Selma Estates | FEMA Map

Hoping to provide aid to the Selma Estates residents with recurring flood issues, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors directed staff Tuesday night to prepare a plan for establishing a home buy-out program.

Fourteen homes have been 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.

County staff was given a 90- to 120-day timeline to prepare an update for the board. The plan will include information about legal implications and authority, community interest, program acceptance criteria, funding, grant opportunities, cost estimates and limitations.

The motion made by outgoing Catoctin Supervisor Geary Higgins (R) passed 8-0-1. Dulles Supervisor Matthew Letourneau (R) was absent.

The home buy-out approach is estimated to cost the county around $12 million.

“The only thing that these folks did in Selma is that they bought a new house with the expectation that they would be able to live there,” Higgins said. "Frankly, personally I can’t imagine what they’ve been through. I think it’s bad enough we get water in the basement on heavy rain – and just trying to deal with a small amount – and so I can’t imagine flooding three, four, five, six feet in the basement and destroying your home in the process.”

Since engineering began in the early 2000s by Christopher Consultants and the home construction in 2013, residents have experienced reported basement floods in 2013, 2015 and 2018.

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.

The development consists of 277 lots since it was built in 2003.

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.

County staff sought to assure supervisors they are improving evaluations of future projects after being questioned about the approval of the housing development project. Staff has since acquired updated mapping information from FEMA, as well as in-house mapping tools.

“We review these applications with diligence, and as we find errors and omissions, we bring them to the engineer's attention,” Building and Development Program Manager Bill Cain said. “We do that with every application that comes in this building. We do it with our great diligence. I am very proud of the people I work with, and so I would say, it’s not to say anything negative about staff in the past, but we do this with diligence every day to ensure these types of things do not happen.”

Two residents spoke in support of the buyout program and their experiences with floods. County staff said flooding has resulted in damage to residential structures due to excessive runoff forcing its way into windows and doors, and into some basements.

"My family and I have suffered greatly over this. Other than my mother-in-law almost dying in the last flood, we almost lost our pets as well," Selma Estates resident Chad West said. "All of us – and especially my wife-- suffer greatly from post traumatic stress disorder over constant fear of our home flooding. Every time it rains there is fear, and it's almost everyday."

Supervisors recognized and greeted Selma residents after directing staff to begin planning for the buy-out program.

Chairwoman Phyllis Randall (D-At Large) embraced one resident who was crying after the decision.

“Yeah, we’re buying them out and we may get to that place, but let’s not forget there is a human toll to this besides whatever we might pay,” Randall said. “That’s something I think we should absolutely remember.”

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.

County staff said cost estimates are preliminary. The $12 million figure would include the cost of purchasing affected homes, demolishing them and helping residents relocate.

The Selma Estates area may be eligible for the Pre-Disaster Mitigation program or Floodplain Assistance program, competitive national programs that provide annual funds. FEMA pays up to 75% for hazard mitigation projects.

(41) comments

gbay926

From reading Mr. Brewer's report, I question why taxpayers are on hook for remediation. It seems to me that the original mapper (Christopher Consultants) of the flood plain should be held responsible for the error(s).

gbay926

Mr. Alan Brewer of Loudoun Building and Development sent me a PDF that shows much of the history of this development. I am not able to upload a link to it but here is his email: Alan.brewer@loudoun.gov I am sure he will send interested persons the same file.

Concerned

CaptainCook, Are those the only two options you see? In my mind, the engineering firm and the builder need to pay--- not FEMA or the county (both using our tax dollars). They are the ones that profited nicely from the scheme. If county staff or the BoS "looked the other way," for some reason, that is a diffrent issue.

amerigirl

More Cowbell, well well, just because I am trying to figure out what the BOS does and does not know and who had the info doesn’t mean you have to be nasty. Do you know what info they were given by the Department of Planning and Zoning? Someone dropped the ball somewhere and didn’t give the info that was needed.

More Cowbell

Agree with most, Stanley Marting and whoever signed off on this area passing flood survey. It just shows how developers get OK rubber stamp from our corrupt BOS. Just wait for 20-30 years when Metro will have to replace much of loudoun extension because of govt signing off on something they knew wasn't minimum standard. Loudoun tax payers are screwed with past and future BOS. Never should signed up for that field. And that Light is a joke for a road seldom used.

amerigirl

What makes you think that the BOS had any information other that what everyone else had. It is the responsibility of Department of Planning and Zoning and Department of Building & Development. You can't blame everything on the BOS. As for the metro the BOS approves the funding.

gbay926

I was on planning 2009-2001. We knew of problems associated with this area at that time (if not long before). Raspberry Falls already had issues with water at that time. That Planning Commission did not recommend houses at Selma then. I cannot explain why the subsequent BOS approved development thereafter. I am trying to get history from Chair Randall about why taxpayers may be on hook for this issue..stay tuned.

More Cowbell

OK Phyllis's staff member.

CaptainCook

BOS approves the plan, B&D approves the implementation. B&D dropped the ball and approved the stormwater infrastructure, post-construction, based on a flood plain map developed years before a shovel ever broke ground.

gbay926

Two things...My term was 2009-2011, not 2009-2001. Second, I am not a member of Mrs. Randall's staff in any capacity. I am happily retired

Matthew

Girl, our BOS is corrupt and has been for many years. If you open your mind and stop seeing everything through your parties talking points, you will see there is little difference between them all in NOVA unfortunately. The crooked developers and slimy politicians run this county. Until we all wake up to this fact and clean house, nothing will change sadly.

amerigirl

Matthew, that may be true of the BOS but what I stated is that they are not the only ones that should be blamed for this, some one listed it as not being a flood plain and that is not a determination that is made by the BOS. It wasn't political, it was more about finding out the who is actually at fault before jumping to conclusions.

LoudounSucks

Boo hoo. Enjoy your expensive disasters.

amerigirl

That's horrible and sounds like your jealous. People work hard for their housing, and while you can expect to make home repairs this is ridiculous. They need to have whomever made the mistake pay for it.

Smartgrowth

Taxpayers should not be on the hook for this!

Locojrt

I, too, feel for them, BUT IT'S NOT OUR (TAXPAYERS) RESPONSIBILITY! If it is then I want a buyout for my condo that got a CO from Leesburg when there were no dryer vent ductwork installed and I now have 25 years of dryer lint in my ceiling! I payed to have it put in, questioned inspector when he came to inspect about this. His answer "I didn't work there then. Not my responsibility."! So typical, so where's my bailout! I'm on fixed income not rich, so I have no voice or choice!

CaptainCook

The County said it wasn’t a flood plain when they released Stanley Martin’s bond. It is the responsibility of the County to review, verify, and approve the final construction before the County takes ownership. The County obviously didn’t do that when their approval came after one major flood had already swept through. If the County is even partially culpable, where is the recourse other than tax payer funds? Do we not hold B&D accountable? Or are we treating them like weather forecasters? (No pun intended)

amerigirl

If Comstock had a study done in 2018 then the problem was already known. Why wasn’t it addressed then? If the floodplain was not properly delineated just doing a correction is not enough. The builders and buyers were dependent on that study and those who originally said that is was not a floodplain should be held responsible and pay the consequences.

SayWhat

I am sorry for the homeowners however the county taxpayers should not bear the burden of the developer and consultant misdeeds! Go back to the application and see who allowed this to happen. Go after who sold you the homes, their consultants who pushed the application!

BobOhneiserEsq

There is no way Stanley Martin and its architects did not know the entire area is karst and notice should have been given to all buyers as it should have been in the MLS listings. We were quite aware of this when starting to build Tuscarora. So who on the BOS was sponsored by the real estate building and sales lobby? Shouldn't BOS recuse themselves from voting for a Stanley Martin bailout if they took campaign donations from Stanley Martin or the Real Estate Lobby? $12 million here and another $13 million for the soccer stadium owners - pretty soon it could be real money! (YOURS)

Penguin

Agreed Bob. Residents of Lucketts/ North Leesburg were notified in 2010 that a new Limestone District overlay including this neighborhood would create situations of potential watershed runoff inefficiency and possible underground sinkhole activity. This also included mandated annual testing for alternative septic fields for all residents, no grandfathering allowed.

Stanley Martin continued to build despite this. I cannot believe Loudoun residents aren't up in arms over this possibility of the board approving a buyout.

Then again, every election, the simple citizens of Loudoun approve every social and educational maximum budget funding allowance that the ballots offer.

*SIGH*

Penguin

I warned people about Stanley Martin and their shoddy homes, now it looks like they also have shoddy lots as well.

Bird dog

Agree with Concerned. The residents should sue the developer and their engineers. Bring back the Limestone Overlay District!!! Developer friendly BOS years ago apparently abolished it stupidly. Flooding and sinkholes are a major problem along that entire corridor and County B&D is partially responsible for approving those building permits without requiring major mitigating measures Residents could sue County for recovery, then at least taxpayers on hook only for increased liability insurance premiums instead of outright buy-outs.

LIfetimeLoudouner

The problem was caused by Both the engineering firm and the county. the firm fudged some of their plans (and apparently is being sued for it) and the county staff just rubber-stamped everything without a real review. From what I know many of the county sign-offs were just not done and passed along anyway to the next level. Looking at the TOPO map it looks like they increased water flow down stream onto other farm property, flooding fields and destroying crops. That too is illegal and has been known for a while but county staff just did not care - hoping the problem would go away.

ace10

This is insanity! Stanley Martin is owned by a huge Japanese company called Daiwa Homes. Christoper Consultants surely has E&O insurance. WHY IS TAXPAYER MONEY AT RISK HERE? Sue the builder. Sue the engineering firm. They're the ones who profited on the (over) development of this community. How about the County apply some pressure by holding up any future developments by Stanley Martin?

js

I fully agree. The companies involved should be held responsible they did the site work and building. Tax payers should not be asked to fork over money for others mistakes

CaptainCook

The County owns the storm water management system now, no longer Stanley Martin, so it’s now their problem to handle. The County will most likely end up suing the company and PE who was contracted to sign off on the drawing. They’re insured for this stuff. If they don’t, and it’s paid out with taxpayer dollars, then the County is taking the blame, which should infuriate everyone.

LoudounClear

This should bring the approval of construction anywhere near flood plains to a halt. Developers have gaslighted the planning commission and BOS into relaxing these rules over years. Time to say taxpayers shouldn't be on the hook for this ever again (particularly with the changes we're seeing in the climate).

Matthew

Just look down the LTM articles, our BOSs are on a drunken spending spree! I feel for these residents, but this is not for the taxpayers to buy people out of their homes.

trickydick

Let's see: 14 homes are affected, and the proposed buyout is estimated at $12 million. Must be pretty expensive real estate! Sounds like welfare for millionaires to me!

CaptainCook

The option to fix the stormwater infrastructure the builder put in place, and the county approved, would cost more than a buyout and wouldn’t meet FEMA standards for floodplain mitigation. It’s in the report on the LC Board of Supervisors website. With the buyout, FEMA pays 75%. So you would rather pay for a non-compliant $12m+ infrastructure solution paid in full by the county, or a $12m buyout that FEMA pays 75% of?

BobOhneiserEsq

How about using this nonsensical developer bailout as an excuse to tell the state that unless and until they stop stealing $250 million per year from sales tax returns that Loudoun should get back PER YEAR we will have to stop approving all high density residential projects. For those who don't vote and don't like to pay attention to reality the state of Virginia deliberately harvests Loudoun at every turn. VDOT is underfunded, VDOT does not pay its fair share of capital projects and there is the composite index. Now before we get all teary eyed about the poor southeastern counties in Virginia keep in mind they DON'T even tax themselves anywhere near the rate Loudoun taxes itself nor does the tobacco industry in Virginia tax our cancer causing export anywhere near what contiguous states charge which is why the feds have to do so much to stop illegal transport of tobacco products from wondering from Virginia to other states. Without blind partisan loyalties these problems could be fixed in Virginia and Loudoun would be a lot better off. :-)

Doug Glatt

WTOP reported this story on Monday. The LTM finally reported it Wednesday night.

Virginia SGP

So Loudoun County is now liable if any permits are given and the floodplain designation is not accurate? Maybe we should provide a warning to all future development, including the end home buyer, that LoCo is unable to guarantee whether they live in a floodplain or not so the risk won't be on county taxpayers. $10M is a lot of $$ for a mistake by staff.

And these staff are the same ones Supervisors are asking to pay 105% of what our richer counties to the east pay similar staff? So we give raises to staff that incur extra liability on taxpayers?

Is there ever any accountability what so ever in government?

Concerned

Why isn't Christopher Consultants buying them out?

Doug Glatt

I agree, why isn't Christopher Consultants or Stanley Homes buying them out? Loudoun County should not be footing the bill on this one.

Supervisor Higgins was quoted as saying "I think it’s bad enough we get water in the basement on heavy rain." Does he have property in this development?

Concerned

Higgins is in bed with Christopher Consultants for the rezoning of Loudoun Mutual Insurance Company's property in Waterford and who knows how many other "projects"? Higgins gave Loudoun Mutual $42,000 (ToT funds) to pay for the rezoning fees from residential to commercial/industrial and Christopher Consultants prepared the site plan. In effect, the taxpayer paid Christopher Consultants. DPOR has recommended sanctions against Christopher Consultants for failure to comply with the basic requirements for the site plan we paid for. So, is Higgins is bending over backward to protect Christopher Consultants, the County's go-to engineering firm? And if Minchew had his hands in the Selma project too, then I am beyond disgusted. So much for honorable public servants.

CaptainCook

The County approved Stanley Martin’s bond release and stormwater infrastructure — the County is now owner of the stormwater infrastructure. The stormwater infrastructure fix costs more than the buyout, and it’s FEMA non-compliant so they wouldn’t fund a grant for it. FEMA pays 75% towards the buyout.

SayWhat

Agreed!

Locojrt

And all this surprises you how?!!! Every time we turn around the taxpayers are getting screwed and never kissed! There is $93 million or something like this in excess in budget year end! Holy crap! Why not rebate this BACK TO TAXPAYERS RATHER THAN DEVELOPERS or into initial dumb investments...i.e., soccer stadium! Payoff Greeneay so we have no more tolls, build real affordable housing . Jeez can't they ever get anything right for US!

CaptainCook

We live in the highest median income county in the country - there is no such thing as affordable housing. And the Greenway is owned by a foreign private investment company, so the tolls will never go away. It was most likely paid off years ago.

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