FEMA closes Burlington group site

BURLINGTON The Burlington community turned another page in its flood recovery when the last temporary housing unit rolled out of DeSour Valley Heights Monday.

The final Federal Emergency Management Agency unit didn’t go easily, though. It took maneuvering for the truck driver to squeeze past a light pole and sign and manage approaches with the three-bedroom unit, which also needed a tire change before finally hitting the road.

The unit went on to a staging area at Velva, where about 250 similar units await placement through the General Services Administration or with other federal agencies. About 150 of the more than 2,000 units placed in the valley following the Souris River flood of 2011 have stayed with FEMA for other disasters, said FEMA spokesman Brian Hvinden, Minot. A number of the units have gone to tribal entities.

FEMA reports 212 units remain at Virgil Workman Village, east of Minot. Two others are at Holiday Village Mobile Home Park and 12 are on private sites. The two in the mobile home park are being purchased by occupants. Hvinden said the creation of a mobile home park on a portion of the Virgil Workman site also is expected to result in numerous sales of the units to occupants interested in remaining at the site long-term.

FEMA’s housing mission is scheduled to end Sept. 25.

DeSour Valley Heights had 50 units when it opened along U.S. Highway 2 on the edge of Burlington in October 2011 to house displaced Burlington residents. Hvinden said the park has emptied gradually, with the last occupant leaving last Wednesday.

Most of the DeSour Valley Heights residents were able to relocate back into the Burlington community, said Don Normand, FEMA’s local housing supervisor. However, more than a quarter of the residents transferred to Virgil Workman Village.

The property now goes back to the DeSour Valley Economic Development Corp. in Burlington. It comes with utilities and a primary road already in place.

Terry Zeltinger of the corporation board said the organization is considering a commercial development or possible mixed use with residential apartments above commercial property. A retail development, such as a strip mall, has been discussed.

“There would be a lot of developers who would be very interested in this space, and if we were to work with them, we could have something happen really quickly,” Zeltinger said. But he said the corporation first wants to gather input from the community and determine “the best interest of Burlington.”

A nearby housing development with about 300 homes will create a need not only for more retail services but also could require a second fire station on that side of the highway, said Burlington Mayor Jerome Gruenberg.