Storm water flooding expensive for AZ HOAs, homeowners

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

Sentinel Shadows is a 47-home subdivision that sits at the base of ‘A’ Mountain, at the outer limits of Tucson, Arizona. The neighborhood dates back to the 1990s, although some homes were built as recently as 2006.

KVOA reports that homeowners in the small community experienced significant flood damage in July 2017. Because the subdivision is a common interest development governed by a homeowners’ association, property owners must maintain the storm water management system within Sentinel Shadows.

The problem, owners say, is that the design and construction of their community does not accommodate Arizona’s seasonal monsoon downpours. They say the slope of their private road diverts water toward homes instead of away from private property. Other homeowners say that, because the homes sit so close together — just a few feet of space in between each home — stormwater literally has nowhere to go, as it rushes down ‘A’ Mountain.

A former HOA President says the small community has already spent $13,000 to hire a hydrologist and make improvements to their storm water drainage system. But the work isn’t done yet, and homeowners will have to kick in more money to fully address the flooding problem.

Owners of homes in the path of rushing storm waters have already spent thousands of dollars cleaning up and repairing damages caused by flooding.

The developer is long gone, and, so far, the City of Tucson is not taking responsibility for their inspection process at the time Sentinel Shadows and many of its homes were built.

N4T Investigators: Flood Flaw

Posted: May 31, 2018 9:03 PM EDTUpdated: Jun 01, 2018 1:52 AM EDT
Written By Sam Salzwedel

TUCSON – Some homeowners believe their neighborhood was not designed to handle monsoon storms.

Tom Wallace’s house flooded during a storm last July.

“There’s clearly something wrong with how this was planned,” Wallace said.

He lives in the Sentinel Shadows neighborhood near ‘A’ Mountain. His home was built in 2006, around the peak of the housing bubble.

“Was anything being inspected?” Wallace asked. “I don’t know what happened with that process.”

Another woman filed a notice of claim against the city for her damages. She said there is no infrastructure to divert water around her house, which was also built in 2006.

Michael Ruse just stepped down as the HOA president. He said it was a 100-year storm that could not have been predicted.

Read more (Video):



A bit of research on the history of development at the base of ‘A’ Mountain turns up this Arizona Daily Star article from 2008.

New homes start near ‘A’ Mountain

Townhome project stirs fresh debate over desert clearing

By Tony Davis Arizona Daily Star

Jan 22, 2008

The land is cleared of all vegetation but one saguaro.

Three-foot-high mounds of fill dirt are piled up on the one-acre property, at the base of “A” Mountain. In May, the first two of a dozen upscale town houses are expected to be standing there.
For Mario Coelho, one of the development’s two partners, Sentinel Vistas will be an inner-city showcase. The homes will cost $430,000 to $699,000 — because the development’s quality will be high, he said: granite countertops, travertine bathtubs and showers, polished concrete floors and high-end ceiling fans. The colors will resemble those of original Tucson barrios: “vibrant, but not loud; we’re using the same theme, but toning it down.”

The first town house will have an elevator; the second, a dumbwaiter. The other partner is Richard Spreyser, a commercial real estate broker.

For neighbors, the prospect of a new development sparks a mix of acceptance, regret and frustration, given its location and the sensitivity of the surrounding desert. The project lies just north of an existing single-family home development of nearly 50 homes and across Sentinel Peak Road from an older neighborhood, Panorama Village Estates.

Read more:

So, a decade ago, neighbors in Sentinel Shadows were concerned about overdevelopment of open space, to build luxury townhomes nearby. At the time, according to sources in the article, the main concern was that new homes could spoil the view.

Conservationists were more concerned with preserving the desert wash area as a natural way to control floods in the monsoon season.

Perhaps construction on the site of Sentinel Vista created additional storm water flow, or silt and debris from the work site clogged narrow storm water pipes?

Perhaps no one in any of the three HOA-governed communities regularly maintained their private storm water infrastructure? To be fair, volunteer homeowner board members shouldn’t be expected to know how to manage storm water or how to correct the slope of private roads, particularly without any professional guidance.

Perhaps faulty design, careless construction work, and blissfully ignorant HOA boards all played a role in creating the predicament now faced by current homeowners of Sentinel Shadows.

But all of it could have been prevented. If only local and state government officials had more closely monitored construction. If only city staff had conducted regular inspections of private roads, storm basins, and wash areas — or had simply taken over ongoing maintenance in return for the property tax dollars they already collect from homeowners.

Or…dare I say…if only a natural wash at the base of ‘A’ mountain had not been developed at all.


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