to examine ways to mitigate high waters in the area, Pugh said. The study looked at the potential positive effects of adding detention areas, widening drainage channels and constructing larger culverts in the neighborhood. Those measures alone, however, won’t fix the problem.
“Unfortunately our flood study indicated that even in combination, many of those things weren’t moving the needle far enough to help these residents,” Pugh said. “In reality, the best way to solve the flooding for those particular apartments would be to purchase them and remove the structures.”
Pugh said the city recently paid to have the property appraised. That report showed a value of $1.39 million, which is just about in line with the $1.4 million asking price.
However, Pugh said the complex is currently under contract with another buyer, so even if the City Council agrees to the plan, the city’s purchase would be contingent on the current offer not being completed.
Funding for the purchase would come from the $15.8 million drainage bond that Fayetteville voters approved in 2019.
Councilmember Teresa Turk said buying the complex should be a priority.
“I really think we ought to purchase this property because it’s been repetitively flooding,” Turk said.
Turk questioned whether there are other funding options available, such as flood mitigation grants.
Pugh said the city had first hoped to use federal grant money to help offset the purchase of the complex. The Flood Mitigation Assistance Program, he said, provides 75-25 matching funds for projects that reduce or eliminate the risk of repetitive flood damage. Funds from that program, however, won’t be decided on for at least another year, and likely won’t be distributed until the end of 2023.
Waiting until late next year could jeopardize the proposal, Pugh said. Aside from not knowing if the property would still be for sale, the current or new owner of the complex would likely need to rent the apartments to generate income before late next year. And even if the city were able to negotiate a purchase in 2023, Pugh said the total cost could increase if the new residents need to be relocated.
“It could still work out that we would be spending less money, but the relocation costs could add up pretty drastically if we’re relocating potentially 50 families into other areas of town,” Pugh said.
Turk asked whether the city could purchase the complex now and then get reimbursed with a federal grant once the money is available next year.
“I can look into it, but it’s my understanding that – similar to other programs – we would not be able to reimburse ourselves for something that we had already done,” Pugh said.
Councilmember Sloan Scroggin said he’s spoken with neighbors in the area about the need to demolish the complex, and although the apartments do provide affordable housing, it’s not a safe place to live.
“While I’m glad there’s a cheap place for people to live, the people that move into a cheap place don’t need to be in a place that floods on a very regular basis,” Scroggin said. “Those (apartments) are barely habitable.”
Mayor Lioneld Jordan agreed.
“We’re not getting anywhere right now,” Jordan said. “Every time a hard rain comes, that place floods and we have to evacuate those people so we’re going to have to take some action.”
The council will consider a resolution on the topic at its next regular meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 16.