Clarks Creek Property Acquisition Project
Pierce County was awarded a Flood Mitigation Assistance grant from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in 2022 to acquire the House of Tomorrow. Located along Clarks Creek in unincorporated Pierce County, this property floods regularly, resulting in repetitive flood loss damages.
This voluntary property acquisition and removal of the house structure from the flood hazard area will eliminate future flood loss damages. With Pierce County’s purchase of the property, the homeowner will also be able to relocate.
The House of Tomorrow meets the criteria for historical significance; however, it is not on the Pierce County nor the National Historical Register list. The house was built in 1938 in a Streamline Moderne style by designer Bert Smyser. Numerous flooding events have damaged the house, and the current and past property owners have filed several flood damage insurance claims over the years.
Through Pierce County’s Property Acquisition Program, the County purchases flood-prone and flood-damaged properties from willing sellers to eliminate flood damages. Acquisitions are funded through various sources, including Pierce County and FEMA.
FEMA determined the relocation of the house as neither cost-effective nor practical. Therefore, FEMA would only fund the grant if the house is removed by demolition.
- The house is located in the floodway and floodplain.
- Pierce County is also considering the voluntary acquisition of the adjacent vacant lot to the south, which the property owner also owns. This lot only has a small segment that lies in the floodplain.
- PPW-SWM received approval via Council Resolution (R2018-66) in May 2018 to pursue the acquisition of the properties.
FEMA conducted an Environmental Historical and Preservation review and coordinated with several historical entities to find a solution — a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with eight stakeholder signatories. Under the MOA, Pierce County will work closely with the following signatories
- Washington Emergency Management Division
- Washington State Department of Archaeology and Historic Preservation (DAHP)
- Pierce County Landmarks and Historic Preservation Commission
- Washington Trust of Historic Preservation
- Docomomo US/WEWA
- Puyallup Historical Society
As part of the MOA, Pierce County will perform the following tasks before removing the house:
- Complete thorough documentation of the House of Tomorrow's architectural and landscaping features.
- Host an open house for interested parties.
- Produce high-quality digital images and detailed written history and description of the historic property, including historical research on Bert Smyser, the House of Tomorrow’s designer, builder, and original owner.
- Profile of Bert Smyser (available on the DAHP and Docomomo US/WEWA websites)
- Portfolio of the Design and Architecture Work of Bert Smyser (also available on the DAHP's WISAARD website)
- Purchase the house and property from the current owner voluntarily.
- Stabilize the site by removing structures from the site and conducting minor grading and planting. As a result, the property will be allowed to permanently revert to natural riparian floodplain open space.
Permits are required to remove the house from the property, and the County has obtained a demolition permit and completed a shoreline variance review. This project also completed the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA) process.
Cultural Resources Consultant:
- Environmental Science Associates (ESA)
- Northwest Vernacular (sub-consultant)
- Richaven, Architecture & Preservation (sub-consultant)
- Maul Foster & Alongi
MOA task work is anticipated to begin in July 2022. We estimate that completing the MOA tasks could take about a year.
Once most of the MOA tasks are satisfactorily completed, Pierce County can then start the process of purchasing the property. The purchasing of the property will take several months.
Funding for this project comes from:
- FEMA and Washington Emergency Management Division Flood Mitigation Assistance grant funding (CFDA #: 97.029 (Flood Mitigation Assistance)): $602,250
- Pierce County’s Property Acquisition Program allows the County to purchase flood-prone and flood damaged properties from willing sellers to eliminate future flood damages. Acquisitions are funded through various sources, including FEMA, Pierce County Surface Water Management Funds, Pierce County’s Real Estate Excise Tax, and the Pierce County Flood Control Zone District.
The House of Tomorrow is located in the floodway of Clarks Creek, which is near Puyallup, in unincorporated Pierce County, Washington.
This webpage does not constitute an endorsement by FEMA or reflect FEMA’s views.