Jacksonville proposing to buy out homeowners living in flood-prone South Shores community

Jacksonville officials are considering a plan to buy out homeowners in the low-lying Southbank and St. Nicholas area impacted by the floods.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- When Bobby and Pam Back found a flyer in their mail about the city of Jacksonville wanting to buy out their home, they were shocked and confused. The couple's property in the Southbank and St. Nicholas area has been in the family for generations. The home has been there since the 1920s.

The flyer details information about a "Residential Property Acquisition (Mitigation) Opportunity." It states, "The City of Jacksonville Emergency Preparedness Division is seeking to reduce local flood vulnerability through an upcoming Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) mitigation grant opportunity."

The Back's neighborhood floods often during times of hightide or whenever there is a full or new moon. Hurricane Irma devastated the area bringing water inside many of the homes.

Homeowners are still working to get back on their feet after the storm. The Backs, for example, have been living in a hotel ever since and were just about to complete their flood damage repairs with their insurance money.

So, with this news of the city wanting to buy out their home came a startling halt to their renovations and began serious conversations about what their future holds.

The home sales would be voluntary, not through condemnation. The city has targeted about 70 properties in which they would purchase from homeowners at fair market value pre-Irma.

However, reactions and feelings among neighbors are complex.

Bobby Back is angry. "Years and years ago we tried to work with the city to come up with a solution to this," Bobby Back said. "We spent thousands and thousands of our own money, but we never got an answer."

Back and his wife don't want to leave, but they fear they may have no other choice in the long run.

The Backs also worry for some of their elderly neighbors who have owned their homes for their entire lives. Some of the houses aren't even worth $100,000. At fair market value, that would be less than half the average of for homes in northeast Florida. The question is: Where would they go if they ended up selling?

City councilwoman Lori Boyer has scheduled a neighborhood meeting for the South Shores community to "discuss flooding from tides and Irma." It will be held on Thursday from 6 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the San Marco Preservation Hall on 1652 Atlantic Blvd.

At the bottom of the flyer neighbors received, it states, "Staff will be on hand to explain the program and assist with applications for those who may wish to participate."

© 2017 WTLV-TV


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