A pair of Fairhope residents are suing the city related to a stormwater drainage problem they say has caused considerable damage to their property in the Sandy Ford subdivision.
The lawsuit, filed Feb. 12 by Sandy Ford Road residents Aaron and Wendy Solomon, demands judgment against the city for its inaction to repair a drainage system after more than a year of requests.
According to court documents, prior to 2014 the city of Fairhope approved and maintained a stormwater drainage system to drain water from the property adjacent to the Solomon property, near Sandy Ford Phase 2. After a rain event in February that year, the Solomons noticed a heavy flow of rainwater coming across their property.
Since that time, stormwater allegedly has continued to flow across the property during rain events. The complaint claims the city has not adequately attempted to contain the stormwater after these events.
In May 2014, the Solomons contacted the city about the issues. Fairhope Public Works Director Jennifer Fidler recommended the creation of an earthen berm at the front of the Solomons’ property.
That June, the complaint says, engineer Frank Dagley prepared a damage assessment of the property, making note of erosion along the Solomons’ driveway and fence. Dagley’s report indicated the problems with the property were caused by excessive rainwater flowing from Cuscowilla Lane onto their property. Dagley told the Solomons the earthen berm would be just a temporary fix.
Apparently the plaintiffs forwarded Dagley’s report to the city and on June 27, 2014, the city installed an earthen berm in front of the Solomons’ home. However, according to the complaint, the family still experienced erosion on their property. In December 2014, the city reconfigured existing stormwater inlets on Cuscowilla Drive to try again to fix the problem.
The complaint alleges Mayor Tim Kant assured the Solomons the city would discuss the prospect of installing a curb and gutter system, among other fixes, but to date the city has done none of those things.
A similar stormwater drainage-related complaint against the city was dismissed in February.
In that case, Norman Lane residents Shana Cooper and Anil Vira also sued the Baldwin County Commission and the Baldwin County Board of Education for damages due to stormwater erosion on their separate properties near Fairhope High School. The Board of Education owns the school and its improvements, while the city owns Founders Park and a detention pond downhill from the school and park, but uphill from the plaintiffs’ properties.
That complaint alleged the city’s detention pond was undersized and couldn’t handle heavy rainfalls, while the BCBE failed to properly reduce the post-development rate of stormwater flow running downstream. The suit also alleged the county installed culverts improperly diverting stormwater runoff onto Cooper and Vira’s properties.
The plaintiffs sought compensation for the diminution of the value of their properties, attorney’s fees and litigation expenses. According to court documents, the case was dismissed Feb. 11 when the parties reached a compromise out of court.
Fairhope is not the first city on the Eastern Shore to be hit with erosion-related lawsuits from residents.
In 2009 Spanish Fort was sued by homeowners on Patrician Drive who said bluff erosion threatening their homes was the city’s responsibility to fix. In a previous interview with Lagniappe, Spanish Fort City Attorney David Conner said the city still denies its responsibility, but a jury trial favored the property owners and the city was required to make repairs to the bluff estimated at more than $2.5 million.
As a result of the lawsuit, the city purchased and then razed the homes, and added a concrete slope with pipes and drainage basins on the bluff, which overlooks the bypass connecting the Causeway with U.S. Highway 98.
The Solomon lawsuit seeks unspecified compensatory damages for the city’s alleged negligence and wantonness. In addition to compensatory damages, the plaintiffs are also seeking attorney’s fees and costs. The plaintiffs are represented by attorney Winston Grow; the case has been assigned to Baldwin County Circuit Court Judge Scott Taylor.