Rock Hill homeowners concerned after letter warns of flooding risk

by: Greg Suskin Updated:

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ROCK HILL, S.C. - Thousands of people are being surprised with a letter from the city of Rock Hill, telling them their property or even their home, could flood.
 
Many are homeowners who have never been told before, that they live in a high flood-risk area.
 
The city of Rock Hill just updated its storm water plan, which it hasn't done in about a dozen years.  Officials looked at areas near creeks, and new developments.  What they discovered has some homeowners concerned.
 
Dale Bradley lives in the wood forest neighborhood just outside Rock Hill.  He received the letter last month.
 
"I never would've thought this would be in a flood zone," he said, walking downhill from his home, to a creek in his backyard on wood forest drive.
 
"The water in the creek never gets more than one to two inches deep," Bradley said, and that's even after days of heavy rains.
 
Still,  the city of Rock Hill sent out 2,000 letters to property owners they determined were potentially at risk.  Several hundred of those properties have homes on them.
 
Deputy City Manager Jimmy Bagley said after doing the survey, the city felt obligated to give property owners a heads up about what they found.
 
"We felt once we have that information, we should let everybody know," Bagley said.  "It’s public money we spent on the survey, and it's public information."
 
The purpose of the study is to help determine where the city will spend money on future projects to address flooding concerns.
 
However, the Federal Emergency Management Agency has not officially designated these properties as flood zones. The letter from city makes that clear, but also states that the standards the city used in its survey are similar to what FEMA would use.
 
The letter further urges property owners with concerns, to buy flood insurance. Bagley said he would.
 
"If I thought I had a structure in a potential flood plain that hasn't been identified yet, I’d go buy flood insurance," he said.
 
City officials said it's likely FEMA will update the national flood maps and inform property owners in the near future.  However, officials said it costs homeowners four times as much for flood insurance, after  FEMA officially declares you in a flood zone.
 
Some homeowners are now concerned about having to disclose that to a buyer if they ever sell their home.
 
"I wish the city would withdraw this letter," Bradley said. "It’s kind of putting a black spot on this house as far as selling it."
 
A Rock Hill lawyer who does real estate closings told Channel 9 that a homeowner would in fact have to disclose that information to a buyer, during a sale.
 
The city said unlike FEMA, which often looks at wider, less defined areas to make its flood maps, Rock Hill worked on specific locations, right down to neighborhoods and streets to make accurate maps.