By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Every week I read several articles about homeowners coping with poor storm water drainage and its devastating effects. Erosion. Landslides. Potholes. Crumbling roads. Basement flooding. Muddy back yards. Malfunctioning retention ponds. Dams in need of repair.
Truth be told, most of these problems might have been avoided by proper planning and construction when subdivisions were built.
Engineering knowledge and proper construction methods can prevent poor drainage. That comes at considerable upfront cost. But all too often, it seems that cost-cutting measures result in new development that fails to meet optimum standards.
And that leaves many property owners wondering how some neighborhood storm water systems were able to pass county and municipal inspections.
Part of the cause appears to be that homebuilders want to squeeze too many homes on too little land, particularly in areas on or near slopes, creeks, lakes, or waterways.
The end result is that neighborhoods at the top of the hill drain their storm water toward their downhill neighbors.
In Traverse City, Michigan, storm drainage issues have been a hot topic for years, causing costly damage to private homes and common areas in planned developments.
But most homeowners and their HOAs simply cannot raise hundreds of thousands of dollars up front to repair or reconstruct their storm water systems and damaged roads.
In recent years, however, more and more County governments are creating Storm Water Drainage Districts. The County can finance construction and ongoing maintenance through tax assessments on affected properties, spreading the cost over the long term.
A majority of homeowners located within the boundaries of the proposed district must vote in favor of establishing the District. However, owners in several neighborhoods are not too thrilled with the prospect of paying new taxes now and in the future, especially since they believe it was the County’s negligence that led to the storm water problems in the first place.
Drains Debate In The Neighborhoods
January 7, 2016
By Nick Beadleston
A Grand Traverse County plan to create five drainage districts has led to pushback from homeowner groups.
Under the county’s plan, homeowners who fall within the proposed districts would pay a portion of the cost to construct and maintain the drains.
The county plans to create new drains and districts in Braemar Estates, Cedar Hills, Logan Hills and River Meadow neighborhoods and also repair a drain near Cass Road. Petitions to create the drainage districts – a requirement for the process – were initiated by the county road commission.
The districts are planned for “certain areas in the county where flooding is affecting our roadways and the right-of-way, and is creating hazardous conditions for the traveling public,” says Jim Cook, county road commission manager.
Jonathan Campbell, president of the Logan Hills Homeowners Association, asserts that the districts are a mechanism for the county to pay for previously neglected drains.
But Cook insists otherwise. “Some people think this is a money grab by the road commission and it just isn’t,” he says. “We’re going to pay just like everyone else.”
In response to the county’s plan, homeowners in Logan Hills and Maple Terrace, as well as in Bernmar Estates and Old Mission Estates, hired engineers in an attempt to create their own private solutions. Under their plans, special assessment districts would be created, payed (sic) for directly by homeowners and policed by Peninsula Township.
(And read the comments under this article, too!)
These homeowners still have a problem, and seem to be leaning in the direction of creating Special Assessments Districts for each affected neighborhood or HOA.
However, if you read carefully, you’ll notice that the Special Assessment Districts are also treated as taxes, and spread out over 20 years. The difference is that there appears to be no plan to fund long-term, ongoing maintenance.
So, of course, the local solution seems less expensive. But is it really? In 15-20 years, as storm water systems begin to mature due to normal wear and tear, they will be likely to require additional costly repairs, especially if maintenance is deferred – or nonexistent – for the next two decades.
I am puzzled by the fact that these homeowners do not seem to realize that both solutions – County or Township – result in new taxes for essential public services. A Special Assessment District is a unit of government, every bit as much as the County’s proposed Drainage District. It’s just a matter of which type of District can offer a better value for tax dollars. And the least expensive solution is not always the best value, in the long run.
Peninsula Township considers stormwater fix
Special assessments for two neighborhoods could solve soggy issues
BY JORDAN TRAVIS firstname.lastname@example.org Jan. 8, 2017
TRAVERSE CITY — Two Peninsula Township neighborhoods could get special assessment districts aimed at fixing persistent flooding problems.
The township is seeking public comment at a Jan. 10 hearing for the districts, one of which centers on Old Mission Estates and includes Braemar Drive with sections of Peninsula Drive and Nelson Road, according to a hearing notice. The other is centered on Logan Hills and is bound by McKinley Road to the north, Westwind Road to the east, Peninsula Drive to the west and nearly touches Mathison Road to the south.
Township Supervisor Rob Manigold said the districts will give residents more control than previously proposed drainage districts that targeted the same issues. They’ve been in the works for some time and are nearing completion.
“Everything seems to be very positive right now, the petitions are coming in at very high numbers, but this will be the opportunity for anybody who has objections to come to the next meeting,” he said.
Joe Quandt, an attorney and Old Mission Estates resident, said he and his neighbors want the special assessment district instead of a county drainage district the Grand Traverse County Road Commission sought in early 2016. They wanted a more narrowly tailored solution instead of drainage districts that could last in perpetuity and give residents too little control over future special assessments.