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Orphan Property Acquisition

Storm Water Services is implementing a plan to buy some isolated properties in regulated floodplains. The Orphan Property Floodplain Acquisition Plan was approved by the Board of County Commissioners in 2012.

Starting in 2000, Storm Water Services bought about 250 properties with the highest risk of repeated flood damage from nearby creeks. These properties met specific cost-benefit criteria set by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and local elected officials.

In some cases, one house would qualify for a buyout because of interior flood damage, but the house next door did not qualify because its living space is above flood heights.

Orphan properties
This resulted in a checkerboard pattern of buyout properties in some neighborhoods. Qualifying properties bought through this program became vacant lots owned and maintained by Mecklenburg County. But often, that same street still has homes that did not qualify for a buyout. They are "orphans."

In 2012, Storm Water Services identified 17 orphan properties for potential buyouts. All of these are single-family residential properties which: 
  • are on cul-de-sacs or dead-end streets
  • touch the Community Encroachment Area of the regulated floodplain
  • are on the same street where previous FEMA buyouts or Quick Buys have taken place. 

Vacant lot next to house
"Orphans" are houses left standing next to vacant
lots after a floodplain buyout

The 17 orphan properties are in five different Charlotte neighborhoods in the Irwin, Briar and McMullen watersheds.

As with Charlotte-Mecklenburg's previous Floodplain Buyouts, the sale of property is voluntary. Owners are offered fair market value.

If all houses on a dead-end street are purchased and torn down, Storm Water Services will go through the street abandonment process. If approved by the City of Charlotte, the hard surface of that section of street will be removed and the area will be returned to a natural state.
Benefits to the community
Buying the orphan properties and returning the floodplain to open space benefits the public. 
  • Eliminates emergency response, garbage collection and other services to that street.
  • Removes imperious area (hard surface) from the floodplain.
  • Eliminates public safety and dumping issues often associated with isolated homes.
  • Provides open space for the community and land in the floodplain for Storm Water Services to create water quality improvement features such as wetlands.

Estimated cost of the orphan buyouts:
$2.056 million (includes appraisal, acquisition and demolition)

Source of funding
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services fees

Property owners under consideration for orphan buyours were contacted by Storm Water Services in 2013.

Orphan Property Buyout Contact
David Love, PE, CFM
Project Manager
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services