AFTER A FLOOD seven months ago that displaced dozens of residents from Camelot Village on South Estes Drive in Chapel Hill, roughly one-third of the development's damaged condos are occupied and the rest are on the market for potential renters.
That's according to Don Wilhoit, a former Orange County commissioner who owns six of the flooded Camelot units. He is also president of the Camelot Village homeowners association.
On June 30, 2013, Bolin Creek, swollen by an estimated 5 inches of rain over 24 hours, flooded 68 of the development's 116 units and created an estimated $1.5 million in damage. Four-foot-high flood waters forced dozens of residents from their homes, leaving mildewed belongings stacked in soggy yards.
Many of those residents have not returned in the months since. "They're headed for higher ground," Wilhoit says.
A half-dozen online classified postings on Craigslist show condo owners asking for $600 to $700 in rent for once-damaged units, many of them which are now touted for their "remodeling." One posting mentions the flood damage. The rest do not.
"It's a risk they're willing to take," Wilhoit says of the condo owners.
According to town officials, the June flood was the fifth since 1995 in Camelot, which lies in a particularly perilous flood plain 5 feet lower in elevation than a neighboring community park. Town regulations bar construction of such a dangerous development today, but Camelot, built in 1967, predates those rules.
As the INDY reported in July, the town was forced to return $2.3 million in federal grant money that leaders hoped to use to buy the flood-prone units for future demolition.
Federal regulations require unanimous consent by owners in order to purchase the building, but town leaders say they were forced to abandon their buyout bid about five years ago when many out-of-town condo owners did not respond to inquiries. Many owners also did not respond to the INDY's request for interviews in July.
"We're hamstrung," Chapel Hill town councilman Ed Harrison said this week. "Clearly the owners think it's a better risk to keep renting the apartments."
Following the most recent flood, town officials attempted to contact condo owners again, Harrison said. Wilhoit—who says he supports the town's buyout effort—confirmed that fact Monday, but he complained the town still hasn't done enough.
Wilhoit said town staff did not reach out to his homeowners' association, adding that his association's board of directors is "not opposed" to discussing the development with town leaders, provided the town is willing to make some concessions.
Such concessions would include working out how to pay for upkeep of the development's common area and an on-site bridge if units are sold. Those items are currently paid for with homeowners association dues that would be lost in the event of a sale, Wilhoit said.
"It would be good that we set up some kind of working group with the town to look at what could be done instead of waiting until the next flood," he said.
Harrison's response to Wilhoit? "He's a former county commissioner. He knows how to find local government." —Billy Ball