Village of Owego debating flood mitigation law, could possible end major affordable housing development

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OWEGO, NY – The Village of Owego is debating a flood mitigation law that could mean the end of a major affordable housing development planned for the village.

Tioga Opportunities and Ithaca Neighborhood Housing Services are working in conjunction with the Tioga County Land Bank to build a large residential complex along Liberty and Temple Streets.

The Land Bank has already purchased 13 decrepit buildings in the neighborhood, is relocating the tenants, and plans to demolish them to make way for housing for low and moderate-income residents.

The project calls for a 31 unit apartment building along with 15 townhouses.

Some will be reserved for people with disabilities who will receive services from the Franziska Racker Institute.

But the development is now in doubt as village trustees are considering reinstituting a flood mitigation law that requires that any new building within the flood plain compensate for displacing flood water by excavating the same volume on the same property or an adjoining parcel.

Tioga Opportunities Director of Planning and Development says studies have shown a desperate need for new housing in the village.

“What that study showed is that we need housing for young families, for young professionals, people just starting out. And that’s who we’re trying to attract to the community. We know the population is aging, they’re staying in their homes longer, we need to have housing that is available for people who are just starting out or are looking to raise their children here,” says Zubalsky-Peer.

Mayor Mike Baratta says the compensatory storage law was originally put on the books following the historic 2011 flood.

However, the Board voted to rescind it earlier this year because trustees felt it was too restrictive, basically forbidding homeowners from doing small projects like adding a shed or raising their driveway.

Trustee Rusty Fuller tells NewsChannel 34 that it was always the intent to bring the law back with modifications to exempt such smaller projects.

Fuller, who lives across the street from the proposed housing development, says the law is aimed at flood mitigation and he believes the project will make flooding worse for its neighbors.

Tempers flared at a public hearing for the law last Monday.

The board meets again next Monday.

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