FAYETTEVILLE — The city may purchase an apartment complex on the west side of town to tear it down and turn it into green space.

City Council heard a presentation on Tuesday from Alan Pugh, the city’s staff engineer, on potential flood mitigation measures for residences near Hamestring Creek. The city recently became aware of potential grant opportunities with the federal government to help defray the costs of raising homes or purchasing land in the floodplain.

City staff have been working with landlords on potential solutions, Pugh said. The federal money would likely be available late next year, he said.

In the meantime, the trustees are proposing to use the bond money to buy the West End apartments east of Interstate 49 and north of Wedington Drive. The asking price is $1.4 million and the city has had the property appraised at $1.39 million. The city wouldn’t have to wait until next year if it used bonds, and the owner is looking to sell now, Pugh said.

The 49-unit complex with four buildings experienced significant flooding in April 2017 and May this year, Pugh said. Footage Pugh showed council of the May rainstorm showed water rising a few feet off the ground, seeping into units and causing extensive damage to buildings, tenants’ property and to cars.

“Really, the best way to solve flooding for these particular apartments would be to buy them and remove the structures,” he said.

Replacing buildings with green space, trees or a retention pond could also mitigate flooding for surrounding residences, Pugh said. The city would do a study to determine the impact of these measures on surrounding properties, he said.

John Cloyed, owner of the complex, said he was ready to sell to the city, but the property is under contract to be sold to someone else. If the potential buyer were to request an extension to the closing date or walk away from the deal and the city had an offer on the table, Cloyed said he could sell to the city instead. The closing date for the other buyer is set for mid-August, he said.

The complex has been vacant since flooding in May, Cloyed said. The damage rendered the units uninhabitable. Cloyed reimbursed the tenants for May’s rent and they received Red Cross assistance to move out, he said.

“It was tough,” Cloyed said. “It was really difficult for a lot of them, and for me that’s the main reason not to rebuild there. It will happen again, whether it’s in five years, two years or 10 years.”

Tenants paid the fair market rate set by the US Department of Housing and Urban Development, which changes every year, Cloyed said. Most received rent assistance through the Fayetteville Housing Authority, the city’s Hearth program, Section 8 or veterans housing vouchers, he said.

Cloyed said the potential buyer was aware of the risk. The property has flood insurance. If the potential buyer wanted to reopen the complex to tenants, they would consider a significant amount of work to make the units habitable again, Cloyed said.

The nonprofit Fayetteville Housing Authority development nearly bought the complex for $1.6 million a few years ago. The nonprofit was to buy the complex on a hire-purchase agreement, but last year agreed to return the property to Cloyed. Housing Authority board members at the time said the covid-19 pandemic had left tenants unable to pay rent and the council had decided not to go ahead with the purchase.

Cloyed later filed a complaint last year against the Housing Authority non-profit, claiming the property had been returned to him in poor condition. The association was under an obligation to return the property to Cloyed in the same condition as received. Cloyed said the units had water leaks, mold, spray-painted walls, damaged floors, and missing doors and fixtures. He is asking for a judgment to compensate for the expenses incurred to repair the dwellings.

Cloyed said his sale of the property likely wouldn’t affect the lawsuit, which is still pending in Washington County Circuit Court.

If the city buys the property, the money would come from the $15.8 million drain bond issue approved by voters in April 2019, Pugh said. Land acquisition was among the options outlined in the issue, he said.

Pugh said he hopes to have a proposal for the board to consider at its Aug. 18 meeting.

Mayor Lioneld Jordan asked city council members on Tuesday whether they should go ahead with the purchase of the property, and members expressed their support. Councilman Sloan Scroggin said he has already spoken with residents about the need for the city to purchase the complex and tear it down.

“While I’m glad there’s a cheap place to live, people who move to a cheap place don’t need to live in a place that floods very regularly,” Scroggin said. “These units are barely habitable.”

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