Mecklenburg County Buys Half of the Doral Apartments After Decades of Flooding

Notorious for experiencing devastating floods, a portion of the Doral Apartments has now been purchased by Mecklenburg County and will be torn down. The Doral complex has 260 apartment units on 19 acres. The County purchased 128 of those apartments on eight acres of land for $3.1 million.

The Doral Apartments, between Briar Creek and Monroe Road, has flooded six times since 1995 with damage topping $8 million. Eighty ground-floor apartment units flooded so badly during August 2008 that they were not repaired. Engineering studies in 2005 concluded there were no feasible options to prevent the apartment complex from repeatedly flooding. The study determined that the most cost-effective way to permanently reduce flood losses at Doral was to buy the highest-risk buildings and tear them down.

The complicated purchase process took several years. In 2008, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services applied for a federal grant to pay about 75% of the cost of buying part of the property and tearing down affected buildings. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) approved the $3.5 million grant in 2009. In July 2010, the Mecklenburg Board of County Commissioners approved the formal purchase agreement which involves more than a million dollars in local Storm Water revenue.

“This buyout has taken a long time, but it’s definitely worth it,” says Tim Trautman of Storm Water Services. “If you add up flood losses over time, the Doral Apartments have the highest dollar amount of damage in Charlotte-Mecklenburg. It’s actually cheaper for the government to get people and buildings out of harm’s way than it is to repeatedly issue disaster checks and flood insurance checks after severe floods.”

Trautman notes that floodplain buyouts also make the community safer. “This project helps reduce our community’s flood risk. That could mean saving residents’ lives and property. And it reduces the risk faced by emergency responders during a flood.” Trautman also points out benefits to the community from additional open space for recreation, temporary flood storage and water quality improvements.

The County is donating various items from the 128 apartments to Habitat for Humanity, including appliances, sinks, windows, doors, cabinets and light fixtures. Demolition of the County-owned section is expected to begin in the spring of 2011. Asphalt, brick, concrete and carpet removed during demolition will be recycled.

About half of the Doral complex closest to Monroe Road was not purchased by the County. That section of the apartment complex is also in the floodplain, but has a significantly lower flood risk. The current owner of Doral will decide what to do with the 132 units and more than ten acres of land that remain under private ownership.

Total cost: $4.7 million
· $3.1 million to purchase the buildings and land
· $1.6 million for demolition and tenant relocation

Sources of funding:
· Department of Homeland Security/FEMA grant: $3.54 million (75% of total project cost)
· Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water fees: $1.18 million (25% of total project cost)

Eligible Doral residents were given relocation assistance to help with moving expenses and finding a new place to live. All apartment units purchased by the County were vacant by October 2010.

Benefits of the Doral buyout:
· permanently reduce the threat of loss of life or personal property due to flooding
· save money on flood insurance claims and emergency response services
· provide 8.4 acres of open space for the community

Doral Apartments buyout facts:
· Located at 524 Bramlet Road
· Built in 1966 before restrictions that limit construction in floodplains
· Significant floods in 1995, 1997, 2003, 2008, 2009 and 2010
· Of 260 apartment units, 128 were purchased by the County
· The 128 units purchased by the County are in 19 buildings on eight acres of land

In 2008, Mecklenburg County used a similar FEMA grant to buy the Cavalier Apartments across Briar Creek from Doral. The Cavalier Apartments were torn down and the 13-acre site is now open space. With the Cavalier site, neighboring Chantilly Park and newly acquired portion of Doral, the County now owns a 28-acre section of land along Briar Creek. Possible uses might include floodplain features such as wetlands to improve water quality in the creek, a greenway trail or recreational opportunities. Many of the options depend on available funding.

Since 2000, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Storm Water Services has purchased nearly 250 flood-prone buildings. As a result, more than 500 families have been moved out of areas at highest risk of flooding. Buildings acquired through the Floodplain Buyout Program have been torn down and the floodplain has been returned to a more natural and beneficial