By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Eireann Mhor subdivision, located in Salisbury, Maryland, is a 25-year old neighborhood of middle, working class residents. The neighborhood and surrouding area has a history of flooding, said to be related to their poorly maintained, privately owned storm water system.
Like most homeowners’ associations in the U.S., there’s little to no money in reserve to begin making costly repairs. The HOA could consider a special assessment, but many of its homeowner members cannot afford steep up-front costs to bring their drainage system into compliance with city building codes.
Enter Mayor Jake Day of Salisbury. Day’s proposed solution is to hire a contractor and complete some of the deferred maintenance for the HOA, in order to bring the neighborhood’s system into compliance.
To pay for the work, the city plans to establish a special tax district to collect $158 from each Eireann Mhor homeowner on next year’s property tax bill, to reimburse the City for its work on drainage ditches. Salisbury has already begun the competitive bid process.
As usual, at least one Commissioner for the city expresses concern about “bailing out” an HOA, fearing that other HOAs will expect the same courtesy.
But Mayor Day points out that offering administrative support and an easier way to pay for needed repairs is preferable, and more effective, than imposing fines on the HOA.
Mayor Day is a Salisbury native and a relatively youthful municipal leader, who served on City Council at the age of 30 prior to being elected Mayor. His educational background in Architecture, Urban Design, and Environmental Policy influence his views that local government should play a limited role in supporting communities.
A “Smart Growth” and “Sustainable Growth” advocate, Day has historically emphasized revitalization of neighborhoods. So it’s not surprising that he favors assistance to Eireann Mhor.
The City director of infrastructure development, Amanda Pollack, envisions this as a “one time” public assistance solution. She fully expects Eireann Mhor homeowners to fund their HOA’s maintenance obligations going forward. It’s unclear how the City or the state of Maryland will ensure that any HOA will adequately fund their future infrastructure maintenance.
Note that an HOA self-funding model is in contrast to transitioning storm water management to the public sector, where the buying power of a City or County government might result in lower overall maitnenance costs through economies of scale.
Economies of scale can occur when costs per unit or individual are spread out over more taxpayers.
Salisbury is a small city with a diverse population of roughly 32,000 residents, but still much larger than the Eireann Mhor subidivision.
Another practical consideration: is it possible to isolate Eireann Mhor’s storm water management system from surrounding neighborhoods?
What if maintenance of Eireann Mhor’s storm ditches is just a temporary solution to flooding? What happens in a few more years when storm pipes do collapse, especially if the HOA continues to underfund its reserves?
Will flooding or environmental contamination of the subdividion’s storm water runoff migrate downstream, and cause future flooding for neighboring land and homeowners? Will the neighborhood’s infrastructure spill pollutants into the watershed that provides drinking water to the City or the region?
The issue is complicated by the fact that many homes in Maryland neighborhoods have been developed at low elevations that make them more vulnerable to flooding. That makes effective storm water management particularly challenging and expensive.
City plans to help neighborhood with flooding
Liz Holland, Salisbury Daily Times Published 7:00 a.m. ET July 6, 2018
A Salisbury subdivision that has experienced flooding during heavy rainstorms is expected to get some upfront financial help from the city to clean out clogged ditches.
The Eireann Mohr neighborhood on Dykes Road was cited for numerous maintenance violations to its stormwater system following an inspection in November 2016, Amanda Pollack, director of infrastructure and development, told City Council members at a July 2 work session.
The homeowners association hadn’t collected reserve funds to pay for infrastructure work, so members reached out to the city for help, she said.
The plan now is for the city to hire a contractor and pay for the necessary improvements. The city would be reimbursed by the property owners through special assessments that would be placed on their property tax bills.