Storm water management a costly headache for HOAs, homeowners

Homeowners at mercy of developers, local government, & regulatory agencies


By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


As you read these stories, consider this. Every one of these association-governed common interest communities was approved by city or county elected officials, despite their proximity to watershed areas, and with full knowledge of possible adverse site conditions. 

If steps were taken at the time of construction to improve soil stability, water quality, or longevity of the water management systems, it appears those efforts to prevent failure were temporary or ineffective.

Additionally, subsequent construction in the area, and a history difficult or negligent maintenance have created many dysfunctional stormwater systems across the nation.

In most cases, failure of the system occurs after the developer is long gone, having already reaped profits from selling homes. And even though local governments have collected millions in tax revenue, homeowners bear the brunt of financial risk, in addition to a loss in property value. 

Falling in the Creek: Lake Highlands condo owners ask city for help with erosion (TX)

Bradley Blackburn, WFAA 10:24 PM. CST February 19, 2018

DALLAS – Condo owners are asking for help to address an erosion problem they worry is damaging their building.

“We’re losing trees, we’re losing ground, and it’s getting closer and closer to our building,” said Patricia Rogers, president of the HOA at the Oakhollow Condominium.

One building in the complex backs up to Jackson Creek, and Rogers said that erosion has swallowed up ground, trees and a fence. Owners say cracks in the building are a result of a shifting foundation.

“You can literally put your hand in some of the cracks that we have here,” said resident Mark Brizendine.

Rogers said the City of Dallas had a plan to address the issue. She showed WFAA emails dating back years, with messages from city officials indicating that there were funds from a bond to build a retaining wall. The emails said the process could take “up to 18 months,” but that was two years ago.

Read more (Video):

Condo owners in the Lake Highlands area of Texas are worried about severe property damage caused by erosion of soils along Jackson Creek. The City of Dallas has responsibility to maintain the creek as part of its stormwater management system. 

According to WFAA, two years ago, Dallas officials promised to issue a bond and begin making repairs to the creek, including construction of a retaining wall. But since that time, no action has been taken. 

Huge cracks have appeared in the structure of Oakhollow condominium. When the City eventually addresses the erosion problem, condo owners will be stuck with expensive repairs, or the possibility of irreparable damage if conditions get worse before the City steps in. 

The condo owners might attempt to sue the City for its failure to timely address the erosion, but litigation could take years, and the outcome would be uncertain. 

A dry lake, location unknown. (
Scientist to study why Wildwood lake won’t hold water (MO)

By Mary Shapiro Special to the Post-Dispatch Feb 13, 2018

WILDWOOD • The City Council here on Monday approved a contract for a geophysical study of the large lake area in the Harbors at Lake Chesterfield subdivision to determine why it has drained.

The study will be done by Neil Anderson, geophysics professor at Missouri University of Science and Technology. The $35,000 cost will be paid with city and homeowners’ association funds.

Joe Vujnich, the city’s director of planning and parks, said the subdivision homeowners association has, over many years, tried to find out why the large lake continues to leak and drain. Anderson will provide recommendations for the lake’s long-term, permanent repair.

Vujnich said the subdivision has in the past tried to resolve problems after the lake has repeatedly drained, including after a recent repair.

Read more (Video):

Lake Chesterfield Homeowners’ Association’s crown jewel used to be its lake, as you can see from photos on their website.

But according to reports, the lake has been draining itself repeatedly for 14 years. The HOA has spent “hundreds of thousands of dollars” attempting to repair the lakebed so it will hold water, but nothing has worked. Now a local university expert has agreed to help them determine the cause of the leak, and identify possible remedies. This time city is contributing to the scientific study fo the lake. 

According to a previous report in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Lake Chesterfield was built as a 22-acre stormwater detention pond in the 1980s. The lake drained completely in 2004 and 2013, apparently due to sinkholes opening up in an area known for its limestone soils. 

Members of the community of more than 600 homes and several dozen condos have been assessed thousands of dollars over the years in an attempt to repair the dam and sinkholes, and to restock the lake with fish. Some believe the lake should be filled in, but the state of Missouri requires that the area must remain as a catchment basin for storm water management. 

A marshy swamp, location unknown (

By Justin McKee – February 13, 2018 6:35 PM

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY) — Once a fully functioning wetland at Tonbo Meadow in Wilmington, now a “mucky mess” as big rains cause mud from a ditch along Greenville Loop Road to flow into it.

City crews had recently cleaned the ditch of vegetation and debris to curb flooding risk in the area.

Developer Pamela Fasse says the wetland won’t work like it’s supposed to and she is not happy.

“When you fill up a wetland with mud, with erosion, it renders it useless, so it’s a non-functioning wetland. It has to be redone. That’s very expensive, and it’s sad, because the wetland plants thrive and get better and better as they continue to grow,” said Fasse.

Wetlands serve as a natural way to clean stormwater before it gets to bigger waterways. Tonbo Meadow’s wetland drains into Hewlett’s Creek.

Fasse blames the City of Wilmington for what happened. She and Tonbo Meadow’s homeowners hope for a solution

Read more (Video):

In this case, the developer, Pamela Fasse, is still in control of the HOA. Fasse says that recent maintenance of a storm ditch by the City of Wilmington has resulted in damage to the wetland drainage basin she developed to manage stormwater on the site of Tonbo Meadow Condominiums. 

The City may step up and help to repair the wetland. But there’s no guarantee that the wetland system won’t be damaged again, due to poor maintenance of upstream storm water systems maintained by Wilmington or any other nearby property owners. 

The developer could have installed a stormwater pipe instead of a wetland, but chose the wetland in order to naturally clean storm water runoff before it enters Hewlett’s Creek. Either way, the future homeowners will be on the hook for maintaining a system that receives a high volume of stormwater from upstream. 

Wetland, unknown location (
Condo builder fined for illegally filling wetlands

February 12, 2018

NAPLES — A development firm accused of illegally filling in more than an acre of wetlands for a high-end Naples condo project is on the hook for $400,000 in fines and payments.

Federal officials contend the developer, under the names Lodge/Abbott Investments Associates LLC and Lodge/Abbott Associates LLC, didn’t obtain a permit from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the work in north Naples. The work, according to a statement from the U.S. Attorney’s office was for “Tower 200, one of five towers comprising a high-end condominium development known as ‘Kalea Bay.’” The developers, officials allege in the statement, “filled over an acre of high quality wetlands that abut and function in close proximity to the tidal waters of Wiggins Pass and the Cocohatchee River in Naples.”

The actions of the developers, say officials, are in violation of the Clean Water Act, which requires Corps of Engineers approval before development projects can take place in protected areas. Federal prosecutors submitted a proposed consent decree that would resolve the allegations, the Feb. 9 release states. Under the proposed consent decree, the developers are required to pay a $350,000 civil penalty. To offset the environmental impact of the alleged violations, the developers have also purchased some $54,000 in mitigation credits from a Corps-approved wetlands mitigation bank, the release adds.

At first glance, a $400,000 penalty might seem like a substantial price to pay for filling in a wetland. But for developers of a multimillion dollar condominium tower community, it’s a drop in the bucket. 

Did developers decide to fill in the wetland, in violation of the Clean Water Act, and then ask for forgiveness later?

While fabulously wealthy future condo owners won’t have to maintain a sensitive wetland area, their downstream neighbors could end up paying the price when their properties flood from higher volume of storm water flow.  And since Kalea Bay won’t be filtering its own storm water, residents in riverside communities could also see lower property values due to their proximity to polluted waters. 

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