Demolition coming closer

A Charlottesville appraisal firm retained by the Town of Drakes Branch is in the home stretch of inspecting properties affected by an October 2018 storm putting the town closer to demolishing buildings and converting the area to open space.

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.

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.

Last year after waiting almost two years, the Town of Drakes Branch 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.

According to officials with the Commonwealth Regional Council (CRC) appraisals have been completed for all of the nine affected properties, and the town attorney is in the process of conducting title searches on the affected properties to determine if any of them have tax/lien or other legal issues.

“Title searches have been completed on four properties and one property has some judgments attached to it, and has been designated for a tax sale.” CRC officials said. Title searches on the other three properties turned up no issues.

Officials said the Town is currently in negotiations with the owners of the other three properties. The town attorney is preparing to begin work on additional title searches this month.

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.

WHERE DID DRAKES BRANCH GET FUNDING FOR THIS?

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.”