Council committee OK’s $10.1M anti-flooding plan for Mars Hill

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An Indianapolis City-County Council committee unanimously approved a $10.1 million list of flood control projects for the Mars Hill neighborhood on Monday, sending the full proposal a step closer to adoption.

If implemented, the projects could remove more than 650 parcels from the federal 100-year floodplain, releasing properties in the southwest-side neighborhood from federal flood insurance requirements and lessening flooding for those that remain in the floodplain.

“This has been a long time coming for us,” said Mars Hill resident Allen Bridwell at the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee meeting. “When we have a community meeting, one of the first things to come up is, ‘How’s the floodplain going?’ Once a month, ‘How’s it going?'”

The main thrust of the overall proposal entails creating a flood control improvement district, which would pay for the anti-flooding projects with the incremental growth in property tax revenue those same projects are expected to bring. The tax increment financing-like structure would stay in place for 75 years, enabling long-term maintenance of the new infrastructure.

DPW says the measures could save neighborhood property owners a collective $400,000 in flood insurance each year. People buying houses in a floodplain must buy the insurance to be able to get a federally backed mortgage, but it isn’t cheap. Being in a flood zone also limits the improvements residents can make to their own houses.

“One of the things that I think is wonderful is these homeowners are going to be able to actually get legal permits to do upgrades to their homes, and improve not just themselves, but also their neighborhood and their community, which is wonderful,” said Councilor Jessica McCormick.

Bridwell told councilors that investors buying up cheap properties in the area have cited the federal limits on property improvements as the reason they haven’t fixed up the structures for tenants, while homeowners have simply made improvements illegally, without permits.

The Public Works Committee also heard a presentation on the full proposal last week, though the vote went to the Metropolitan and Economic Development Committee. The City-County Council will consider the full proposal, which has bipartisan support, at an upcoming meeting, likely in January. It’ll also need a final round of approvals from the Metropolitan Development Commission.

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