Flood fears come true for homes near housing estate construction site – THE RANT

A photo submitted by Wellington Drive resident James McCarthy shows extensive flooding behind his home after a severe storm on May 14 that lasted around an hour. McCarthy and his neighbors argue that the flooding was the result of nearby land clearing to make way for the Glen at Cool Springs subdivision.

A fast and strong storm on May 14 brought unprecedented flooding to homes in the community of Westlake Downs, neighboring the new construction of Glen in Cool Springs

By Billy Liggett | [email protected]

When residents of the Westlake Downs community in West Sanford first voiced their opposition in November 2020 over plans for a nearby community of 131 homes on just 51 acres, their biggest concern was nature. “high-density” of the designs – the Glen at Cool Springs, they said, was “out of character” – built cheaper and more stacked compared to their existing homes.

Further down the list of complaints were drainage and flooding issues and a perceived disregard for environmental studies on stormwater management.

Fifteen months after Sanford City Council approved construction of the community over residents’ objections and a unanimous vote by the Sanford Planning Commission recommending the plans be rejected, residents on the north side of Wellington Drive have launched an inquiry on the cause of recent severe flooding at several homes and a neighborhood playground along the construction site.

Heavy rain that lasted around an hour on May 14 caused waist-deep flooding in the garden of James and Pamela McCarthy, and if they hadn’t risked injury that day pulling out sticks and other debris from an adjoining drainpipe, things could have been worse, they say. The McCarthys are convinced the flooding was the result of leveling the land and clearing 51 acres of trees behind their home, and at the time of this writing they have not been in contact with the contractors or land owners.

“There’s a lot of growth going on at Sanford, and we understand that and our concerns at the start of all of this were represented quite eloquently,” McCarthy said. “So we’re not against growth, but if you’re doing the work here, how about making sure the planning is handled properly?” Make sure this type of situation gets to this point in the first place. That’s really our problem at this point.

The Glen at Cool Springs is one of many new subdivisions either in the early stages of construction or planning in what is becoming a “population boom” not seen in Sanford in decades. In total, there are approximately 6,000 single family home lots under construction or under some level of review locally.

On January 19, 2021, Sanford City Council annexed 53 acres of land off Cool Springs Road between Westlake Downs and Southern Road for the Glen in Cool Springs after a zoning application was submitted by developer Dan Koeller of North Carolina. Land of the Atlantic coast. Development. The north end of the subdivision will run along Southern Road, which includes a handful of homes, each located on several acres of land. The southern end of the Glen will run parallel to Westlake Downs, whose homes currently cost between $400,000 and $800,000, according to current market estimates.

James McCarthy (right) and his wife Pamela chat with Westlake Downs residents Tom Wilder and Derek Borrell on their back patio, a week after their backyard suffered severe flooding following a May 14 storm. The group says the flooding was the result of poor drainage management at the construction site of the nearby Glen at Cool Springs subdivision.

The first community meeting on the annexation and zoning project took place on November 19, 2020, with 26 people present to voice their opposition. Among their concerns: increased traffic for those “crossing” Westlake Downs and the adjacent Brownstone Subdivision, possible decrease in surrounding property values, perceived lack of design cohesive with surrounding communities, lack of a buffer zone between properties and whether or not existing sewer lines could handle an additional 131 new homes, and finally, any drainage/flooding issues that may be created or made worse by the development.

Despite objections – citing the aforementioned concerns – from the Sanford Planning Board, made up of citizens appointed by the city council, the city voted 5-2 to approve the plans, calling them “reasonable and in the public interest” as a ” large-scale walkable single-family development with a high degree of transportation between neighborhoods.

In a May 20 letter to the Westlake Downs Homeowners Association, McCarthy formally called on the HOA to investigate flooding behind his home and those of his neighbors, as well as the vacant lot west of his and the adjoining playground on Wellington Drive. In the letter, McCarthy described the hour of panic as he and his family worked to stop water from reaching his back door (a rock-lined creek bed crosses his garden, under a small footbridge).

“The main culvert/storm drain next to our property was completely blocked by a large log, broken branches and other loose debris from the site causing overflows and flooding,” McCarthy wrote. “At the risk of our own lives, we (three family members and I) had to get out and try to clear the blockage in waist-deep water because we had no time to call for help. help from the city. … The area behind our homes was not designed to handle that much runoff. The current drainage was approved and put in place in the 1980s, so it clearly needs to be updated or rebuilt and fixed.

McCarthy asked the HOA to provide recommendations to the state’s environmental office to “rectify the situation.”

Tom Wilder, a longtime resident of Westlake Downs who led the original petition calling for changes to the subdivision plans in 2020 and 2021, said the storm on May 14 gave residents a sense of urgency about the need Immediate flood control until permanent stormwater controls are in place. in place.

“Given their controls are complex — with three environmental retention ponds to build, installation of pipes and drains, and heavy use of retaining walls — it could take some time,” Wilder said. The diatribe. “Right now we are concerned about any rain events while no protective measures are in place.”

Wilder called the current conditions – barren land, downed trees and no protective measures in place – a “worst-case scenario” for extreme flooding.

Derek Borrell, McCarthy’s neighbor to the east, also saw worse than usual flooding in his garden on May 14 (but nothing that came near his house). He noted that the color of the runoff – a light brown – was the color of the soil exposed at the new subdivision site. He said that in his 12-plus years as owner of Westlake Downs he had never seen flooding like May 14 – again, due to a severe storm that lasted for barely an hour.

“The last time we had anything close was Hurricane Matthew,” he said, and it was a slow-moving storm that dumped more than seven inches of rain in Lee County. for several hours.

The view from the McCarthys’ garden on Wellington Drive. What was once thick forest is now 51 acres of cleared land for the Glen at Cool Springs subdivision. Runoff from the land overran their creek bed after a storm on May 14.

The diatribe contacted Taylor Morrison Homes, Iron Horse Contractors and Eco Turf Inc., as well as Koeller and Atlantic Coach Land Development for comment on this story, and only Taylor Morrison responded with a statement:

“Taylor Morrison is developing Glen at Cool Springs in general compliance with approved construction drawing plans,” the statement said. “We have made land development staff available to respond to questions and concerns from neighboring landowners and we have not heard of any recent flooding concerns from them. We remain committed to being a respectful neighbor of Westlake Downs. »

McCarthy said all he asks of builders and contractors is complete transparency. In addition to the flooding problem, residents of Westlake suffered several “dynamite explosions” on the ground that shook their foundations. On May 24, smoke from burning trees traveled to several homes, causing another nuisance.

Wilder and McCarthy reiterated that the community has accepted that the subdivision is happening and that nothing can stop its progress. But he too is asking for transparency and issuing a warning to other communities certain to see new construction nearby in the months and years to come.

“Progress is progress, but they need to consider their neighbors, update their plans accordingly, and address these issues,” McCarthy said. “That’s all you can ask for at this point.”

Alice F. Ponder