A black plastic silt fence once separated Bill Bradshaw’s property in the Clearview neighborhood from the recently finished Forest Ridge subdivision immediately to the north.
Builders put up the plastic to protect Bradshaw’s backyard against storm runoff from the new developments, but Bradshaw said the barrier was useless. The rush of water washed over the plastic and onto his property. Even now that a permanent fence has been installed, the problem hasn’t stopped.
“I’m losing more and more to erosion all the time,” Bradshaw said.
Bradshaw and his wife, Lona, have lived on West Brown School Road since 1979. Bradshaw said he had no warning before developers began building the Forest Ridge development in the fall of 2004.
At Clearview, storm water flows over land and along the street during heavy rains.
County Public Works Director David Mink said city and county officials are addressing the problem around Clearview together. Here, new development has overloaded storm water systems, flooding the area two to three times per year.
At a Boone County Public Works session last month, engineers agreed to meet with property owners and contractors to form a plan to fix the inlets before proceeding with planned improvements to Autumn Drive.
Bradshaw said Brown School Road has flooded many times since Forest Ridge was finished in 2005. Storms also wash rocks and mud onto the road, causing a driving hazard. Bradshaw said he’s had to call 911 to get the roads cleared.
“People tell me, ‘that’s just natural runoff,’” Bradshaw said. “That’s not natural runoff. That’s man-made drainage.”
Bob Grove, of PGS Development, which worked on Forest Ridge, said Brown School Road has flooded for 30 to 40 years. “Any time there is a hard rain, the road floods.”
Developers of Forest Ridge followed city and state regulations under the city’s old storm water manual, Grove said. The developers created detention bases to hold water before they “started moving any earth.”
“It (Brown School Road) floods less now,” Grove said. “We are detaining water from Clearview and other watershed areas.”
Grove said PGS has also pledged money toward the eventual reconstruction of Brown School Road.
Bradshaw said his problems started with the new development. Water from the subdivision washes soil from his yard into a branch inlet that leads to Perche Creek, he said.
“You always hear about what’s happening with Hinkson Creek but never Perche Creek,” Bradshaw said. “It’s just polluted with runoff.”
Bradshaw said culverts in the area no longer work. Debris have clogged them and forced water to run over the top. He said he sent letters to Mayor Darwin Hindman, City Manager Bill Watkins and Columbia City Council members about the problem more than a year ago, but received a response only from Brian Ash, who was then Sixth Ward councilman.
Larry Mountjoy, Bradshaw’s neighbor, said he has had it even worse. He owns a house downhill from Forest Ridge, on the opposite side of the development from Bradshaw. In August 2005, he filed a lawsuit against PGS and the city, in which he claims extensive property damage.
Mountjoy wouldn’t discuss the suit, but the case file lists several occasions when his house was flooded, including March 26, 2004, when heavy rainfall flooded the Mountjoys’ yard and driveway with about 15 inches of water, according to the lawsuit. The Mountjoys also reported four inches of standing water in their family room, side room, pantry and garage.
The city is a defendant because it “has the power to issue occupancy permits for the property being developed” and is responsible for correcting drainage problems, according to the lawsuit.
John States, a registered agent for PGS, is also listed as a defendant in the lawsuit. States declined comment on the lawsuit, as did Sara Perry, risk manager for the city.
Bradshaw, who worked as a carpenter, said he doesn’t personally oppose development.
“That was my bread and butter,” he said. “That’s how I raised my family.”
He believes the city could prevent problems elsewhere by paying more attention to potential storm water issues when it approves new developments.
“People tell me I have a beautiful place,” Bradshaw said. “I say, ‘Yes, but it’s all washed down Perche Creek.’”
As he looked out his back door window, Bradshaw recalled when his two children — now grown — used to play in the lush lawn of his backyard. Now, it’s often a muddy mess.
“When it rains now,” he said, “I just shut my eyes and know it’s something I just have to live with.”
On the east side of town, Nick Utrup and his wife, Jill, own a home in Sunrise Estates in the Lake of the Woods area. Utrup said they “bought the house cheap” in August 2005.
“Now we know why,” Utrup said. The three-foot ditch in Utrup’s front yard floods about six times a year and Utrup says the water floods areas where children often play, and can get very deep.
Water spills out over the driveway three to four times a year, he said.
“The water is cutting over the driveway, so eventually my driveway will cave in,” he said.
Many of the houses in the Suncrest area were built about 20 years ago. In the newer part of the subdivision, where Utrup lives, storm water emerging from a 48-inch culvert overwhelms smaller pipes down the line, causing a river of rushing water.
“It seems to me as if houses are just thrown up in a hurry because they have space for them,” Utrup said. He blames developers for the storm water trouble he and his neighbors face.
“After all, they are the ones who connected a 4-foot pipe to a 2 1/2-foot pipe,” Utrup said. “It’s just poor planning.”
John Watkins, project development manager for Boone County Public Works, said the need to go back and replace pipes in the subdivision indicates development is happening too fast, but replacing the smaller pipes with larger ones could cause the water to rush even faster.
The problem at Sunrise Estates is strictly a county problem because it lies outside the city limits, Watkins said. But development of city subdivisions has contributed.
“We are currently working to identify the problems and see what we can do to reconfigure storm outlets,” David Mink, the County Public Works director, said. “It is important that we do a comprehensive study before we address these issues so we make sure we are not causing bigger problems.”
As a part of the study, the county sent out surveys to residents around the Suncrest area.
The county plans to tackle the problem subdivisions one at a time, which means some will be put off until next year. Many residents in these areas have lived with storm water problems for years.
Old Plank, Bethel Church roads
A new wave of runoff is also ruining Old Plank and Bethel Church roads.
Both are deteriorating in the wake of new development in the area. While new subdivisions in that area are within city limits, the county remains responsible for addressing the potholes and crumbling shoulders caused by bad storm water management and heavier use.
“(After development), roads are just not ready for constant traffic,” Watkins said.
“The issues in this area were probably caused by poor communication between the city and county,” Mink said, adding that he has discussed the issue with city Public Works Director John Glascock.
The new manual on storm water management passed by the Columbia City Council on March 5 lists some new requirements to tackle the storm water problems.
One focus of the new requirements is detention, which strives to keep the peak flow rate of runoff the same after a development as it was before it.
“It will regulate the quantity of runoff water from a development,” city engineer Tom Wellman said.
Wellman said the new manual doesn’t solve existing storm water problems but tries to prevent future problems, particularly with pollution.
Boone County Southern District Commissioner Karen Miller said county officials hope to adopt a storm water ordinance similar to the city’s by the end of the year.