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Plans moving forward for Martin County to buy flood-prone homes

A Hobe Heights home under construction on Aug. 31, 2021.jpg
Posted at 2:20 PM, Aug 31, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-31 18:02:21-04

HOBE HEIGHTS, Fla. — Hurricane Ida is a reminder that water can be just as destructive as the wind.

On the Treasure Coast, it's been more than a year since flooding rains left one community underwater. In some cases, homes were left unlivable.

Now plans for Martin County to buy some of those homes are moving along.

A recent rainy afternoon is not out of the ordinary.

But what residents saw here in Martin County’s Hobe Heights community last year was extraordinary.

"Been out of this place for over a year now," said resident Warren Sharpe.

Six months of rain in 10 days in May of 2020 forced Sharpe out of his home of 36 years. And soon, it might no longer be his.

"I wish it didn’t happen. But everybody is saying, why are you moving? And I say, I don’t want to wake up in the middle of the night and step in water," Sharpe said.

$4 million in state and federal grants will allow Martin County to buy 13 flood-prone homes that the county could no longer guarantee flood protection to, even if new drainage projects were completed.

"Once we purchase the homes, we’re going to demolish them, abandon the septic tanks and then restore the lots to natural condition. We’re going to excavate material and turn them into dry retentions," said Jim Gorton, Martin County's director of public utilities

At the end of July, initial appraisals were sent.

"But the guy told me this is not carved in stone," Sharpe said. “When I got the 305, I was like, yeah I don’t think so."

Sharpe said his home is valued several thousand dollars more by a number of real estate websites, and a home on the market nearby has an asking price of $370,000

On top of that, Sharpe said the county is not reimbursing any of his out-of-pocket expenses for housing over the past year.

"The FEMA contract is very specific, we can offer the appraised value of the home and that’s the most we can offer," Gorton said.

A county spokeswoman said the initial appraisals did appear to be a little low and a second round were offered.

As for Sharpe, he’s done, period, now looking to move north to Brevard County.

"I want to get it over with, I want to move on," Sharpe said.