The City Council will meet this Thursday, out of sync because of the Labor Day weekend.
One of the ordinances on the agenda is a moratorium on building permits. This is not intended as a punitive measure against builders or developers. It is, rather, an attempt to let the City catch up with the issues it faces as a result of damages caused by storm water and sewer problems.
During several recent Council meetings, people from various neighborhoods have come before the body to alert us to problems of raw sewage, or storm water, or a combination of the two flooding into their houses. The resulting damage and loss of personal effects has been extensive. The assignment of responsibility to the deity has been convenient, but not necessarily beneficial to these residents.
The proposal before the Council is simple. The Storm Water Board is developing a Storm Water Master Plan. This process should take about six to nine months. During the last Council meeting, I asked an engineer working on the plan, if that plan would result in better development( better meaning less flood-prone or less likely to inflict flooding on surrounding houses or buildings ) after the plan is completed and its findings implemented. He agreed that it would.
A woman from one of the affected areas told of a vacant lot near her house. She suggested that water which flooded the streets of her neighborhood and poured into basements there, might have been made more severe if that vacant lot were built upon, adding impervious surface to the equation of an obviously problematic drainage area. Further, she said, if it were dedicated to use as a detention basin for flood waters, the vacant lot might actually reduce the problem rather than exacerbating it.
The lot to which she referred is in an established subdivision. Construction on that specific lot is permitted "by right". The only element of oversight the City now has on such a parcel is a review of plans pursuant to a building permit, because the overall drainage questions have been answered years ago when the development was granted approval. Unfortunately, unexpected problems are arising to prevent proper drainage, and this is resulting in property damage and loss of personal items. Have rain patterns nullified earlier assumptions? Has maintenance lagged? Or is something else amiss? Hopefully, the Storm Water Master Plan now in development will explain what has gone wrong and point us in the direction of fixing the problems.
The expected time to complete the Master Plan is not excessive. If it is done correctly and thoroughly it may prevent, or at least, lessen the severity of flooding throughout the city. Of course, a plan will not solve anything in and of itself, it will need conscientious application and enforcement to be effective.
As the old joke goes, when you find yourself in a hole, the first thing you need to do is to stop digging. In this case, for six to nine months.