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VIHFA Releases Final Notice/ Public Explanation of Proposed Activity in a 100-Year Floodplain

Interim Executive Director/Chief Disaster Recovery Officer Dayna Clendinen (Submitted photo)

Interim Executive Director Dayna Cledndinen advises the public that the V.I. Housing Finance Authority (VIHFA), under 24 CFR 58, has conducted an evaluation as required by Executive Order 11988 in accordance with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development regulations at 24 CFR 55.20 Subpart C – Procedures for Making Determinations on Floodplain Management, to determine the potential effect that its activity in the floodplain will have on the human environment for the Own a Lot, Build a Home Program funded under the Community Development Block Grant – Disaster Recovery Program, (grant number P-17-VI-78-HIM1).

V.I. Housing Finance Authority will be accepting applicants throughout the territory of the United States Virgin Islands, and each project location will be reviewed during a Tier II Site-Specific Environmental Review to determine if the project is located within the 100-year floodplain and to identify the necessary mitigation measures. Priority will be given to low-moderate income first-time homeowners throughout the territory.

The FEMA floodplain maps, available on the Virgin Islands Department of Planning and Natural Resources (DPNR) website, will be utilized to identify the presence of a floodplain during the Tier II Site-Specific Environmental Review. This map is available to the public here. Based on the FEMA 2018 Advisory Base Flood Elevation (ABFE) Maps, the territory has a total of 13,032 acres in the 100-Year Floodplain.

The anticipated impact on the floodplain is minimal and will not impact the total acres within the 100-year as the number of applicants to be served is 200, and all projects will be classified as small residential structures.

Project: Own a Lot Build a Home Program

Description: The Own a Lot, Build a Home Program allows new construction to occur on vacant land that is already owned by the applicant. The program will support the development costs of the land, including but not limited to infrastructure, grading, and land preparation in the form of a grant. The program is designed to assist first-time homeowners with the construction of their first homes.

Eligible activities under this program include the installation of infrastructure, grading, installation of utilities, land preparation and the construction of homes in mixed-income communities. The total (Housing and Urban Development (HUD) allocation for this program is $12.5M and the program cap is $250,000. The program anticipates assisting approximately 200 applicants.

Alternatives: V.I. Housing Finance Authority (VIHFA) has considered the following alternatives and mitigation measures to be taken to minimize adverse impacts and to restore and preserve natural and beneficial values:

(1) The first alternative considered was to relocate the project to a site outside of the floodplain within the existing subdistrict This alternative was determined to be not feasible due to the lack of buildable land within the territory.

(2) The second alternative considered was to purchase the floodplain property and preserve the land as open space in perpetuity to restore and conserve the natural floodplain functions. This alternative was deemed not feasible given the current challenges caused by limited buildable land. This alternative would not benefit the community of the V.I. as it would result in additional non-buildable land.

(3) The third alternative considered was the “no action alternative.” This alternative was deemed not feasible as the cost of construction is approximately $250/square foot, which would make it unaffordable for priority applicants (or LMI applicants). The program’s goal is to provide much-needed assistance to first-time homeowners for the construction of their homes, and this alternative would not accomplish this goal.

V.I. Housing Finance Authority (VIHFA) will comply with all federal and local floodplain protection procedures and will consult with DPNR at the Tier II Site-Specific Environmental Review level regarding the base-flood elevation and feasible measures in addition to elevation.

VIHFA has re-evaluated the alternative to building in the floodplain and has determined that there are no practicable alternatives. Environmental files that document compliance with steps 3 through 6 of Executive Order 11988 are available for public inspection, review and copying upon request at the times and location delineated in the last paragraph of this notice for receipt of comments. These activities will not adversely affect the function of the floodplains as mitigation measures determined during the Tier II Site-Specific Environmental Review will avoid or minimize impacts for those 200 approximate 200 homes to be built throughout the territory.

There are three primary purposes for this notice. First, people who may be affected by activities in floodplains and those who have an interest in the protection of the natural environment should be given an opportunity to express their concerns and provide information about these areas.

Second, an adequate public notice program can be an important public education tool. The dissemination of information about floodplains can facilitate and enhance Federal efforts to reduce the risks associated with the occupant and medication of these special areas.

Third, as a matter of fairness, when the Federal government determines that it will participate in actions taking place in floodplains, it must inform those who may be put at greater or continued risk.

Written comments must be received by the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority at the following address on or before December 8, 2022: Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority, 3202 Demarara Plaza, Suite 200, St. Thomas, VI 00802-6447 or 100 Lagoon Complex, Suite 4, Frederiksted, VI 00840-3912 and 777-4432, Attention Ms. Dayna Clendinen, Interim Executive Director and Chief Disaster Recovery Officer, during the hours of 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Comments may also be submitted via email to environmental@vihfa.gov or online at https://cdbgdr.vihfa.gov/library-old/citizen-participation/.

Dayna Clendinen, Interim Executive Director/Chief Disaster Recovery Officer of the Virgin Islands Housing Finance Authority

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