Beyond Hurricane Harvey: How can US prevent devastation from floods?

Has overdevelopment of planned communities (HOAs) and condominiums created more homes in flood zones, placing millions of US residents in harm’s way?

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


Fact: The vast majority of new development in the past 30 years has created hundreds of thousands of densely populate common interest communities, governed by homeowner, condominium, or cooperative associations.

These developer-centric “communities” created urban centers and suburban tract home neighborhoods with higher population densities, squeezed onto relatively small parcels of land. Local governments expanded their property tax bases, while mass market and regional developers increased their profits.

But, in the end, homeowners and residents have to deal with ever-increasing problems with poor water management: localized or catastrophic flooding, soil erosion, destruction of dams, roads, and bridges, and loss of personal property.

Critics have been sounding the alarms for decades about climate change, and rampant development of new homes on or near wetlands, watershed areas, and coastal regions. Engineers and scientists in the know have warned that dense construction creates too many hard, nonporous surfaces, creating excessive storm water runoff with no opportunity to be absorbed by soft soil.

But, by and large, policy makers at the local level have not been listening. Or perhaps they have chosen to ignore or deny the facts, in the name of economic development and growing the population of their municipalities and counties.

Houston is a prime example of what happens when a city fails to plan for the realities of the future, allowing land developers to build just about whatever they want, wherever they can, based upon outdated, fake science flood maps to convince lenders – and home buyers – that nearly 80% of new properties are not at risk for loss.

Still other experts opine that FEMA’s federally subsidized National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) has created incentives for new development in flood-prone areas – and flood risk is not just limited to coastal zones. They argue for gradually ending NFIP, and moving flood insurance to the private sector, to deter home buyers from buying homes in risky locations, and to discourage home builders from locating new development in low-lying flood zones. (See reference editorials below.)

To drive home the point that water management and flood prevention go beyond the Gulf or Atlantic coastline, see the following article about a condo association in the Dallas-Fort Worth region, published just days before Harvey hit Corpus Cristi and Houston.

Nine times out of ten, homeowners have no idea that they are buying into a private financial obligation to manage and maintain storm water infrastructure within their own communities. In Lakeside Landing Phase I, townhome owners will likely see their monthly assessment triple, in order to pay for $1.5 million in repairs to their drainage canal and adjacent shoreline and retaining walls. The townhomes are literally sinking and sliding toward the canal.

Even if repaired to a stable system, how likely is this community to avoid a flood in the future?


Homeowner Association Fees Could Triple to Fund Creek Fix (Texas)

Irving homeowners say they can’t live with problems, can’t afford solution

Published at 10:42 PM CDT on Aug 22, 2017 | Updated at 1:29 PM CDT on Aug 23, 2017

By Scott Gordon

Homeowner association fees could triple under a $1.5 million plan to fix an erosion issue along an Irving creek – an expensive project that residents say is needed but they cannot afford.

People who live in the Lakeside Landing townhomes near Walnut Hill and Storey Lane say they were attracted by the beautiful view of the waterway that runs through it.

“It used to be pretty to sit out and enjoy it,” said Kimberly Roediger, who moved in six years ago. “But now, it’s just stressful.”

She said the homes are slowly sinking into the creek.

Retaining walls are slumped over, the parking lot is full of cracks and Roediger’s back porch is warped.

To fix the erosion issue, mandatory association dues for Roediger, who is unemployed, could increase from $231 per month to $675, she said.

Read more (Video):


Little by little, news is beginning to spread. In Louisiana, a state where it is all to common to have homes built on or near the bayou, and the site of Hurricane Katrina’s landfall in 2005, citizens are beginning to object to new development.

Homeowners want to know why their city leaders would approve construction of 425 new homes on land that was flooded as recently as August of 2016. And they wonder where all that water will go if the new community is constructed without adequate storm water drainage.

Two HOA presidents are among the vocal critics. Obviously, they get it. They understand that retention ponds are difficult and expensive to maintain, and that, over time, they tend to fail.

Whatever the engineering study determines now, it will not apply in 10 to 20 years.


Citizens taking action (Louisiana)

Shenandoah homeowners raise concerns over proposed subdivision

Cheryl Mercedes 08/22/2017 10:40 PM

BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) – 9News has learned a local developer has big plans for Baton Rouge’s Shenandoah neighborhood.

If the plans are approved, it will become the largest subdivision in East Baton Rouge Parish in recent history, but some longtime homeowners in that neighborhood say it has them worried.

The land has been cleared. The road has been widened. Jones Creek is ready for development, but many folks who live nearby are saying, “Not so fast.”

Keith Schultz, president of the Shenandoah Hills Homeowners Association, says residents are sounding off on social media. Their neighborhood is right across the street from a proposed 425 lot neighborhood called The Lakes at Jones Creek. The area was under water during the August flooding of 2016. Schultz says a lot of the houses in his subdivision, and several others in the area, took on water too. He’s concerned a new subdivision will only make matters worse next time.

“I know it flooded, so it has to be built up to protect those new homes, and once you do that, the water has to go somewhere else, and naturally we think it will come this way,” said Schultz.

“We are convinced based on the engineering that we’ve done that the flooding will be contained within the property. It’s not going to increase the impact to them at all,” Duplechain said.

M.E. Cormier, president of the Woodland Ridge Homeowners’ Association, said the plan is flawed and vowed to pack next month’s Planning Commission meeting with concerned neighbors.

“Retention ponds over time develop debris and become less efficient, and that is guaranteed to happen and will continue to happen no matter their drainage system, no matter their engineering studies,” Cormier said.

Read more:


Every time a new neighborhood is developed next to an existing neighborhood, tons and tons of soil is shipped in to raise the elevation of the new community. Then storm water accumulates in downhill neighborhoods with older, outmoded retention ponds that cannot absorb the extra water volume.

That is the concern of Floridian homeowners in Manatee County. Of course, county leaders and developers will deny up, down, and backwards that new construction has led to flooding in existing communities. But more and more homeowners in the US are not convinced by the “science” used to support new development that benefits home builders and local governments at the expense of taxpayers and homeowners.

After all, engineers and scientists were dead wrong about the flood risk in the Houston metro area.


Flooding problems in Manatee County blamed on new construction (Florida)

News Channel 8 Reporter Jeff Patterson
By Jeff Patterson
Published: August 29, 2017, 5:58 pm Updated: August 29, 2017, 10:25 pm

MANATEE COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – Bob Labranche dripped with sweat Tuesday morning as he ran a shop vac on the floors of his home in the Centre Lake subdivision in Manatee County.

Labranche was in his home Saturday night when the flood water started to enter his neighborhood.

He grabbed clothing, his wife took the family dog, and they waded out of the neighborhood in waist-deep water.

Seven inches of water entered his home, ruining furniture, walls and other belongings.

Read more (Video):


Reference articles:

In Storm-Tossed Houston Area, Most Homeowners Lack Flood Insurance (NPR)

Opinion: Harvey’s ravaging of Houston is perfect reason to kill the flood insurance program (Market Watch)

Lessons from Hurricane Harvey: Federal Flood Insurance is the Problem, Not the Solution (Forbes)



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