Shelby, Ohio

Acquisition program helps frequently flooded Ohio residents move out of the floodplain

In 2007, a devastating flood along the Black Fork of the Mohican River in Shelby, Ohio damaged dozens of homes, along with a senior center, two schools, and the city’s only police station. Many of the homes had been built before flood regulations existed and owners could not afford to implement mitigation actions or repair the damage. The community sought mitigation grants to acquire 51 of the damaged properties, and it has since turned that land into a public park.

Photo by John Ficara - FEMA

Community facts

Population
8,751
Homes
4,506
Businesses
593
Source: US Census Bureau.

Mitigation actions

Following the devastating 2007 flood in Shelby’s business district and residential areas, city officials spent time planning their buyout program and securing grants from FEMA, the state, and the Housing and Urban Development Agency (HUD) to acquire 51 properties in areas with a high flood risk.

The acquisitions allowed homeowners to move away from frequently flooded, high-risk properties, which also alleviated their concerns over rising flood insurance rates. Because the $5.1 million project included resources to help with relocation efforts, most of the homeowners stayed in Shelby.

The city has since built a park in the area, which is used to host local festivals and helps increase foot traffic to local businesses.

Following the floods, the former mayor, Marilyn John, ran a campaign to levy local taxes to replace the police department, jail, and courthouse facilities, which were also destroyed in the flood. Voters approved the project, and construction was completed in August 2016. The new facilities were built outside of the floodplain.

Benefits of mitigation

Economic benefits
$20.1 million
Total monetized benefits
Return on investment
298.0%
Estimated return on investment
Benefit-cost ratio
3.98
Benefit-cost ratio
Source: FEMA (2012). Shelby, Ohio: The Economic Upside to Mitigation.

Project challenges

The community had to seek additional funds to complete the acquisitions

To determine which homes to acquire, FEMA’s Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) relied on assessments of the value of a house and the cost of the flood damage incurred. The initial grant funds secured covered the acquisition of 46 houses, but there were still five homes left in the flood risk area when the grant funds ran dry. A council member was subsequently able to secure additional funds from the Ohio Emergency Management Agency to help city officials acquire the remaining properties and move those homeowners out of the floodplain.

"It's a problem that's been around for a hundred years for our communities, and I'm proud that we are working hard to find solutions"
Marilyn John, county commissioner of Richland and former mayor of Shelby, Ohio

Future considerations

Residents pile debris waiting for pick-up anywhere they can. High water in North Central Ohio damaged several towns along its banks during the summer floods.
Photo by Mike Moore - FEMA
Mitigation project replaces blighted homes with a community park that adds value for all Shelby citizens

Not only did this project help 51 homeowners get out of frequently flooded and damaged properties and into safer homes—it gave the city a new park that has become a center for the community.

Anecdotally, the park has increased foot traffic to downtown businesses, while providing a dedicated floodplain to mitigate the effects of future rain events. This gives Shelby city officials the confidence that when heavy rains occur, they will not have to commit valuable time and resources to rescue and recovery efforts in the area. “Parks are great areas for a floodplain if you do it right,” Joseph Gies, project coordinator and zoning inspector for Shelby, says. “It gets used all the time.”

Flood mitigation resources

Below is a non-exhaustive list of other flood mitigation information resources.