Suamico board discusses possible floodplain property acquisition
By Kevin Boneske
SUAMICO – The village board doesn’t want Suamico getting into the business of buying properties located in floodplains, but could consider acquiring land on a case-by-case basis.
That was the message of the board’s discussion, Monday, Dec. 16.
The topic was whether to pursue state and federal grant funding for property acquisition and building removal within the village’s floodplain upon request of a property owner.
Village Administrator Alex Kaker said Suamico has “had our share of flooding along roadways and on some properties” due to record precipitation with water levels not expected to recede anytime soon.
“Taking a look at the areas, we know it’s unlikely that we’re going to engineer our way out of it,” he said. “We can certainly hire a consultant to do a flood study, and show us what engineering options are out there, but I do think we wouldn’t find anything that we don’t know already.”
Kaker said a Suamico resident on Longtail Beach Lane approached the village about purchasing the resident’s flooded property to raze it and make a permanent open space using state and federal grant money.
“The policy question, though, is ‘Does the board want to get in the business of purchasing properties, razing them and then putting a permanent deed restriction on that property that it must be open space in perpetuity?’” he said.
Some board members, in no uncertain terms, said they were against the idea.
“I’m not even remotely looking down that road at all,” said Trustee Michelle Eckert. “No way… If you purchased your property and there’s a flood, would you expect other taxpayers to buy out your property? No, absolutely not.”
Village President Laura Nelson said she doesn’t want to be “someone’s ‘get out of a bad situation free’ card on behalf of the remaining taxpayers.”
Nelson said the resident who contacted the village about acquiring the property would be better off putting it up for sale.
“If the village, at that point, wants to submit an offer, then that would be our decision, but otherwise, I don’t want to take this off the tax rolls,” she said.
Trustee Sky Van Rossum said the village should consider acquiring property on a case-by-case basis, because there could be a benefit in doing so.
“I would point to the piece of property that we did acquire, which is now Sunset Beach Park, which has been extremely successful, and has been a value to the neighborhood and the individuals who live there and to the community as well,” he said.
Van Rossum said the village’s biggest asset is the Bay of Green Bay, for which there is limited public access in Suamico.
“We can’t even go to our own boat launch in our community and use it,” he said. “I get complaints all the time about our residents who can’t go out there and use the boat launch because it’s filled up.”
Van Rossum said he doesn’t know whether the village would ever have enough money to purchase a piece of property on the bay, but if a parcel there would be going for a “fire sale price,” that land “would, in my opinion, be of value to the community and to the individuals in Suamico to have that access to the bay.”
“We’re a fishing village,” he said. “We’ve got a book written about us – ‘The Fishing Village’ – yet we have (only) 820 feet of access to the bay. That’s foolish.”
Based on comments he received from board members, Kaker said unless there would be advantages for the village to acquire property, such as being located next to the bay or adjacent to property the village already owns, the village won’t consider it.
“I wanted to hear it from you guys, what your philosophy was,” he said to the board.
Building Inspector Steve Dunks said the flood mitigation grant money currently available is for flood-prone properties.
“It would have to be something that’s been inundated by a flood, in order to even qualify for the grant application,” he said.
Board members agreed there would be no benefit to acquire the flooded parcel the village was contacted about and took no action on the property owner’s request.