University City hoping to buy out homes in flood plain

Published: Aug. 29, 2022 at 10:20 PM CDT
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UNIVERSITY CITY (KMOV) - University City is hoping to buy out hundreds of homes sitting on the notorious River Des Peres flood plain.

“It’s University City today. It’s going to be some other jurisdiction tomorrow,” says University City Manager Gregory Rose.

According to Rose, University City plans to approach the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in an attempt to buy out 300 homes. Many of them were condemned following this summer’s historic flooding. The city manager says it could cost at least $40 million to purchase them.

“You can look on a map and look at how the River De Peres traverses the city and those are the homes that we would likely target,” says Rose.

“I would be willing to move, but only if I can get a fair price for my house and oftentimes, I don’t think there are fair prices in buyouts,” says 24-year University City homeowner Carol Horth.

This isn’t the first time University City homeowners have been offered buyouts. The first time happened back in 2008. The buyout plan is now back on the table after a new Army Corps of Engineers and Metropolitan Sewer District (MSD) study.

“People are going to have to accept that simply moving folks out of some of the areas, that’s going to be the solution we are going to look for,” says MSD CEO Brian Hoelscher. “University City starting with buying people out of flood plains is a good start.”

“I’m kind of flabbergasted. I know the people up on Wilson want it for sure,” says Horth.

“The flood event that just happened at the end of July, that’s the prime example of why we need to take some sort of federal investment action in this particular flood plain,” says Matthew Jones with the Army Corps of Engineers.

“It would be nice if we could move everybody out of the flood plains and put them in appropriate places elsewhere in the district. MSD would find that to be the best solution,” says Hoelscher.

However, The Army Corps is working on a second solution.

There are plans underway to relocate a dog park in Overland to make room for a detention basin for the River Des Peres. The $14 million project would create an 8-acre, 13-foot deep holding place for water in University City.

“We believe that it would hold ample enough water to be able to reduce downstream flooding. Anything two years and beyond that,” says Jones. “It will reduce flooding downstream.”

In this case, if buyouts do happen, homeowners tell News 4 they will move only if the money is right.

“I’d say yes, but it depends on what the price is because if I get rid of this house, I have to go somewhere else to live, says Horth. “I don’t resent living in University City, but I’m not pleased about my living condition right now.”

FEMA could give University City federal money for potential buyouts following the Army Corps of Engineers’ flood study.

The city must submit its application for the funds by by September 11, and then wait for FEMA to approve or deny University City’s request for help.