LITTLE FALLS, NJ - An ordinance to acquire and demolish flood-prone properties in a section of Little Falls was passed by township council members at their recent workshop meeting.

The plan would affect approximately 59 properties located in the Singac section of the township. A second reading and public hearing was held during the meeting prior to the passing of the ordinance by council members at their May 8 meeting.

The township's original hazard mitigation plan was to conduct a series of flood mitigation and acquisition for "repetitive loss properties" following the damage of Hurricane Irene, which brought severe flooding to the area. A resolution was passed then to include 79 properties located in the sections along Williams Street, Zeliff Avenue and Riverview Circle, including those in the vicinity of Louis Street Park. The plan was originally a combination of completing the buyout of residential homes and getting elevations underway. The cost of elevating a home is about half the cost of acquiring, according to former township administrator Joanne Bergin.

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According to Mayor James Damiano, the most recent authoring of the ordinance is for only acquiring and demolishing properties, not elevations.

"This is because the federal government determines that the only way to guarantee there is no future property loss is by demolishing or acquiring those properties," Damiano explained, adding that 59 properties would be the maximum potential of the number of properties under the plan.

"Not all property owners would be able to meet some of the requirements, such as maintaining flood insurance on their properties for the entire duration of their ownership, including if there was any lapse in coverage, which might void the entire possibility for any federal government acquisition," he added.

Damiano said he felt frustrated by the more recent government offering.

"I would have preferred more elevations because not only does it help the property owner but it also helps the town sustain ratables," he noted.

Hans Prell, a resident of Little Falls for over 60 years, who was not present during the hearing, spoke in opposition of the recent ordinance passed.

"I've always been pro-elevation and leaving the neighborhood intact," Prell said. " Acquisitions are OK, but you're very limited. They're not doing elevations anymore and I feel quite a few people still want them."

Prell, who is former president of the Little Falls Flood Board, added that once the federal demolition occurs by way of a grant, a town can no longer do anything on that piece of property.

"You cannot build and you cannot put parks on it," he said. "You also lose the property tax base, and somewhere along the lines, all that tax loss needs to be made up. In my opinion this is not the correct way. These people want to stay in their neighborhood."

Prell, whose house, located on William Street, was elevated several years ago, said his flood insurance premium decreased from $6,000 to $300 annually as a result of the elevation.

"That's a substantial savings," he added. "My neighbors are in the same situation and had their houses elevated through FEMA grants and Green Acres funding."

Prell also added that replacing the Beatties Dam, located in Little Falls, with one that has flood gates, could reduce flooding in the region, according to a study by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, conducted in 1989.

"That's why that project would've been beneficial to undertake," he explained. "It showed it could help with flooding in Little Falls, Wayne and Fairfield." 

Prell noted that the Beatties Dam was also mentioned in the Passaic River Basin Flood Advisory Commission's 2011 report to Gov. Christie.

"I chose to elevate because I've lived here for well over 60 years and I just can't abandon the town," he said.

He also praised the Community Rating System (CRS) that the township took part in, which is a discount for a town that met the recommendations of the ISO, an independent company primarily utilized by insurance companies for determining property insurance rates.

"The CRS program gave a 25 percent reduction and the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) from FEMA gives a 40 percent discount if your town does certain things," Prell said.

The NFIP managed by the Federal Insurance and Mitigation Administration (FIMA) aims to reduce the impact of flooding on properties, both private and public by providing affordable insurance to property owners and encouraging communities to adopt and enforce floodplain management regulations, according to the NFIP website.

Approval for Lindsley Road Townhouse Development

The Little Falls Planning Board recently approved site plans for the construction of a new townhouse development. The preliminary layout for the site, called Autumn Pointe, would entail three structures that would house approximately eight units each. The section of Lindsley Road where plans are being drafted for the development is located at a wooded area, which lies adjacent to the Peckman River.

Mayor's Report

Damiano spotlighted a letter recently received from the City of Passaic's Mayor Hector Lora, thanking Little Falls Fire Chief Jack Sweezy and members of township's volunteer fire department for assisting with a fire which occurred at 112 Gregory Ave. last month. In his letter, Lora said he was comforted to know that local municipalities came our to assist Passaic in their time of need and dedicated themselves to extinguishing the fire.

Mental Health Proclamation

Damiano highlighted Mental Health Awareness Month for May 2017 in the township. In his proclamation, he emphasized the the difficulties that those who suffer from mental illness face.

"Mental health helps to sustain an individual's thought process, relationships, and the ability to adapt to change. Mental illness adversely affects those abilities and is often life-threatening in nature," he said, adding that one in four individuals are affected by mental illness.

"When individuals seek help and treatment, it can make a profound difference in mental illness, whereas it is important to maintain mental health and identify the symptoms of mental illness in order to get help when needed," he stated.

He also added that public education activities help improve the lives of individuals and families mental illness and that public understanding in the area of mental health can help in treatment of mental health.

Passaic Valley Youth Girls Basketball League Honored

Damiano honored the Passaic Valley Youth Girls Basketball League, which has a perfect 13-0 season.

"The season included wins over a number of formidable teams, made this victory even more spectacular," he said, and acknowledged the team's coaches Rich Rosenberg and Diane Grondo.

"A great team in not without great coaching and we had two great coaches this year.  I extend my congratulations  best wishes and continued success for the Passaic Valley basketball league. Congratulations girls," he added.