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Cedar Rapids Homeowners Want City to Rethink Flood Protection Plan

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CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - The city of Cedar Rapids adopted a blue print for long term flood protection back in 2009. But neighbors on the west side of the Cedar River are now petitioning the city to change the plan and wipe current construction "lines" off the map.

And 221 neighbors signed a petition asking the city council to revisit the issue and potentially redraw the preferred flood plan map—at least on the west side of the Cedar River.

Richard Goldsberry's home on Ellis Boulevard N.W. sits next to the Cedar River. But his property is only in the 500-year flood plain. That's actually a higher level than many Time Check neighborhood homes hit by flooding in 2008. Goldsberry said his home was flooded that year and he now has flood insurance—at what he called a "reasonable" cost of just over $300 per year. But he said his big problem now is the city's preferred flood plan.

On city maps, the plan for both sides of the river shows lines where berms, levees or possibly removable flood walls would go if a flood mitigation system were funded. For Goldsberry, the issue is what's called the construction zone. It would potentially run right through the middle of his home. He said that leaves dozens of property owner, who have rebuilt, in limbo about what the future holds.

"It makes you wonder, should I go ahead, should I rebuild. Should I buy this property," Goldsberry said.

Goldsberry gave one example of the impact of those construction zone lines on the map. He noted one nearby home, also in the future construction zone, recently sold for just $75,000. He said the home, pre-flood, was probably a $130,000 to $140,000 property.

Goldsberry was one of those neighbors signing the petition asking the city to revisit the preferred flood zone plan. The petitions were presented at a meeting of the city's Flood Recovery Committee. Council member Ann Poe, a member of that committee, said neighbors may have a point.

"Now it's five years later. We know who has participated in voluntary buyouts. No we have an understanding of the property owners remaining and I think it's incumbent upon this council to listen," Poe said.

Neighbors in the construction zone area acknowledge that if flood prevention construction is funded in the future, then the city would have to draw lines of where to build berms and other protection. That might mean future buyouts of property. But they say the line now is a stigma that hinders new development.

Linda Seger, a Time Check neighborhood activist, said "we're not changing the need for flood protection. We're behind it 100 percent. Now we want to look at how we can develop it because we have developers interested in the northwest quadrant."

Two city council members, Ann Poe and Don Karr, voted to refer the petition on to the full city council for consideration. Those two council members agreed things have changed in Time Check since the flood nearly five and a half years ago and it wouldn't hurt to take a second look at the current plan.

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