FINDLAY - A most unexpected thing happened after a 100-year flood hit Findlay in August.
The Hancock Park District began getting calls from people wanting to donate their waterlogged property to the park district - more than two dozen in all, said Parks Director Tim Brugeman.
"Some have houses on them. Some just have weeds and trees and grass along a creek," he said. "They're paying taxes on it, and they don't want the burden. They don't want the hassle. They just want someone else to take care of it."
While the offer of free property might sound appealing, Mr. Brugeman said he personally inspected each of the offered sites and found none that suited the park district's needs.
He said he suggested the owners contact the city of Findlay, which is in the process of applying for federal grants to purchase flood-prone properties.
Mr. Brugeman said he's not ungrateful for the offers, just cautious about taking on more expense and liability than the park district can afford.
"Our board is concerned about taking over properties that we can't afford to maintain," he said.
Earlier this month, the park commissioners adopted a policy that says the director will review all offers of donated land or easements with an eye on the park district's long-range plan for parklands and trails. Those offers that have potential will be brought to the board for further consideration and ultimately taken to the probate court for approval.
Offers that do not fit with the park district's long-range plans or mission "will be graciously declined," the policy states. So far, all offers of flood-prone properties have been so declined.
"We need to be selective not only for the sake of the taxpayers and our long-term burden, but our board doesn't want to take land out of the tax base if that's not necessary," Mr. Brugeman said.
So what kind of property would the park district accept?
"We would be looking for pieces of property where we want to connect parks with trails, where we want to protect views across the river of something natural or scenic or keep it from being spoiled from development if it's something outstanding," Mr. Brugeman said.
As for the city, Mayor Tony Iriti said he was aware of just one parcel along Lye Creek that was offered to the park district that now may be donated to the city. It is a vacant lot that floods regularly.
"It would makes sense for the city to take it because it wouldn't be any maintenance and when it floods it holds water," he said.
The city on Wednesday closed on the fifth property it received federal funding to purchase following a series of smaller flooding events last winter. Three of the properties are on East High Street, while the others are on Taylor Street and Linden Avenue. The houses on all five will be leveled.
Mr. Iriti said that since the 100-year flood in August, 80 other properties have been certified as "substantially damaged," meaning the repair costs exceed 50 percent of the property's value.
Of those, 57 of the owners have applied to have the city buy their property.
Mr. Iriti said the city could find out by the end of January how much funding will be available through the Federal Emergency Management Agency to purchase and raze homes. Priority is being given to properties in areas that flood first, to owner-occupied dwellings, and to properties that are either adjacent to city property or are adjacent to other homes that qualify for the buyout program.
"We're still two months away from knowing for sure what's going to happen with it," the mayor said.
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