City refuses to help, and Hickory Hills Lake HOA not responding to homeowner concerns
By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Ralph Amodeo, a homeowner in Clive, Iowa, has a big problem that he didn’t cause and cannot fix. His Hickory Hills Lake home sits uphill from Walnut Creek, which runs through the city. In recent years, erosion from heavy rains has led to erosion along the creek, washing away portions of his back yard. Slowly but surely, he says, the land behind his home is sliding downhill toward the creek.
WHO-TV, Channel 13 video coverage seems to confirm those claims. Amodeo’s back yard shows a noticeable dip. A retaining wall, installed in the back yard by the homeowner, at a cost of $5,000, appears to stabilize the soil near his home — for now.
As more and more of his back yard disappears into Walnut Creek, Amodeo is concerned that his home’s foundation could be undermined by unchecked erosion.
The homeowner has contacted the City of Clive for assistance. Clive has recently completed erosion control along portions of Walnut Creek. But City Manager Matt McQuillen says that the portion of Walnut Creek behind Amodeo’s home is on “private” property. More precisely, the area behind several homes on 120th Street, where Amodeo lives, is common property owned by Hickory Hills Lake Association. The HOA is therefore responsible for maintenance of the creek and its shoreline, according to McQuillen.
Clive is a small city, population of less than 18,000, located near Des Moines. McQuillen says it lacks the funds to maintain all of its public infrastructure, and cannot spend tax dollars to assist private property owners — unless and until its city-owned sewer line suffers damage due erosion or normal wear and tear.
Incredibly, the city refuses to take a proactive role in preventing further erosion, and chooses to take a “wait and see” reactive stance. The City says it’s the HOA’s responsibility to take care of the erosion problem.
Bill Cappuccio, flood-plain management engineer for the Iowa Department of Natural Resources, confirms that there is no funding available to address erosion along privately-owned portions of Walnut Creek.
Hickory Hills Lake Association is registered as a business in the state of Iowa. Richard Krause, a commercial real estate broker in Clive, is listed as the HOA’s agent. No other consumer information about the HOA is readily available. And Krause didn’t respond to media requests for information.
Clive Homeowner Fears Erosion, Little Help In Sight.
POSTED 5:01 PM, MARCH 28, 2018, BY JERAD GIOTTONINI, UPDATED AT 10:11PM, MARCH 28, 2018
CLIVE, Iowa– More rain means more erosion problems for a group of homeowners in Clive.
At least one homeowner is worried he could lose his home.
Ralph Amodeo used to enjoy picking fruit off his mulberry tree.
“My yard used to go up to that and that was all grass up to there and all the way across you can look across and see how much of it is gone,” Ralph Amodeo from Clive said.
Now half his yard is gone, and his tree is inaccessible.
Amadeo blames erosion, that’s caused in part by heavy rain.
“My biggest fear is that I am going to be laying there one night and I am going to hear a crack and go for a ride down the hill,” Amodeo said.
Amodeo isn’t the only one, six other properties on a stretch of 120th are experiencing erosion too.
Read more (Video):
A Clive man fears that erosion will slide his home into Walnut Creek. So why can’t he get anyone to help stop it?
Lee Rood, email@example.com Published 9:10 a.m. CT March 28, 2018 | Updated 10:00 a.m. CT March 28, 2018
Des Moines Register
Ralph Amodeo’s worst fear is that erosion will send his home sliding down a hill.
Amodeo lives in Clive. His two-story house, built in 2001, sits in front of a creek. But since heavy rains a few years ago, the erosion has gotten much worse.
Six homes on his block on 120th Street are affected, but his appears to be deteriorating the fastest, he said.
“Every year, it goes down a little further,” the 64-year-old disabled man said. “I’m hoping we’re on a good footing. But I’m worried it might crack.”
Amodeo said he’s contacted Clive’s public works director, planning and zoning department and the mayor. He’s lost track of all the local, state and federal agencies he tried to contact before he wrote to the Reader’s Watchdog.
Here’s what’s not reported by local media.
If the City’s sewer line were to rupture, it would likely cause substantial additional erosion and damage to private property. So Clive taxpayers could be picking up the tab for an even larger emergency repair, compared to proactive control of erosion to prevent damage to the sewer line.
The City could be also be sued by homeowners and the Lake Association (or their insurance carriers) for refusing to maintain their sewer line easements, in order to prevent localized flooding. Taxpayers would foot the bill for litigation, too.
And, let’s not forget that the City authorized permits to build homes along this portion of Walnut Creek, and issued certificates of occupancy prior to the first sale of each home.
It can be argued that the City has unfairly burdened property owners with storm water management along Walnut Creek. Private homeowners associations are too often expected to fund and maintain major storm water infrastructure, despite their lack of access to professional engineers and construction managers, and their inability to pay for costly maintenance and repairs.
Property owners have been paying taxes on Hickory Hills Lake parcels since the subdivision’s establishment. It’s not as though Amodeo and his neighbors have not paid a penny to the City for public services.
And what about the HOA’s responsibility?
A logjam in a privately owned portion of Walnut Creek could lead to flooding upstream. Accumulation of debris and silt from unchecked erosion behind Amodeo’s home could lead to flooding downstream. It’s impossible to isolate stormwater system malfunction to an area behind six homes along a single street. The Lake Association could face litigation from lakeside homeowners or even third party property owners for damages cause by the HOA’s alleged negligence.
But how does a private citizen compel their lake homeowners’ association to apply for a permit?
Furthermore, given the complete lack of public transparency, and the absence of even basic information about Hickory Hills Lake Association, how are homeowners and potential home buyers in the subdivision supposed to evaluate the potential risk of earth movement that could have devastating effects on their property values?
And how can Amodeo and his neighbors hold Richard Krause and other members of their HOA board accountable, if the City and the Department of Natural Resources refuse to assist?