Town to purchase, raze four flood-prone Great Spring Road homes

Published 4:56 pm Monday, November 20, 2023

Four of five Great Spring Road homeowners have agreed to sell their flood-prone houses to the town of Smithfield and relocate, according to Town Manager Michael Stallings.

Smithfield was awarded a $966,252 grant in May through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s Hazard Mitigation Program, intended to fund the cost of relocating the street’s residents and demolishing the homes.

Stallings told The Smithfield Times in May that the relocation would be voluntary. The Town Council voted unanimously on Nov. 8 to authorize Stallings to sign paperwork finalizing the sale agreements.

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Four of the five eligible homes sit.within a FEMA-designated 100-year floodplain, which is supposed to mark homes with a 1% annual or once-in-a-century chance of seeing what FEMA calls “shallow flooding” of 1 to 3 feet. Yet the neighborhood has seen at least two catastrophic floods in less than 25 years – once in 1999 from Hurricane Floyd and again during a 2006 nor’easter.

According to Stallings, the town would need to impose what’s known in legal circles as a “restrictive covenant” to keep the lots from being developed in the future. The plan, he said, is to either plant grass on the lots or return them to forestry.

Among those who have agreed to sell is Heather Guilfoyle, who’d initially been on the fence about moving.

Guilfoyle had told the Times in May that she’d moved to the area last year. On Nov. 14, she told the Times she’d verbally agreed to sell, but hadn’t signed the paperwork yet.

She still worries about finding a new home in town that’s within her price range. Documentation submitted to the state with the town’s grant application indicates the five houses range in value from just under $150,000 to just under $200,000. A midyear Census update estimated the median value of owner-occupied homes in Smithfield at just over $313,000 based on data from 2017 through 2021.

Stallings identified an address on Quail Street belonging to Betty Ricks as the one who, as of the Nov. 8 meeting, had not agreed verbally or in writing to sell. Ricks, in May, told the Times she was opposed to the idea of moving.