Bulk of Ellicott City flood grants from Howard County program going to business owners

Howard County is expected to award at least $141,563 in grants to those whose properties were damaged by the deadly, catastrophic flood that ripped through historic Ellicott City in May 2018.

The grant program was announced earlier this year by County Executive Calvin Ball. Property owners were able to apply for the grants if they fulfilled certain requirements, including being in one of the three flood zones dictated by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.


Applicants’ properties were also supposed to exist in certain watersheds in “Valley Mede, Chatham, Dunloggin, Historic Ellicott City as well as communities off Frederick Road, Old Columbia Pike and New Cut Road” and have “flood water inundation of less than 6 feet,” a press release said.

At least 33 of the 35 properties awarded grants lie either partly or fully in the three zones. One property exists squarely outside of the zones, according to an analysis of records obtained through a public records request.

One of the properties is owned by a company tied to local developer Don Reuwer.

“Because the flood depths were so much greater on lower Main Street, the areal extent of the water exceeded the standard FEMA zones. So, while the FEMA flood designation was a guide, it was not strictly the only criterion used to determine eligibility,” Ball spokesman Scott Peterson said in a statement.

An Ellicott City shop owner says an offer by Howard County to buy her property was insufficient. The county may invoke eminent domain to take the building.

“The building in question had flood damage from water from the Tiber rising up from Main Street to Old Columbia Pike on the front side, and flood water entering the rear of the structure from the Tiber directly since the structure sits on the stream channel wall.”

Properties affiliated with Reuwer’s primary company, Waverly Real Estate Group, received at least $34,532 in grants — approximately 24% of the total money being awarded. Records show that of the 39 applications filed, eight came from companies tied to Reuwer.

In his applications, Reuwer said his company spent $611,280 in repairs at the eight properties after the 2018 flood.

Of the 39 properties that applied for the program, only four were rejected. County officials noted two had work completed prior to the flood last year and two proposed work that was not on the primary structure. In public announcements, county officials stipulated the work had to be done after the 2018 flood.

The combined total of the applicants’ projects was $851,788. Officials previously said the county would only award grants for half of what each project cost and would be capped at $5,000.

Funding for the program comes from an appropriation from the county general fund, and money is dispersed to the awardees “when the appropriate work is completed and proof of payment for work rendered is received [by] the county,” Peterson said.