Heavy rains that plagued Colorado Springs during spring and summer 2015 saturated slopes and caused significant damage to public infrastructure and prompted the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to issue a Major Disaster Declaration on July 16, 2015 (“Colorado Severe Storms, Tornadoes, Flooding, Landslides, and Mudslides (DR-4229)”). The heavy rains also triggered several landslides in very isolated areas on the city’s west side that were later reported to the City.
The landslides remain active and could experience further movement. Unfortunately, land movement is often an uninsured loss for property owners. However, due to the potential number of property owners impacted by the landslides, the City of Colorado Springs has been working to pursue possible options to assist impacted property owners.
The City of Colorado Springs hosted two community meetings in February to offer information about recent landslide activity and the HMGP to those who may have been impacted by recent landslides. Impacted property owners will also have an opportunity to request that their property to be considered for the grant program.
Hazard Mitigation Grant Process
Impacted property owners will have an opportunity to opt-in to the HMGP Buy-Out Program through March 4, 2016 and take part in the home prioritization process.
Step One: Owners Opt-In to the Buy-Out Program
- Two public meetings were conducted in February to notify property owners of the ability to register for the buy-out program.
- Property owners can submit opt-in forms to LandSlide.Info@coloradosprings.gov, or at the City of Colorado Springs Office of Emergency Management, 30 S. Nevada Ave, Mail Code 1443, Colorado Springs, CO 80903
- Criteria for participation includes, but is not limited to:
- An owner is only permitted to have one structure eligible for the Buy-Out Program.
- Owners must comply with all requirements by the announced suspense dates in order to remain qualified for the Buy-Out Program.
- Must have been the owner of record prior to the 2015 landslides
- Some of the federal government stipulations include but are not limited to:
- The acquired properties can never be built upon again.
- Properties must be inspected every two years by the State of Colorado Hazard Mitigation Officer and certified that they are still vacant land.
Step Two: Damage Assessment of Properties
- All properties that are submitted for consideration will be inspected by several governmental entities to include: El Paso County Assessor’s Office, Colorado Springs Office of Emergency Management, Pikes Peak Regional Building Department and Colorado Springs Utilities.
Step Three: Prioritization of Properties
- Applicant meetings will be held for those property owners that are in the HMGP Buy-Out Program. All properties will be assessed and placed into one of the following priority levels:
FUNDING THE BUY-OUT PROGRAM
Funding for the program will require investment from the State of Colorado through the Federal government, the City of Colorado Springs, and property owners.
- The HMGP will not allow the City or State to pursue eminent domain acquisition for impacted properties.
- All properties opting into the program will be inspected.
- Only one property per owner will be considered for the program.
- FEMA will provide a maximum reimbursement of 75% of the total eligible project cost. The project cost includes items such as title search and appraisal fees, property acquisition, and cost of demolition. Although the HMGP program pays 75% of the project cost, there is no guarantee that the property owner will receive 75% reimbursement of the appraised property value due to the inclusion of the additional costs mentioned previously. The City will notify selected property owners of the share they will be eligible to receive at the time the grant is awarded. Property owners will then have the opportunity to accept or decline the buy-out. If the buy-out is declined, the property will not be considered further for the HMGP program.
- Selected properties must be clear of all liens and other encumbrances at the time of closing.
- Owners pay all moving expenses. Renters who are impacted may be eligible for relocation assistance.
- Owners cannot receive duplicate benefits for the same damage.
- Appraisals are based on pre-disaster conditions with an effective date of May 4, 2015.
Hazard Mitigation Grant Program
- The City of Colorado Springs intends to submit an application for the FEMA HMGP through the Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management. This is a statewide competitive grant process. The HMGP program is a statewide competitive program authorized under the Major Disaster Declaration for “Colorado Severe Storms, Tornadoes, Flooding, Landslides, and Mudslides (DR-4229)” declared on July 16, 2015.
- This statewide competitive grant program is designed to provide funds for projects that reduce the risk to individuals and property from natural disasters. It does not serve to provide recovery assistance, but instead to mitigate future damage. Property acquisition and structural demolition or relocation projects are mitigation measures that can be provided through the HMGP program. The goal is to remove people and property from highly vulnerable hazardous locations. The acquisition of private real property is undertaken on a voluntary basis by both the selling property owner and the eligible acquiring entity (in this case, the City of Colorado Springs) with a maximum reimbursement of 75% of all costs to include pre-disaster property value, inspections, appraisal fees, property acquisition, cost of demolition, etc. Although the HMGP program pays 75% of the project cost, there is no guarantee that the property owner will receive 75% reimbursement of the appraised property value due to the inclusion of the additional costs mentioned previously. The City will notify property owners of the share they will be eligible to receive if and when the grant is awarded. Property owners will then have the opportunity to accept or decline the buy-out. If the buy-out is declined, the property will not receive further consideration under the HMGP program.
- The City submitted a “Notice of Intent” to apply for this statewide competitive grant program on November 6, 2015. The Colorado Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management notified the City that the Notice of Intent to apply was approved and the City could move forward with the application process for properties impacted by landslides. This was the first step of the grant application process.
- There is no guarantee the City of Colorado Springs will be awarded grant funding under this program, nor the amount of the funding that may be awarded, nor how any awarded funding may be distributed among impacted owners.
- Property owners may elect to withdraw from consideration during the application process.
HMGP Application Forms
- Property Owner Application Instructions
- FEMA Declaration and Release Form
- Property Notice of Voluntary Interest
- HMGP Individual Property Survey Form
The City of Colorado Springs is the administrator for the HMGP application process and is providing the information on this website to assist impacted property owners through the application process. The City does not offer any advice regarding individual property owners’ elections to participate in the HMGP program. The City does not provide legal, tax, financial or other advice to property owners regarding actions to protect property or assist in negotiations with insurance companies or mortgage lenders. Property owners should consult with professionals in the appropriate field to receive advice regarding these matters. Participation in the HMGP is completely voluntary and applicants may withdraw at any time. There is no guarantee that any funds will be awarded by FEMA, the State of Colorado, or the City to any impacted property owners.
What is the status of the property acquisition program for homes affected by the 2015 landslides?
On May 13, 2016, the City of Colorado Springs submitted an application to the State of Colorado Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.
Below is a breakdown of the properties that were determined to be eligible for the acquisition process and submitted to FEMA for consideration:
A total of 79 property owners requested participation in the program by the March 4, 2016 deadline. The properties were categorized into groups based on type/amount of damage.
- 26 properties had significant structural damage due to landslide activity and were included in the application.
- 29 properties were located in the landslide susceptible zones, but because they had no damage, they were not included in the application.
- 24 properties had damage from expansive soils, land creep or subsidence, not landslides. These properties were not included in the application, because they are not eligible for the program.
Because the application includes properties totaling approximately $13.3 million, and the HMGP has approximately $3 million in statewide funding for the 2016 program, any grant funding that may be awarded is not anticipated to cover all submitted properties.
Property owners have been notified in writing by the Colorado Springs Office of Emergency Management whether or not their property qualified under the program guidelines for inclusion in the City’s FEMA grant application.
The City anticipates receiving word from the state later this year regarding the application. The state may approve, deny, or request additional documentation regarding the application from the City and affected property owners.
Once the State of Colorado Department of Homeland Security and Emergency Management completes its review, the application will be forwarded to FEMA for its processing and review. FEMA will contact the City to provide notification of any funding that is awarded. At that point, the City will begin the process of obtaining a pre-disaster appraisal of the property, determining the costs associated with demolition and removing any asbestos and/or lead paint abatement, if needed.
As the Colorado Springs Office of Emergency Management has emphasized, the process can take two to three years to complete. The City understands this is a difficult process, and it is doing everything it we can to move the application through in a timely manner. The City of Colorado Springs will continue to identify and assist in applications for alternate relief resources for affected property owners, as appropriate.
Will homeowners who were not selected to move forward with the application process have any further recourse?
Homeowners not selected to move forward with the HMGP grant application were either located in the landslide susceptibility zone but had no landslide damage or had damage due to expansive soils, not landslides which is not eligible for this program. Expansive soils damage can often be repaired. Homeowners should consult with a Professional Engineer familiar with local Geological Hazards
A Guide to Swelling Soil for Colorado Homebuyers and Homeowners can be acquired for a small fee from the Colorado Geological Survey at http://store.coloradogeologicalsurvey.org/product/a-guide-to-swelling-soils-for-colorado-homebuyers-and-homeowners/ . The book is intended to assist homeowners in reducing damage caused by swelling soils.
When will homeowners be notified of the status of their application?
HMGP applicants have been notified in writing whether or not their property was included in the package to FEMA for consideration.
How many homes have been condemned already and will you condemn more homes as they become further damaged?
As of May 13, 2016 two homes have been deemed uninhabitable due to landslide damage—one in the Skyway neighborhood and one in Broadmoor Bluffs. The safety of these homeowners is the City’s priority and we will continue to work with property owners to review any changes to their property.
What is the timeline for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program?
The Hazard Mitigation Grant Program application was submitted to the State of Colorado May 13, 2016. To better understand the timeline of the process, the City of Colorado Springs is still processing assistance for homes damaged during the flash flooding events of September 2013.
Can I still apply for the program?
The application deadline was March 4, 2016; no more applications for this program will be accepted.
What is the process going forward?
What about homes that are not damaged, but are located adjacent to or near the landslide.
Homes were evaluated on a case by case basis. Twenty-nine (29) properties were located in the landslide susceptibility zone, but did not have landslide damage and are therefore not eligible for the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP).
Will all homes included in the application receive a portion of the grant?
If awarded, the properties with the highest priority will receive the opportunity to accept a purchase offer from the City. To be clear, the grant is NOT distributed across all applicants—it is used to acquire property(ies) that pose the highest risk to the public for further damage at a maximum percentage of 75 percent of the total acquisition project costs to include: appraised value, closing costs, demolition costs, and removal of asbestos and lead paint, if applicable.
What areas in Colorado Springs are currently being impacted by landslides?
There have been isolated reports of landslide activity in some neighborhoods on the west side of Colorado Springs including the Skyway, Broadmoor Valley and Broadmoor Bluffs neighborhoods. The City is working to identify any potential additional impacted property owners to inform them about landslide activity and will continue to identify and apply for other funding sources as appropriate.
I didn’t know Colorado Springs was vulnerable to landslides. Has this happened before?
Areas in western Colorado Springs are known to be vulnerable to landslides. Please refer to the Potential Areas of Landslide Susceptibility Map to view specific susceptible areas. Significant rainfall and flooding occurred in 1999, triggered landslides in Colorado Springs. Twenty-six homes were bought out and removed through a special program administered by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. This program is no longer available and was replaced by the Hazard Mitigation Grant Program.
What are the signs of landslide activity?
The most likely signs will be, but are not limited to, recent significant cracks or separation along walls, foundation or flooring of the property or windows/doors may no longer open/shut properly.
Many homes experience some cracking as land settles over time, however the shifting caused by landslide activity is typically fairly fast with noticeable differences within weeks or months. If you notice recent changes to your home’s foundation, you may contact the Colorado Springs Office of Emergency Management at 719-385-5957 to arrange a site visit.
Is there anything I can do to prevent further damage?
Mitigation of properties in certain areas located within active landslides will not be effective until the landslide stops. In all affected areas, a professional geologist or geotechnical engineer should be consulted.
Are there any options for additional funds outside of HMGP?
As the application and grant award process progresses, the City will have a better idea of which properties may be eligible for grant funds and the total amount of grant funding available. Throughout the acquisition process, the City will continue to look for additional resources for assisting impacted property owners.
How much will it cost to demolish a home/other costs?
Under the HMGP these costs would be included in the total acquisition project cost. Actual demolition and acquisition costs will be determined if/when an offer for purchase is made.
What is the County Assessor’s role in a disaster?
A limited view of the El Paso County Assessor’s role during a major disaster is dictated by the Colorado Constitution, statutes, and case law. Demolished and destroyed real property must be inventoried and prorated to the date of destruction, § 39-5-117, C.R.S. During an intervening year (even years), real property values may also be changed when property is demolished or destroyed by any detrimental act of nature, § 39-1-104(11)(b)(I), C.R.S. Also, the El Paso County Assessor plays a key role in the development of the County disaster plan.
Will the 2015 landslides affect property taxes due in the 2016 tax year?
Yes, those taxpayers that are directly affected will receive immediate property tax relief. Please contact the El Paso County Assessor’s Office for more information.
Can the County Assessor reduce assessed values due to destroyed property without the property owner submitting a Hazardous Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) application?
Yes. The Assessor can start the process on their own authority before a property owner submits a Hazardous Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) application. Please contact the El Paso County Assessor’s Office for more information.
When should the County Assessor begin the process of inspecting destroyed property?
In an area affected by landslides, the Assessor and their staff should inspect the property as soon as it is safe and practical to do so. To request an inspection, please contact the El Paso County Assessor at 719-520-6600, or email ASRWEB@elpasoco.com.
How is the reduction or refund of current year taxes calculated?
Per Colorado Revised Statute § 39-5-117, C.R.S., properties damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster must be prorated for the tax year that the destruction occurred. As such, the Assessor’s value estimates for the affected landslide properties reflect the property being 100% taxable from January 1, 2015 thru May 4, 2015 (124 days) and diminished in value for the remainder of 2015 (241 days prorated). Please contact the El Paso County Assessor’s Office for more information.
Will my property be reclassified by the County Assessor if destroyed?
No. As provided in § 39-1-102(14.4)(b), C.R.S., if the improvement is residential and destroyed by a ‘natural cause’, the residential land classification shall remain in place for the year of destruction and the two subsequent property tax years. The residential reclassification may remain in place for additional subsequent property tax years, not to exceed a total of five years. Please contact the El Paso County Assessor’s Office for more information.
Is there any recourse available to assist impacted property owners with working with their insurance company or mortgage lender?
The City does not provide legal, tax, financial or other advice regarding negotiations with insurance companies or mortgage lenders. Property owners should consult with their insurance company, mortgage lender, and other professionals in the appropriate field to receive advice regarding these matters.
Colorado Springs Code Enforcement 719-444-7891
Colorado Springs Utilities- For utilities issues call 719-448-4800
Office Of The El Paso County Assessor
Citizen's Service Center
1675 W. Garden Of The Gods Rd, Suite 2300
Colorado Springs, CO 80907