File photo of flooded property in Waitsfield that was turned into a pocket-park.

Valley residents who own properties in floodplain areas may have the option to take a buyout from the state. Vermont Emergency Assistance (VEM) is funding these buyouts through a host of hazard mitigation grants.



At the Moretown Select Board’s December 4 meeting, Brian McWalters, a state hazard mitigation planner for VEM, presented information to residents and took questions. He said that these grants can be used to buy properties damaged during the July 2023 flooding or previous flooding events, or properties at risk of flooding in the future.

The buyouts apply to residential and commercial properties across the state. Funding covers all buyout costs, including appraisal of the property’s value, purchase of the property, demolition of any structures, and other costs.

The funding also includes assistance for tenants who would be displaced if a property owner opts into a buyout.


When a grant is awarded for a buyout, the town will contract all necessary work – beginning with an appraisal of the property’s value. For properties at risk of flooding but not recently damaged, the purchase price is set at current market value. For properties damaged during the July flooding, VEM will use the appraised value as of July 8 – the day before flooding occurred.

If an owner is unhappy with the appraisal, they can file an appeal and hire their own appraiser. McWalters said that there is a process with VEM for reconciling two appraisals in order to determine the purchase price. Property owners can withdraw from the process at any point before closing.

After closing and the purchase of the property, the town will hire contractors for demolition and other site work, and the property will be maintained by the town as green, open space. No new structures can be built on the property, but towns can use the space as a pocket park or to provide river access, according to VEM’s website.


McWalters said that creating green space would be a “benefit for the larger community,” as it could mitigate flooding elsewhere along the floodplain.

Towns will cover all costs up front, with reimbursement from the state within four months, according to VEM’s website. VEM, however, will pay to purchase properties, as towns may not have the funds to do so. 

McWalters said the whole process can take about a year. He said that for some grants, it takes about nine months to apply, get the property appraised and do other necessary work, then another three to six months to close on the sale.

Moretown Select Board member Don Wexler said that if a homeowner needs to secure a new place to live after taking a buyout, three to six months may not be enough time. “It’s a real juggle there,” he said, considering the housing crisis. Board member Tom Martin agreed, adding “it’s a big decision.”

McWalters said that he needed to consult with someone at VEM on the implementation side of the grant process in order to understand whether that can be remedied. He said that grants coming from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) require demolition work to be done within 90 days after closing, but that they may have some flexibility in scheduling the closing date.


Moretown resident Charles Masland asked McWalters if the state or town had any programs to support structural work on properties that could lessen flood damage. “I’m getting a sense that the plan is to turn things into green space and basically get rid of buildings that are in danger, even though it might be possible to mitigate the danger to a certain degree by making structural changes to a property.”


McWalters referenced a FEMA grant that could fund the cost of elevating a structure off the ground, which requires a 25% non-federal match. He said it’s harder to qualify for than a buyout, as it requires engineering and design work, and the state needs to see that it’s cost effective. If residents are interested, he added, they should contact river engineers at the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation.  

Martin said the town supports homeowners in attempting structural remedies, as well as what the state is offering with these buyouts.

Masland, who used to live in Moretown full time before moving away for work, said he bought his property with the intention of returning to Vermont after retirement. He said that he is

currently paying high non-resident taxes on his property, and is trying to weigh that against a buyout.

Valley property owners who are interested in a potential buyout can notify their town, who will work with VEM’s Hazard Mitigation team to apply for one of several grants. McWalters said that VEM is taking on more work around administering the grant than they typically would, in order to “take some of the burden off of our towns, who we know are pretty strapped right now.” 

The deadline to apply in this cycle is set for early spring 2024, but will likely be extended to the fall, according to McWalters.