More Fairhope residents have come forward with stories about flooding in their neighborhoods since representatives from River Oaks Phase II addressed the city council in May about problems with drainage systems in their subdivision.
Fairfield Pointe Village is a 32-lot mixed use development with single-family homes, condos and townhomes located at the corner of Baldwin County Road 44 and Boothe Road, adjacent to the soccer fields at Founders Park and Fairhope High School. Village resident Shana Cooper said her home flooded twice between 2013 and 2014, while her back yard flooded four times.
Cooper said the subdivision takes on water from two directions, from Cowpen Creek to the north and from Founders Park to the south.
“It is unreal,” she said. “If I stepped out my back bedroom I would be swept away.”
According to Cooper, other Fairfield Pointe Village residents had two to three feet of water inside their houses and one neighbor had $50,000 to $70,000 in damages after the last flood. Further, she claimed most of the residents didn’t have flood insurance until recently.
After her home flooded in July 2013, Cooper said she and three other residents filed an insurance claim against the city for damages incurred during the rain.
“I’m just amazed that the city won’t do anything,” she said last week. “And with hurricane season coming up, if a hurricane hits us, all hell will break loose.”
River Oaks Phase II is a 52-home subdivision located off Boothe Road in Fairhope. Stephen Pecot is a River Oaks resident who has addressed the council on two occasions, at the May 11 meeting and again at a work session May 26.
Pecot and Fairfield Pointe Village Homeowners Association representative Brooks Lyons asked the council for help at its May 26 work session.
“We’ve had a large amount of damage that began many months ago,” Lyons said. “We are starting the process of trying to find out if anything can be done to fix it.”
According to Pecot, in the last year a pair of sinkholes has developed along the western easement for drainage in River Oaks Phase II. He said the pipes underneath have collapsed in on themselves, creating an 8-foot-deep, 8-foot-wide set of sinkholes, before water drains to a retention pond. He said the asphalt and rock road behind the easement also is causing sedimentation to go into the retention pond.
“It all starts right around where the new retention pond is around Winn-Dixie,” Pecot said. “That drain goes down to the west side of our subdivision to Cowpen Creek, and it all ends up down at Fairfield Pointe Village.”
River Oaks residents have looked into having a private company fix the sinkholes, and Pecot said that of the four they called, only one gave them an estimate. He said the $25,000 to $30,000 estimate divided among 52 households would cost about $500 per homeowner. He said it would just be a temporary fix if nearby subdivisions did not make repairs to their drainage systems.
“Our biggest concern is that we will spend this money, then the other subdivisions will still drain into ours,” he said. “We don’t want to spend $30,000 this year and then next year, with regular rainfall, have even more sinkholes develop.”
Council President Jack Burrell said the city must consider what is best for all of its citizens, noting that it has no business getting into a dispute between neighbors.
“We have to look at what it costs the city of Fairhope, not because we are greedy but because we have to protect the people’s interests,” Burrell said. “If we go out and fix something that really is not our responsibility, then we’ll have to start throwing out money left and right every time somebody has an issue. We have to be smart about how we do that.”
Mayor Tim Kant said when subdivisions are built, the drainage systems are turned over to the homeowners for maintenance.
“Unless the laws change, once the city touches a drainage pipe or a ditch or digs out a retention pond in a subdivision, it becomes the city’s,” Kant said. “These devices, and retention ponds, and pipes have always been given to the homeowners. It always happens, after 25 years the pipes start rusting and problems start coming, then they look to the city to fix the problem.”
Burrell said councilors would need to consult the city’s engineer and attorney to find out what steps are appropriate for the city in this case.
“Anything we touch, if we go in and start moving rocks or pipes or making improvements, then we become the owner,” Burrell said. “Anything that happens after that, from here to eternity, we have to take care of it. That’s a big concern to me. We have to be cautious about what projects we take on. We want to help out, but only to the extent that we can and should.”
For Pecot, getting neighboring subdivisions to tackle drainage problems has been difficult. Kant said the city needs to work on making sure the letters it sends to neighboring subdivisions have “some teeth” so they will get on board.
“We want to get ideas from the city about how our subdivision can be helped,” Pecot said. “I’m not an engineer, I’m just a landowner. We are here asking you guys for help.”
Kant said damages occur in places like Fairfield Pointe Village when the city’s older drainage systems are filled after heavy rain events that have occurred more often than they used to.
“What happens over time is that those retention ponds were built for 25-year or 50-year storms and now we are getting those kinds of storms regularly,” he said. “Once they fill with water and then more water comes, that’s when you see the destruction like in Fairfield. When it comes, it comes like a wave.”
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