FEMA offers buyout to flood-prone residents in Upper Providence Township, Pa.

The deadline to apply for the buyout is November 15. The cutoff to sign for individual financial assistance is November 8.
UPPER PROVIDENCE TWP., Pennsylvania (WPVI) -- A letter left dozens of homeowners in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania both concerned and confused.

Sixty-one neighbors got a note about elevating their Upper Providence Township homes or selling, thanks to their location. But officials say that's not the full story.

Philip Moran Santangelo received this substantial Damage Determination Letter. His home, like many others, was severely damaged in Hurricane Ida.

"A lot of our neighbors had to be saved by emergency services out of their second-story windows," said Santangelo.

Many residents tell Action News they were confused by the letter and felt they only had two options: take a buyout, or spend thousands of dollars to elevate their homes to meet FEMA standards because they were in a flood zone.

People like Koren Dicarlo wanted answers from the township.

"What really are the facts? What are our options? It is kind of a life-changing decision," said Dicarlo.

Action News took the concerns to Bill Starling, chairman of the Board of Supervisors in Upper Providence.

"I think there was some confusion about the letter and we probably didn't do a good job of giving them all of their options to appeal. They can appeal both the damage assessment and the valuation of their property," said Starling.

Starling said the letters were mandatory after the township enacted FEMA flood plain requirements in 2016, but said the buyout process is strictly voluntary and people can back out anytime.

Homeowners would only have to elevate their properties if they do any substantial changes.

"Folks can stay there and improve their property and make it livable, but if they don't come into compliance, and that means raising the property to the current flood plain level, per FEMA, then they won't be able to do substantial improvements," said Starling.

With the confusion cleared up, many are still cleaning up from Ida and say they will think long and hard about if they want to continue to call this flood-prone neighborhood home.

"For some people in this neighborhood, the buyout is definitely a viable option. There are houses that are obviously a lot more exposed to flooding," said Santangelo.

The township says it will meet with all impacted homeowners. If you haven't already, you are urged to contact the township with any questions or concerns.

The deadline to apply for the buyout is November 15. The cutoff to sign for individual financial assistance is November 8.
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