News Article

‘Phenomenal’ response so far to voluntary buyout program, mayor tells City Council

Date:Mar 3, 2022
Published in:Livingston Parish News

Denham Springs city leaders have seen a “phenomenal” response to a voluntary buyout program that aims to reduce future flood risks by turning flood-prone residential areas into wetlands.

The City Council received an update on the program, which focuses on the Spring Park neighborhood, during its Feb. 28 meeting. So far, 40 applications have been submitted for Priority Zone 1, which includes the area from Tabernacle Street to Centerville Street.

“The response from citizens has been phenomenal,” said Mayor Gerard Landry, a proponent of the program.

“It really has,” agreed Building Official Rick Foster, another advocate.

Representatives from the Office of Community Development introduced the buyout plan to city leaders back in November. Part of the Louisiana Watershed Initiative created in 2018, the financial program provides property buyouts in flood-prone neighborhoods to turn those areas into floodplains for future flood events.

The state awarded Denham Springs $10 million for the buyout program, up from its original budget of $3 million. Denham Springs was one of seven locations chosen throughout the state.

​​Buyout awards are based on the appraised fair market value (FMV) of eligible properties. According to the LWI website, the program is designed to benefit low- to moderate-income residents, and it offers an incentive — payment above fair market value — to eligible applicants who relocate to areas of lower flood risk.

There are three types of buyout recipients — homeowners, landlords, and tenants — and each has its own criteria to receive the buyout. The Spring Park area included in the buyout program has 107 properties and 47 property owners, Landry told The News earlier this year.

During the most recent City Council meeting, Foster said he doesn’t “foresee us having a problem” when applications open up for Priority Zones 2 and 3, given the response thus far in Priority Zone 1.

Though there have been “a few road bumps,” Foster said representatives from the Office of Community Development have “genuinely listened to us and fixed what was fixable.”

“We’ve got good responses from everybody,” Foster said.

There are a few who have elected to not apply for the program, which Landry said is within their rights.

“We’re not forcing everybody to do anything, but we’re just making sure they know of the opportunity that is available,” Landry said. “The ones I’ve talked to so far are excited.”

If all goes to plan, the project could be complete by June 2023. Landry has previously touched on the possibilities that could arise from the buyout program, saying the property could be turned into green space for a bike trail, walking path, or a city park — suggestions that were made during the “Denham Strong” community meetings following the Great Flood of 2016.

Following discussion on the matter, the City Council approved a resolution to allow Landry to enter into a cooperative endeavor agreement for the buyout program.

Spring Park property owners and residents can contact a buyout program representative at 866-735-2001 or email Residents of the neighborhood can complete an online survey and reach out to the city with any questions.

For more information about the LWI Statewide Buyout Program, click here.