South Shores residents uncertain about plan to buy out flood-prone homes

Meeting to discuss voluntary program turns into shouting match at times

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – A community meeting was held Thursday night to discuss a voluntary program allowing South Shores residents to sell their flood-prone homes at pre-Hurricane Irma values.

The meeting, which was hosted by City Councilwoman Lori Boyer and the city of Jacksonville's Emergency Preparedness Division, turned into a shouting match at times.

There was no official count on how many people attended. But after 73 homeowners got a notice to attend the meeting, twice that number and many more filled the San Marco Preservation Hall to overflowing.

RELATED: Jacksonville proposes buying out flood-prone homes in South Shores

As Boyer and Emergency Preparedness Director Steve Woodard introduced the topic, questions and concerns started pouring in before the speakers could get through their initial comments, which was frustrating to some people.

"Hopefully, they can send the notes from this meeting because personally, I couldn't understand," said Carl McCall, who lives in the South Shores neighborhood. "That's why I step back outside because maybe somebody else could hear it."

With too many people and it being too hard to hear, complaints were expressed by people who didn't have an opinion yet but just wanted more information. 

"The city's trying to do something to help people out if you've got flooding," said Wade Dennison, who owns two eligible homes in South Shores. "I'm just trying to get some information on how to apply and it doesn't look like I'm going to get there tonight."

One of the questions in the meeting: Why this community?

According to state and Federal Emergency Management Agency officials, if homes have repetitive flood loss, that's when they want to mitigate. 

VIEW: Maps of South Shores flood zones

Some of the people who live in South Shores are suspicious about the proposal, including one couple who said they don’t believe the program will be voluntary at all. 

"Just listening to them. They were all sarcastic," Courtney Green said. "It was really offensive, to be completely honest. They don't care about those homes. They're not theirs."

The program discussed comes from the state and the federal government’s Hazard Mitigation Program. Duval County would manage the program.

A state of Florida representative said any property that suffers repetitive flood damage is eligible to apply.

If someone doesn't sell a home in the program, Boyer said, as long as one home remains, no city services would be removed. 

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