By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Water management and flood control are serious issues faced by municipalities and counties all across the country, and not just in coastal communities. Much flooding and property damage in recent years has been the result of poorly designed or maintained storm water infrastructure.
Homeowners Associations are almost always responsible for water management within their subdivisions. That means HOA members are financially responsible for maintaining and repairing storm drainage systems and in private or planned communities. The HOA board is expected to make certain that the working parts of the system are regularly inspected and maintained.
The problem is, very few homeowners have the technical knowledge required for this duty. State agencies responsible for water or flood management should be offering administrative support and direction to HOAs, but quite often, local or state officials do not get involved until after catastrophic flooding occurs.
Then homeowners and county or municipal officials start pointing fingers at each other to DO something to prevent future flooding.
In many cases, homeowners end up with little or no assistance. But some communities are working with affected homeowner to create special tax districts to help finance repair and rebuilding of critical water management infrastructure.
Three examples follow.
In Rankin County, Mississippi, homeowners in the Mill Creek community are fed up, following the floods of April 2017. WJTV reports that Mill Creek HOA has decided to sue the county, in an attempt to get them to take responsibility for the drainage system.
Although Rankin County has begun to remove debris from a creek that runs behind several homes in the neighborhood, homeowners also want the county to take over the storm drains, something the county has refused to do.
Readers of this blog know that nearly every HOA has been created by local governments with the requirement that the Association maintain their own storm drains, gutters, curbing, catch basins, dams, and any other related working parts of the storm water system. In fact, dumping administrative and financial maintenance of storm water management onto private homeowners is one of the reasons so many local governments encourage or mandate that homeowners associations be established for all new housing development.
That way, the local government can retain more of your property tax dollars, by limiting the level of service it provides to homeowners in association-governed communities.
So Mill Creek HOA is likely to encounter fierce resistance from Rankin County on this issue.
Homeowners file lawsuit against Rankin County (MS)
By Andrew Nomura
Published: June 28, 2017, 10:20 pm
RANKIN COUNTY, Miss. (WJTV) — Homeowners in the Mill Creek subdivision are suing Rankin County over drainage issues.
Mike Cobb is the homeowners association vice president.
He says some members of the community are fed up with drainage problems.
“We have been complaining about the drainage system being the responsibility of the county and the county has refused to accept that responsibility,” said Cobb.
WJTV obtained documents that detail the lawsuit that was filed in 2015.
One part of the complaint claims plaintiffs asked the board of supervisors to maintain the drains, but the supervisors rejected the request.
We spoke to the supervisor of the area Daniel Cross about the pending lawsuit.
“Our legal teams are talking to the appropriate parties and they won’t let us discuss it right now, but hopefully it will sort itself out and we can move,” said Cross.
Transcript and Video:
According to WIS-TV, in Richland County, South Carolina, near Columbia, a dozen HOA lake communities have not been able to raise the money needed to rebuild dams that were breached in the floods of 2015. Several have decided to abandon their lakes and allow the land to return to natural stream beds and marshlands, making it possible for the Department of Transportation (DOT) to finally rebuild public roads that had been built on top of privately owned dams.
Neither the state nor the County has offered to assist homeowners with rebuilding private dams. However, state Legislators are working on new laws that would give Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) more authority to oversee long term maintenance of private dams.
WISTV: Lakes become wastelands in flood stricken communities (SC)
Wednesday, July 5th 2017, 4:48 pm EDT
Wednesday, July 5th 2017, 5:14 pm EDT
By Allie Spillyards, Anchor/Reporter
Close to two years after more than 50 dams breached in the October 2015 flood, the Department of Transportation says nearly a dozen privately owned dams still sit in limbo.
Others have already made the decision not to rebuild. At Pine Tree Lake in the Gills Creek Watershed, the Department of Health and Environmental Control says the owners have proposed removing the dam.
In cases like those, DHEC says the lake’s allowed to return to its natural state. For many, that’s a creek or stream surrounded by a meadow that could grow into the forest over the years.
Read more (Video):
The Henry Herald reports that the Board of Commissioners (BOC) has passed an ordinance this will give HOA property owners the option of creating a Special Tax District to help pay for repair of high hazard dams. If the requisite number of homeowners vote in favor of creating a Special Tax District (at least a majority), the BOC will finance needed repairs with bonds, and tax homeowners to pay back the debt over 20-30 years.
Note that this potential solution still requires HOA property owners to pay for the work, without any financial contribution from public tax dollars.
Homeowners that choose not to approve a tax district will likely have to breach their dam and drain their lake.
Special tax district for dam repairs, rehab up for vote by Henry County BOC
By Asia Ashley, The Henry Herald
Jun 22, 2017 (0)
McDONOUGH — Homeowner associations and communities throughout Henry County will have the option of becoming part of a special tax district that would help pay for dam repairs and rehabilitation in or near their neighborhoods. The STD would be the first of its kind in the state.
The tax district would apply to communities that border lakes and would be applicable to Category 1 dams — dams that can cause loss of human life — and Category 2 dams, which are those that have the potential to impact county roads or other public infrastructure. Properties within the district would be taxed to pay for bonds acquired by Henry County to assist property owners in dam rehabilitation and repair.
Since lakes and dams are private property, the county cannot use county funds to pay for the efforts. It can, however, enact a county ordinance and acquire bonds to assist the communities in doing so. Plans have been in the works since 2013.
“This provides us a way of helping ourselves, so that we can pay for it over time,” said Blake Turner, of Lake Dow Estates during Tuesday’s Board of Commissioners meeting. “So we are able to take care of this dam in a good, timely fashion, one that will last for a long long time.”
There are nearly 30 Category 1 and just over 50 Category 2 dams in Henry County, according to the draft ordinance.