For more than five months — through rain and hail, humidity and wind — the condemned community of Paradise Lakes has sat largely untouched, a lingering, eerie reminder of spring’s devastating flooding.
And despite previous plans by the City of Bellevue, most of the community’s 195 modular homes won’t be torn down until 2020.
The Bellevue City Council voted to condemn the community earlier this summer.
At the time, the city told residents that they had until the end of July to take action on removing their homes. The remaining structures were expected to be razed by a city-hired company in early August.
Jim Ristow, Bellevue’s city administrator, said officials are now taking a cautious approach moving forward because they don’t want taxpayers to be on the hook for the estimated $1.2 million needed for demolition.
Paradise Lakes’ owner, Howard “Howdy” Helm, has told the city that he can’t afford the cost of demolition.
“He’s not a willing participant in the demolition,” Ristow said. “He just expects us to take it down.”
If the city moves ahead with demolition, it would then place a lien on the land, which Helm would have to repay if he wanted control.
But Ristow said there are concerns that the city would not recoup its money.
“The way for him to pay the lien back is to sell the property, and we’re not sure there’s a pathway there,” Ristow said.
Helm is trying to sell the land, Ristow said — a spray-painted “4 Sale” sign sits outside the property.
The World-Herald has not been able to reach Helm for comment.
The city has been privately discussing the land’s future with multiple interested parties, according to Ristow. He declined to discuss the nature of those discussions, other than to say those involved are “generally within” the modular home community industry.
Helm owns all the land beneath Paradise Lakes. He rented out about half the homes in the community; the other half were owned by the residents, who leased the land from Helm.
Demolition is progressing much faster at Green Acres, an adjacent modular home community also damaged by the flooding.
Demolition began last week, and about 30 homes have already been torn down, said Jayson Lipsey, chief operating officer of Strive Communities, the Colorado-based company that operates Green Acres.
That leaves about 120 homes to be demolished. The contractor conducting the work is tearing down about 20 homes a week, Lipsey said.
As the units are removed, the company will begin replacing them. The first group of new homes is expected to arrive in mid- to late September.
“We’re making great progress,” Lipsey said.
At least 14 Paradise Lakes modular homes had been demolished by their owners, Ristow said. A few more were being prepared to be taken down.
The majority of the remaining homes will most likely be around to ring in the new year.
What protects Omaha from flooding
The Omaha area’s robust flood protections — knock on wood — are built to keep water out or contained. Most recently, they did their job during the record-setting flooding of March 2019 that turned neighboring towns to islands and caused, so far, hundreds of millions in damage to homes, roads, bridges, fields and livestock. We look in greater detail at the protections in place that guard Omaha. Sources: National Weather Service; City of Omaha; City of Council Bluffs; Papio-Missouri River Natural Resources District; World-Herald archives.