By Kimberly Eiten

ELLICOTT CITY, Md. (WJZ) — Less than three months after deadly floodwaters blasted through Ellicott City, county leaders say they have a plan to protect the town from future disasters.

It would mean radical changes to Main Street and closings of local businesses, including Phoenix Emporium.

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County leaders would like to tear down 10 properties on Main Street to make room for water and eliminate the threat of another deadly flood.

“This is the best scenario that has the biggest impact, and does it in the shortest amount of time,” said Howard County Councilman Jon Weinstein. “It’s not that it’s perfect, but it is the best scenario.”

The plan is aimed at making the twice flood-ravaged town safer by tearing parts of it down.

County leaders say they want to demolish 10 buildings on the south side of Main Street, and 19 buildings total in the Historic District.

In their place, there would be a wider and deeper channel to take on heavy rain. But it’s also a heavy blow for business owners.

“We got through a flood in 2011, a CSX train derailment, and two massive flash flooding in the past two years,” said Mark Hemmis, owner of Phoenix Emporium.

Hemmis’ business is inside one of the properties on the take-down list.

He says the bar will celebrate 40 years in October.

Soon after, if his landlord sells to the county they’ll have to pack up.

“We’ll survive this. Figure out what’s next. Where the business is going to move to,” he said.

It’s the beginning phase of a five year, $40-50 million project.

The proposed building teardown has people talking, from restaurant regulars to small business owners.

“It’s just crazy to think that they would like, alright, we’ll just get rid of it,” Austin Shaw, a Main Street visitor said.

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“So, safety, if that is in fact a plan that will work and take care of that, seemingly people who do that for a living have thought that through, then that potentially could be a good thing,” said small business owner of Clayground, Michael Koplow.

The plan also involves adding two culverts to connect to the Tiber, and with that, taking down seven homes on the west end of Main Street.

The plan is a desperate attempt to prevent the kind of flooding that destroyed businesses and homes in 2016 and this past May.

“Those are tough conversations,” Howard County Executive Allan Kittleman said.

But Kittleman added that saving lives is the most important thing.

“We’ve lost four lives these last two floods. We cannot lose any more,” he said.

The idea is to wipe away everything from the old Caplan’s Department store down that way in the street.

But in the process, it could remove some of the charms that draws tourists, such as this mother and daughter duo, who visited for the first time Friday.

“We were looking inside some of the buildings that are closed now, down there, and just the interiors look so old and historic. They look really fascinating. I would love to see businesses back in there,” Kristen and Sarah Wronski said.

The county council has to approve the plan, then it could start as early as this winter.

County leaders say they don’t know where the money for it will come from, but they’re hoping the state and federal government will help out.

But if the plan is approved, construction could switch to demolition as early as this winter. If that happens, the concerns aren’t just about losing the customers those businesses on Main Street bring.

“Those are our friends,” Koplow said. “Those are people who’ve been here a really long time, and to see that go away, that is tremendously sad.”

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