City Council approves buyout of some Williamson Creek homes

More than two years after a flood damaged dozens of homes along Williamson Creek, the city has approved a buyout agreement, but there are some amendments that have some neighbors concerned.

Michael Kurko, who lives along Williamson Creek, said he hopes to be out of his home by the Fall.

"As soon as September and October hits and the storms start coming, we're going to be nervous," said Kurko.

Sand bags still line part of Kurko's home left over from a close call on Memorial Day in Austin.

"Austin dodged a bullet with these last floods," said Austin Mayor Steve Adler.

One more time Kurko and his family had to deal with the all too familiar fear that a swollen Williamson Creek could reach their back door.

In October 2013, Kurko and several of his neighbors watched as the creek turned their street into a river and damaged dozens of homes.

"This is an area where the flood risk is greatest," said Adler.

Thanks to a proposal passed by City Council, Memorial Day might be the last time Kurko ever prepares to evacuate.

"The Council wanted to move forward because these people's lives are in danger," said Adler.

Kurko's home is one of 63 that have been identified by the Watershed Protection Department as being in the Williamson Creek 25-year flood plain.

"We are probably one of the highest risk homes or properties in the neighborhood," said Kurko.

Council agreed to allocate almost $18 million to offer buyouts to homes in that danger zone, but amendments to the buyout agreement make homes ineligible if they were purchased after October 2013 or didn't sustain interior damage in the October 2013 flood, at least for now.

"The original idea behind the buyouts was they wanted to take people out of harm's way and by offering the buyout to only really a small fraction of that the 63 properties, I don't think it's going to really accomplish that goal," said Kurko.

"We held those aside so that the staff could answer questions and it wouldn't hold up the bulk of other properties," Adler said.

Kurko said he is confident his home will be included in the buyout.

"We were hoping city council would move forward with this and offer the buyout, get the buyout process moving quickly, and it sounds like they will," said Kurko.

Kurko's still worried about the neighbors he will be leaving behind.

"They can easily be dealing with what we dealt with even a year from now," said Kurko.

There are not a definite number of homes that are approved for the buyout at this time. At least eight of the 63 properties considered were purchased after October 2013. City staff will work to figure out how many homes did have interior flood damage and bring the results back to council. Any excluded properties will be reconsidered at that point.

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