Boonslick Regional Planning Commission (BCRP)
Following the devastating Midwest floods of 1993, Missouri’s Boonslick Regional Planning Commission (BRPC) established itself as a leader in innovative disaster recovery strategies by successfully relocating two communities – Rhineland and Winfield – out of harm’s way. In 2008, when flash floods tore through the village of Silex, MO, the BRPC again stepped in to organize the recovery process and ensure a safe and dry future for the village’s residents through a voluntary buyout and relocation program.
In each of these communities, the BRPC worked closely with local leaders and community members to present residents with the best option available given each town’s unique challenges. As the first town to be moved by the BRPC, Rhineland was an improbable success story. The BRPC pieced together funding from HUD’s Community Development Block Grant Program (CDBG), FEMA’s hazard mitigation grant program (HMGP), the Missouri Housing Development Commission, local city bonds, and other available sources to purchase land on a hilltop just north of town and assist community members with relocation. Of the 52 homes in Rhineland, 32 of the structures were cleaned, repaired, and physically moved up onto the hill. Most property owners whose building was beyond repair, including 17 of the 18 local businesses, followed suit and elected to use their buyout money to rebuild on plots within the new, flood-protected community. Once complete, Rhineland was the first community in Missouri to move all of its residents out of the floodplain.
In both Winfield and Silex, the BRPC followed a similar plan of action, using their expertise and long-standing relationships to stitch together multiple funding sources to provide buyouts and a safer plot of land for residents in a new community beyond the reach of dangerous floodwaters. Throughout this process, BRPC staff worked with individual homeowners to navigate the complexities of moving loans and mortgages, while also offering help for other unmet needs that arose throughout the relocation process.
In each of these projects, less than 5% of property owners who took the buyout left the community. Steve Etcher, former Executive Director of BRPC, attributed this success to the sense of community that already existed within these towns, recounting that “these people lived together, worked together, and had already established their own sense of identity. [The BRPC] simply helped them keep that intact.” And although the BRCP is still pursuing funding for demolition of vacated properties in Silex, both Rhineland and Winfield have redeveloped their floodplain with recreational facilities and open space that provide a local amenity while mitigating the risk of future floods.
Key Strategies for Success:
Listen to the wishes of the community you are working with – buyouts and relocation projects are strictly voluntary. Regional planning organizations do not have the authority to force people from their homes, so you must listen to what the community is asking for and work with them to achieve their goals.
Be prepared to offer individual assistance that extends beyond your normal area of expertise – part of the reason that BCRP experienced such overwhelming success was that they worked with individual property owners to transfer mortgages, settle insurance disputes, and handle other complications that arose throughout the buyout and relocation process.
“Moving Out of Harm’s Way: Strategies for Community Relocation.” Boonslick Regional Planning Commission, 2013.
Personal Communication with Steve Etcher, September 14, 2014
This case study was written by Lexie Albe, Community and Economic Resilience Fellow.