Saturday, September 8, 2012

Denville to Knock Down 11 Homes, Return to Open Space

This is at least one very good thing to come out of Hurricane Irene's fury last year!

This article originally appeared in The Citizen:

DENVILLE – It’s been about a year since Tropical Storm Irene lashed out on Denville and the surrounding areas, not to mention a good portion of the East Coast.

But on Tuesday, Aug. 14, residents of Riverside Drive finally saw some light at the end of a dark, stormy tunnel.

The council passed an ordinance that allows the township to purchase eleven residential properties for a total of $3.7 million through funding from the New Jersey Office of Emergency Management, the state Green Acres Program and Morris County.

With the grants the township will buy the homes, knock them to the ground and create an open space area.

“We have to have the properties restored to their natural state,” Denville Business Administrator Steven Ward said on Monday.

Denville was hit hard during last August’s tropical storm, experiencing unprecedented damage. But Riverside Drive was one of the worst hit areas.

“The (eleven) properties were just decimated,” Ward said.

“Five were abandoned.”

During the storm the surge from the Rockaway River was 9.5 feet, far surpassing the previous high of 6.22 feet, according to Department of Public Works (DPW) Supervisor John Egbert in August 2011.

“We have been declared a disaster area,” Michael Feravolo, the township’s Office of Emergency Management (OEM) coordinator said, immediately following last year’s tropical storm.

Seventy-five businesses and 350 homes were affected to some degree, Ward said, which made choosing how to use the funding a bit of challenge.

“We had a rough idea of how many homes we could acquire,” Ward said.

Ward and other Denville officials then mapped out where Tropical Storm Irene and other storms hit the hardest, perused Federal Emergency Management (FEMA) data and identified a group of neighboring homeowners who were interested in the buyouts—Riverside Drive.

The area of Riverside Drive suffers from even moderate storms, Ward said.

“This is one of the worst areas in town,” Ward said.

The purchases will likely be closed on in the first or second week of October,
“Once the closings take place, we'll be bringing in a contractor to demolish the properties and restore them to their natural state,” Ward said.

Hopefully, the entire process will be done by the end of the year, he added.

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