Tense meeting held between county, flood victims

County officials work up plans to help flood victims recover


SAN ANTONIO – County officials and flooding victims from the hard-hit Espada Road neighborhood came together in a meeting that got tense at times at the Bexar County courthouse Tuesday.

Two dozen people showed up to the commissioners' chambers to hear recovery-plan options presented by the San Antonio River Authority.

The first option presented was what SARA General Manager Suzanne Scott called the "standard buy-out plan."

In action that the county has taken before, it would purchase the homes and land from flood victims in the area, and help them move to another location.

"But we realize that the people along Espada Road have multi-generational ties to their land," said Scott, referring to the residents' desire to keep the land in many cases passed down to them by their ancestors.

With that in mind, Scott presented another option.

Residents would be able to keep their land under certain conditions.

They would have to become official flooding easement zones, acknowledging the continued risk to life and property due to flooding, and allowing their land to flood whenever a major rain event occurred.

If they wanted to continue to live on the property, they would have to rebuild their homes under certain guidelines that would make them less susceptible to flooding.

The county would provide compensation for the transition of these properties into easement zones.

Residents could also demolish their homes, but retain the land for agricultural use only.

No more structures would be allowed to be built.

Residents could then find similar housing, and the county would help pay for some or all of the moving costs.

County officials plan to meet with the 57 property owners affected by the proposal on an individual basis over the coming weeks.

Compensation amounts will vary for each case, and will be determined by a number of factors.

"If the offer is fair, I would consider moving," said Paul Garza, a longtime resident of Espada Road. "I would be a fool not to consider it."

Many of the residents in attendance at Tuesday's meeting expressed concern over the cause of the flooding.

They said widening of the river upstream from their homes due to the Mission Reach construction caused the flooding.

SARA officials said the flooding was merely due to record-level localized rainfall.

The entire presentation made to residents by SARA officials can be seen here (PDF).

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