Residents in the Selma Estates community, who have dealt with recurring floods in the past eight years, may soon have the option of selling their home to the county or perform their own mitigation with grant funding.
On Oct. 5, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors voted 8-0-1 directing staff to begin developing guidelines for a county-funded buyout and grant programs. The decision comes after Loudoun’s flood mitigation project was denied federal support due to the demand for grant funding as well as the Selma Estates development not meeting grant’s criteria.
The cost for the county buyout and grant programs is unknown, according to a Oct. 5 staff report. A cost estimate will be developed following the board’s direction.
Fourteen homes were originally identified as being susceptible to flooding in the case of a 100-year storm event, and a small number of homes may experience flooding during a less intense storm within 10 years, according to a study from engineering consultant Wood PLC.
Selma Estates is located six miles north of Leesburg near Lucketts.
Since engineering began in the early 2000s by Christopher Consultants and the home construction in 2013, residents have reported basement floods in 2013, 2015 and 2018.
Homeowners are currently in litigation with Christopher Consultants, according to circuit court records.
Residents impacted by the flooding lived along Farnborough Place, Osterly Lane, Trongate Court, Berkhamstead Place, and Saxon Shore Drive. Additionally, they are surrounded by more than a dozen sinkholes in the development, which was constructed by Stanley Martin Homes.
In 2018, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) was contacted by then-Congresswoman Barbara Comstock (R) to study the issues surrounding the floodplain. By June 2019, FEMA found that the floodplain was not properly delineated and issued a correction to the floodplain boundary impacting approximately 25 properties.
FEMA determined that only six homes were within the Special Flood Hazard Area (SFHA), the staff report reads. However, the county, in a letter to FEMA, is requesting a reevaluation using Wood’s method that states there are eight homes in SFHA.
Staff said the number of homes may change.The development consists of 277 lots since it was built in 2003.As reported earlier, Building and Development Director Alan Brewer said when the engineer group submitted its floodplain study based on FEMA’s map version in the early 2000s, the 100-year floodplain did not exist.
However, with improved technology, additional staffing and training, Brewer feels confident any future errors will be caught.“It doesn’t matter if it’s by-right or not, homes cannot be built in a 100-year floodplain, and we’re confident as staff if this situation occurs again that we would catch the error and make it known,” Brewer said in 2019.
County staff sought to assure supervisors they are improving evaluations of future projects after being questioned about the approval of the housing development project. County staff have since acquired updated mapping information from FEMA, as well as in-house mapping tools.
Implementing a buy-out program was the most viable option based on Wood’s study. The firm also explored other options to mitigate the issue, including installing a berm, increasing the capacity of the stormwater system and constructing a large stormwater pond with an up-sized stormwater system.
Should the board consider adopting a buyout program and a Selma Estates homeowners impacted by the floodplain sell their home, the staff report said that the county would determine the most cost-effective means to mitigate flood risk which could include demolition of the home, filling in the basement, or raising the elevation of the structure.
Supervisor Tony Buffington (R-Blue Ridge), who was not present for the reading of the consent agenda, abstained from the vote. A timetable was not provided when staff would return back to the board.