Drakes Branch project taking longer than expected, due to survey

Published 8:00 am Thursday, December 7, 2023

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An asbestos and lead survey for old buildings in the town of Drakes Branch is taking longer than expected and, therefore, holding up a project that will inevitably see several buildings torn down on the town’s Main Street. 

Town officials say these buildings are located within the flood plain, and the Town has acquired or is working to acquire these properties. 

Town Mayor Phillip Jackson said the buildings will need to be inspected for lead and asbestos, and some of the buildings may require lead and asbestos abatement as part of the demolition.

The buildings in question are located close to Twitty’s Creek and/or the tributary that runs behind the Town Hall/Fire Department, placing them in the floodplain subject to damage from flood events in the area.

In 2022, after waiting almost two years, the Town learned it had been awarded close to $1 million to acquire and demolish nine buildings along the town’s Main Street, making way for open green space.

Earlier this year, a Charlottesville appraisal firm retained by the Town of Drakes Branch began to inspect nine properties affected by an October 2018 storm.

The Town of Drakes Branch and many of the buildings in the downtown area, including the Town Hall/Firehouse and Post Office, received significant damages from floodwaters during the storm.

Since 2020, Town officials have been working with FEMA to help fund a Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP), specifically related to damages from Tropical Storm Michael that blew through the area in 2018.

According to Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC) Deputy Director Todd Fortune, the appraisal firm EPR, PC began working on appraisals for each building, which will help the town prepare offers for each property for the respective property owners.

“Due to their location in the floodplain, they are subject to periodic flooding and damage from that flooding.” Fortune said, “Any buildings that are demolished would be converted to open space, with the intent being to reduce the potential of property damage in the downtown area from future flood events.”

How did Drakes Branch fund project?

FEMA awarded the Town $718,935, with VDEM providing $191,716 in grants to fund the project.

According to CRC documents, the HMGP grant is being matched with a combination of funds from the State and local matching funds from the Town.

According to FEMA, the HMGP helps with sustainable action that reduces or eliminates long-term risk to people and property from future disasters.

“Mitigation planning breaks the cycle of disaster damage, reconstruction, and repeated damage,” FEMA officials said. “Hazard mitigation includes long-term solutions that reduce the impact of disasters in the future.”