LUMBERTON — Time is running out for owners of property damaged or destroyed by Hurricane Matthew to apply for hazard mitigation grants.
The original May 1 deadline was extended by the state to Monday to give property owners a chance to reconsider participating in the grants program after Robeson County and other parts of the state suffered flooding caused by heavy rains a couple of weeks ago, said Nick Burk, of the North Carolina Department of Emergency Management’s Hazard Mitigation Branch for Hurricane Matthew.
“We just thought it was prudent for folks who might change their mind after the significant flooding that took place a couple weeks ago to have a chance to adjust their existing grants or file new ones,” Burk said.
The grants offered by the state Emergency Management’s recovery section provide for property buyouts, increases in home elevations and home reconstruction. Originally $100 million was allotted on a first-come, first-served basis to the 50 counties declared disaster areas as a result of Hurricane Matthew, with emphasis given to the hardest hit areas of Robeson, Cumberland, Bladen and Columbus counties, said Dixon Ivey, Robeson County’s zoning and planning director. Both Ivey and Burk said more money is likely to be allocated to support mitigation grants, but how much is uncertain.
According to Burk, 320 applications have been received from Lumberton, with 112 more coming from other areas of Robeson County. Another 12 applications have been filed from Red Springs, a community that like Lumberton handles its own planning and zoning issues.
These numbers include applications by the Lumbee tribal government, Burk said. All of the applications may not qualify for grants and those in Robeson County are competing for grants with the other 49 counties declared disaster areas.
Ivey said Wednesday that he questions the number of applications the state official said has been received from Robeson County property owners. He believes there were more than 200 applications submitted by county property owners, not including those recorded as being in Lumberton or Red Springs.
Those property owners who choose a buyout are offered the appraised value of their property before Hurricane Matthew struck. If the owner receives money, the home is demolished and the property is reverted back to the county to be maintained as green space. In some cases the land can be used as a park or another use approved by the state.
Under the term of the elevation grant, the home’s elevation will be increased to the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s standard of one foot above base flood elevation. Individuals must own and live in the home to receive this grant.
The third type of hazard mitigation grant allows for home reconstruction. The home can be torn down and rebuilt, or the existing home repaired. The new structure can be no larger in square feet than the one that existed before the hurricane.
Ivey said that anyone wanting to file an application or make adjustments to their existing application must complete and submit the application to his office by noon on Monday. This allows him to submit the completed application to the state by the end of business hours on Monday.
Applications can be made at the Robeson County Planning and Zoning Department, which is located at 435 Caton Road in Lumberton.
Bob Shiles can be reached at 910-416-5165.