Jamaica Declines To Seek Buyout For Second Homeowner

10/23/12 5:50PM By Nancy Eve Cohen
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The hazard mitigation home buyout program is designed to buy and remove flood-damaged properties to reduce future hazards.  So far, FEMA has approved the buy-out of 78 homes, 14 of which are second homes. But one hard-hit town has decided not to apply on behalf of second homeowners.

Massachusetts resident Jane Whitman bought a second home on Ball Mountain Brook in Jamaica about six years ago. Before Irene, the brook wound around it.

"The brook now goes straight through what used to be the house and what used to be the property," said Whitman  "So the septic is on one side of the brook. Now the well is on the other. There's nothing left."

Whitman wants to be considered for the federal buyout program.

It pays 75 percent of the value of a damaged property, and of the cost of demolishing it and cleaning away debris. Since the spring the state determined it can cover the other 25 percent.

"It's, I would say, almost 100 percent certain that if you get a FEMA approved home buy out, the state will provide the local match share," said Ray Doherty, Vermont's Hazard Mitigation Officer.

Doherty says the state will cover 25 percent of the buy out for both primary residences and second homes

Despite the state's assurances the town of Jamaica, doesn't want to take a chance it'll get stuck with part of the bill after the federal government pays three quarters of it. Lexa Clark is chair of the Jamaica select board.

"As far as we know they pay 75 percent. The town has to pay the 25 percent," said Clark

Clark said it's not in the best financial interests of the town to apply on behalf of second homeowners. Jamaica had at least eleven roads and three bridges damaged by Irene. And eight homes were destroyed. Jamaica has applied for the buy-out on behalf of its primary residents, four of them.

Clark says the town has been weighed down by the expenses of  the flood and isn't sure what the final cost of road repairs will be.

"We don't know in the end what the outcome of expenses will be for the town after we get all our reimbursements," said Clark

Clark says the Stratton Foundation has promised to cover 25 percent of the cost of buying out primary residences in Jamaica.

There are some costs to towns that apply for the buy-out. Such as the time spent putting together an application. And the loss of tax revenues. Even so, Jamaica property owner Jane Whitman says second homeowners should not be treated differently than primary residents. She sent an email to Governor Shumlin asking how she should proceed

"The decision has been made based on the status of home ownership," said Whitman. "As a fully compliant tax payer to the town, as a supporter of the community in terms of services that we purchase from local residents, we should be treated not  on status of homeownership. And I do feel discriminated against."

The final deadline for towns to apply for the buyouts is November 2nd.

Lexa Clark of the Jamaica Select Board says Jamaica has decided not to apply on behalf of second homes.

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