By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
People don’t often think about flooding in landlocked neighborhoods, nowhere near a river or ocean. But storm water floods can cause a heap of damage, as Bonnie Miles, a retired Veteran in Roanoke, Virginia, recently learned.
Miles was a first time home buyer as of September 1, 2018. When the remnants of Hurricane Michael dumped heavy rainfall in Virginia on October 11, four feet of flood waters destroyed Miles’ newly renovated home.
According to local reports, storm water flowed from some vacant lots uphill from Quail Ridge Court. A neighbor snapped a photo of a waterfall flowing over a retaining wall, and its next stop was Mile’s tiny back yard. The force of flood waters blew out some windows in her sunroom, then flowed through her home.
Flood water ruined most of the homeowner’s belongings, and made the house uninhabitable.
Miles’ did not have flood insurance, because she was told her home is not in a flood zone. However, storm water floods can happen just about anywhere, especially if the water management system is poorly designed or not property maintained.
The water flowed from an uphill. But the property owner, FYG Properties LLC, says Quail Ridge Court HOA was supposed to install a 24-in back up drainage pipe to handle overflow from the uphill property’s system.
An HOA board member says the storm pipe was supposed to be installed in 2011, but that never happened. No one seems to know why.
Now Miles has to pay her mortgage, taxes, insurance premiums, and $175 month condo HOA fees, even though she cannot live in her home.
She’d like to get started repairing her home, but hesitates doing so until Quail Ridge Court HOA installs necessary storm water control equipment, and replaces a broken storm pipe down the street from her home.
Miles’ neighbors set up two fund raisers to help her repair her home and replace her belongings. So far, they have raised more than $23,000.
CASEY: Disabled vet’s ‘forever home’ got slammed by October flood
Less than 6 weeks after moving into her dream house near Hunting Hills, Bonnie Miles was forced out by four feet of floodwaters that ruined her new appliances, spoiled her walls and floors, and destroyed her furniture and other belongings. Miles’ insurance company and everyone else are disclaiming responsibility.
By Dan Casey firstname.lastname@example.org 981-3423 Nov 14, 2018
As Bonnie Miles watched the television news Oct. 11 about hurricane damage in Florida, she heard a loud thud in the rear of her south Roanoke County patio home. The 20-year U.S. Navy veteran went to her master bedroom, where she saw water pouring through crevices of the door to her back yard.
Next she checked her sunroom, also in the rear. Somehow, nearly four feet of water had collected in the small, walled-in courtyard behind her home. It pushed inward, buckling the metal-framed glass sunroom wall.
“I watched the sunroom windows implode,” Miles, 57, said.
Read more: (see photos of flood damage)
Here’s a follow up article —
CASEY: Contributions for flooded veteran top $23,000
Many tens of thousands more are needed to help Bonnie Miles get back into her recently purchased, newly renovated patio home, which was ruined in a freak flood for which nobody seems willing to accept responsibility.
By Dan Casey email@example.com 981-3423 November 28, 2018
A couple weeks ago, I told you the plight of Bonnie Miles, a disabled 20-year Navy veteran flooded out of her Roanoke County patio home. The torrent of water appeared as remnants of Hurricane Michael swept through the Roanoke Valley in October.
Runoff from a nearby hillside in Hunting Hills collected in Miles’ small walled-in back yard. Rising to nearly 4 feet against the back of her home, the water burst through her rear sunroom windows and poured into the house. The flood occurred just six weeks after she’d put the finishing touches on $50,000 in renovations and moved into the house.
Miles’ insurance company, the Quail Ridge Homeowner’s Association and a developer who owns the adjacent hillside each denied responsibility. That left Miles on the hook for her mortgage, renovation loan, taxes and HOA fees for a house in which she can’t live. Roanoke County’s real estate assessor cut the property assessment from $266,600 to $130,500.
Townhouses at bottom of steep hillside
An image of Quail Ridge Court on Google Maps tells the story. A retaining wall literally holds up the hillside above, dotted with an evergreen hedge on this photo.
Because Quail Ridge Court homes are attached, there are only two narrow openings for water to drain from the uphill cul-de-sac of Quail Ridge Circle.
So it’s easy to see that, if a storm pipe from above gets clogged, storm water overflow ends up in someone’s back yard. If you look carefully, you can see the top edge of the retaining wall. It sits only a few feet from each townhouse.
You can also see the vacant lots owned by FYG Properties LLC, referenced in both of Casey’s articles.
Developer long gone
The original developer of Quail Ridge Court reportedly sold those uphill vacant lots to FYG, and turned over control to the homeowners years ago.
Did either developer know about the inadequate drainage system at the time? Housing consumers may never know.
The source articles posted above note another important fact. FYG acknowledges that the hillside he owns is a landslide risk, and the developer must promptly address this hazard.
It’s unclear who owns the tall retaining wall system. Is it the responsibility of Quail Ridge Court HOA or FYG Properties LLC?
Along with the risk of future flooding due to inadequate stormwater management, homeowners and residents might also be concerned about a possible catastrophic failure of the retaining wall.
Quail Ridge is no Monte Carlo
Reading these articles, and viewing limited photos of Quail Ridge in Cave Spring, I was reminded of my 2012 trip to Monte Carlo in Monaco.
Like the ward of Monte Carlo, the grade changes between densely built Quail Ridge Circle (uphill) and Quail Ridge Court (downhill) are quite severe.
But the rocky, hilly ward of Monte Carlo, famous as tax haven playground for millionaires, has endured for more than a century.
Although surrounding areas of the French Riviera experienced catastrophic floods in 2015, Monte Carlo remained unscathed.
Take a look at some of the photos I took in Monte Carlo. The neighborhood is remarkably well-engineered and constructed. Its complex system of roads and pedestrian walkways wind up the steep, rocky hillside.
Public elevators transport pedestrians who want to avoid steep stair cases or curvilinear elevated sidewalks on their trek up or downhill.
Click on any image to enlarge.
Clearly, Cave Spring, Virginia is no Monte Carlo.
According to a CNBC report, price per square foot in Monte Carlo is somewhere in the range of $5,300 to $6,000.
Price per square foot in Quail Ridge Court is far less, somewhere in the range of $100 – $120 per square foot.
Obviously, developers of modestly-priced, “affordable” homes aren’t going to build retaining wall and storm water management systems to the same high standards found in Monte Carlo.
So maybe it’s not such a good idea for local governments to approve residential or commercial development with severe grade changes and potentially unstable hillsides.
Storm water drainage and landslide risk go hand-in-hand. And the risk is more common than you may think.
Landslide risks for homeowners and HOAs:
$3M HOA assessment looming for NJ condo owners
Tips for home buyers
Even if you’re not in a flood zone, consider buying flood insurance with storm water-related coverage for damages.
Make sure there’s plenty of room for water to flow away from the home you intend to purchase. Confirm that the grade of the lawn, patio, or driveway slopes away from the home, not toward the home.
Don’t assume that retaining walls will stop a flood or hold up a hillside. Be wary of cracks and signs that the wall may be leaning downhill.
Explore the condition of upstream and downstream storm water ponds and reservoirs. Visit the neighborhood during a rain event, and observe where the water flows.
Before making an offer to purchase, talk to current homeowners and ask about the history of flood and landslide hazards in the neighborhood.