BRATTLEBORO — The last days for 11 Melrose Terrace units are coming quick.
Project leaders are waiting on Federal Emergency Management Agency funds to get started on the demolition and excavation work.
“This is the first unveiling of our work to date on what we’re going to do with Melrose Terrace,” Chris Hart, executive director of Brattleboro Housing Partnerships, told about 25 attendees of a meeting on Thursday. “I know there’s been a lot of discussion over the last seven years, since the flood, about what would happen here.”
All of the Melrose Terrace affordable-housing units along the Whetstone Brook in West Brattleboro were deemed unsafe after Tropical Storm Irene in August 2011.
About a year and a half ago, Hart’s group and town officials decided that a stormwater storage system would be the best use of the land moving forward since federal funding would no longer be available for the properties.
State employees helped Hart and the town write a FEMA grant application for the project while engineers worked on flood-mitigation plans.
“The area has seen a lot of flooding even before Irene,” said Roy Schiff, of Milone & MacBroom, showing photographs of flood waters reaching the window levels of some homes. “It’s a high density of buildings that are sitting in a vulnerable location, so we performed an alternatives analysis.”
About 30 to 40 different options were explored, Schiff told attendees.
He said the nearby George F. Miller bridge “does push water back during a big flood.”
It likely contributed to the way water had gotten clogged up then jumped onto Melrose Street during Irene, but removing the bridge is not feasible because it is one of two ways needed for exiting the neighborhood.
The state-owned Route 9 Bridge, which connects Melrose Street to Western Avenue, also sends water into the area. When the bridge is replaced in the future, Schiff believes the flooding situation will be improved. But the project is not a priority for Vermont Agency of Transportation at the moment because the bridge is still in good shape, according to Brattleboro Planning Director Rod Francis.
The 11 Melrose Terrace buildings closest to the brook will be demolished. The project also involves lowering land to connect it to a 4.3-acre floodplain and installing an overflow culvert on the George F. Miller bridge to prevent flooding.
The goal is to significantly reduce flood levels in the area by having more space for the water to build up while creating an area to catch sediment or large pieces of wood. Properties downstream and upstream should be better protected this way. In the future, the land may be used as a park.
“We’re kind of sharing this space back to the river,” Schiff said, later assuring an attendee, “We’ll try to save every tree we can.”
Lauren Oates, state hazard mitigation officer, said funding would hopefully arrive shortly once additional information is sent to FEMA after the Select Board meeting on Tuesday. The board will need to sign off on updates to the federal agency’s floodplain map, which is now said to include images with higher resolution and better data.
Hart hopes to have “an awful good start” on the project by summer.
About four or five buildings will be kept until her group finds a place where the residents of those units can move. Fifty-five former Melrose Terrace residents relocated to Red Clover Commons, a new complex on Fairground Road, last year during the first phase of the project.
The future home of 25 Melrose residents is expected to be announced in the next month or two.
“We are circling on a site as we speak,” Hart said. “We’ve been looking for a site for two or three years, and we have not identified one.”
Attendees were told that any asbestos or lead paint would need to be addressed by contractors before demolition occurs. Hart said appliances and other items will be saved when possible for future use by her group.
Residents and neighbors will be notified about when the project is set to begin. Hart anticipates having an informational meeting about what they can expect.
Francis said BHP will need a local permit from the Development Review Board because the work involves demolition in a previously developed location.
Published on April 2, 2018 on Reformer.com.