Loudoun Co. offers $3.4 million to aid home buyouts in flood-prone Selma Estates development

October 15, 2020

WTOP/Neal Augenstein

A Loudoun County Board of Supervisors committee has voted to approve $3.4 million in funding to help eight homeowners in the flood-prone Selma Estates development sell their homes to the federal government, and blasted two local developers in the process.

Located off Virginia Route 15, between Leesburg and Lucketts, the Selma Estates development — which began in 2003 — now consists of 277 homes.

Between 2013 and 2018, during and after heavy rain, storm runoff flooded through windows and doors and into the basements of homes on Farnborough Place, Osterley Lane, Trongate Court, Berkhamstead Place and Saxon Shore Drive.

Last year, the Federal Emergency Management Agency enlarged the area’s floodplain boundaries. Fourteen homes that were not within the floodplain when they were purchased would be required to comply with mandatory flood insurance provisions of the National Flood Insurance Program.

As WTOP reported in December 2019, the Loudoun County Board of Supervisors contemplated buying the homes.

According to a staff briefing, “Implementing a buyout program is the most viable flood mitigation option because it removes all risk of structuring flooding during a 100-year storm event.”

On Tuesday, the board’s Finance, Government Operations and Economic Development Committee voted to suggest that the board fund $3.4 million to facilitate filing an application for FEMA’s Flood Mitigation Assistance grant — a voluntary buyout program for eight homes in Selma Estates.

Six other homes affected by the newly drawn flood plain boundaries did not qualify for the FEMA application. The county said it will review other ways to minimize potential flooding during the 2022 fiscal year budget deliberations.

Supervisor Caleb Kershner, who represents the Catoctin District where Selma Estates is located, had harsh words for the development’s design consultant, Christopher Consultants, Ltd., and the homebuilder, Stanley Martin Companies, for not reaching an out-of-court settlement with homeowners.

“Stanley Martin has even filed a countersuit against these homeowners for filing suit against them,” Kershner said. “It’s disgusting.”

“These companies, who build homes for our families in Loudoun County, have millions of dollars, and I want them to be profitable, and I want them to build,” said Kershner. “If they cannot step up and take care of a few homes where clearly an engineering study has gone wrong, they don’t deserve to do business in this county.”

To be eligible for the FEMA grant, the county must commit to funding 25% of the flood mitigation project. But in a staff report, neither Christopher Consultants nor Stanley Martin Companies would commit to participating in the project.

“They’re spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on attorneys, fighting this,” said Kershner. “That is not the kind of business we want here in the county.”

Board of Supervisors Chair Phyllis Randall agreed with Kershner’s criticism.

“When people buy a home, they plan on raising their family there — they bring their child home from the hospital, they have graduations and weddings and moments,” said Randall. “So, it’s not just that you lose your house, you lose your home, and all the memories that come with it.

Christopher Consultants and Stanley Martin Companies did not respond to a WTOP request for comment.

Neal Augenstein

Neal Augenstein has been a general assignment reporter with WTOP since 1997. He says he looks forward to coming to work every day, even though that means waking up at 3:30 a.m.

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