How C.S. Davidson helped Hallam handle flooded homes

August 2022:

C.S. Davidson has built a reputation as a civil engineering firm that helps municipalities overcome complex and unique challenges.

During massive rainstorms in August 2018, which resulted in catastrophic flooding in parts of York County, three residential properties along Kreutz Creek in Hallam Borough experienced some of their worst-ever floodings.

While the floods were devastating for these properties, they were not unexpected. the homes were not just built in a 100-year floodplain but actually constructed within the regulated floodway where it swells during normal rainfall.

Current residential construction regulations forbid building structures in floodways, but the three Freysville Road properties were built before modern regulations were created. Until recently, the properties would flood every three years on average.

Leaving no stone unturned

After the 2018 floods, residents approached the Borough council for help. The borough brought in C.S. Davidson to assist the property owners. First, the borough asked if C.S. Davidson could build a retaining wall or other structure to divert the stream. Derek Rinaldo, a client representative for C.S. Davidson and the borough’s engineer of record, found they could not build anything in the floodway because of the regulations.

Derek started researching flood relief programs to help the owners whose properties are under water in more ways than one. The appraisal values for all properties were well below the market rate for comparable properties not built next to a creek.

Derek found a federal Hazard Mitigation Grant program backed by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, better known as FEMA, and administered locally by the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA), the Pennsylvania version of the federal agency. The grant serves as a parachute for property owners. The program pays for properties to be appraised as though they are not located in a floodplain and can cover portions of demolishing costs.

Following the money

The program has dual purposes. One is to help redevelop or remove blighted properties. The other is for the federal government to stop paying so much for insurance claims. All properties with a mortgage in a floodplain are required to have federal flood insurance. Every time the properties are flooded, the government pays.

Instead, through the grant program – which is entirely voluntary and owners can walk away any time before closing – the government is helping to clean up sites. Derek and his team were able to secure FEMA grants covering 100% of demolition costs for one of the properties and 90% of demo costs for another. All told, C.S. Davidson secured $463,410 from PEMA through the 2020 flood mitigation assistance grant program.

However, the third property was more complex. The properties were in a row. The middle one was left abandoned after the 2018 flash floods. The owner defaulted on taxes and would have ended up in a sheriff’s sale. Instead, Derek connected with the property owner and worked with the school district and county, which forgave the back taxes. Then, the owner sold the site to the borough for $1.

After that, Derek turned to the York County Land Bank to try securing funds for razing the trailer. The Land Bank provided $20,990, covering the full trailer demolition and a five percent match for demolishing the other two houses.

Like a troubled bridge over trout waters

Another wrinkle Derek and C.S. Davidson encountered was a failing bridge. The properties were only accessible by a privately-owned bridge which was crumbling. The Land Bank provided $6,500 to remove the bridge. The improvements to water quality from its removal also benefited the trout which call the creek home.

Now, all the structures and the bridge have been removed, and the area has been returned to a natural state and will remain that way.

“It felt great to help the borough find its way out of a tough spot with these blighted properties,” Derek said. “It ended up being a win for everyone involved. It took a bit of creative thinking, and we pride ourselves at C.S. Davidson with our ability to solve what seem like unsolvable problems.”

Contact us today to learn more about how C.S. Davidson can help you solve challenging architectural and engineering problems.