County revisits flooding issue
Residents of Moore Plantation returned to the Marshall County Board of Supervisors to seek help with flooding of their properties during heavy downpours.
Lana Casserino, Carrel Black and Dorothy Hill feel caught in a trap. Their properties lie below higher elevation lots and catch the brunt of floodwaters. Some of them blame a local developer who continues to build homes on lots in their area.
District 4 supervisor George Zinn III introduced the discussions to seek ways to alleviate flooding at the lower elevations.
“My position is I felt the county should determine who is responsible for the waterways being open,” he said. “If no one will, the county would take responsibility for it.
Zinn said sometimes developers draw up a subdivision plat and the county accepts it, but years later the developer is no longer on the scene when discussions are held to determine who should maintain the subdivision.
“Water runs downhill,” Black said.
He said water is backing up because a local developer continues to clear off lots and build homes.
“Water comes in my yard; it’s clear, then it gets dirty,” he said. “When I first moved there I built a shop that never flooded. But now it floods. I have to get everything 16 inches off the floor.”
In other words, flooding on his property is an emerging issue that he associates with new housing upstream.
Casserino, who purchased a home eight months ago, said she has talked with the builder about a culvert uphill from her home that is shooting water onto her property.
County attorney Kent Smith said Casserino has only one option — to take the issue to court.
Smith said he does not know the original developers of Moore Plantation. A road has created a dam that holds water back and when houses are added it increases the runoff and the speed and volume of water.
Black said the residents have no one to go to for relief.
“I’m here to get some help,” he said. “I believe a farmer would like the ditch cleaned out so his field wouldn’t flood.”
“The builder has resumed building in our neighborhood,” Casserino said. “He’s not making good, sound decisions for the people he’s building for.”
County administrator Larry Hall said the county has put a lot of time in the study of the problem and that the developer’s “stuff” has held up.
“But we need to watch it on these new constructions,” he said.
Casserino said she invited the builder to the meeting, and he didn’t come, but that her issue is with the builder, not the county.
District 5 supervisor Ronnie Joe Bennett said he believes the developer should be stopped from new construction until he takes care of the flooding problems.
Hall said he walked the area and there is no levy to hold the water back. A small levy was insufficient and the water jumped over it, he said. And a larger pipe, if installed across the road, would help the water move off.
“No house has flooded so far,” he said. Black said his shop and garden flooded. “It’s disgusting,” he said.
Zinn suggested a homeowners’ association could be formed whereby each landowner kept the ditches on his own property cleaned out.
Casserino said as the developer builds on the lots he is purchasing, he is changing the land.
Bennett said a homeowners association would have more power than the board of supervisors.
“You can write your bylaws,” said District 3 supervisor Keith Taylor.
Black said he keeps his part of the ditch clean but can do nothing about what people below his lot do or what can be done about what is already there.
Chancery clerk Chuck Thomas said he had flood insurance but when he called his agent, the insurance would not pay, saying it was rising water.
“I sell insurance. I know,” said Casserino in agreement.
Zinn then made a motion to order a hold be put on any further building permits until the developer corrects the problems.
“I don’t think that’s legal,” Smith said. “This is the third time we’ve discussed this. As a citizen you come to the board to say you need some relief. But you need to go to court to get relief.
“We’ve already adopted the plat map 12 to 15 years ago.” He said if the developer’s construction practices are thought to be harming the residents, they should go to court so a judge can issue an injunctive order. Bennett said the majority of the home-owners in the subdivision need to join the homeowners’ association. But those who live on the upper lots on the hill will not be for it.
“You are in the bottom,” he said. Black said a homeowners association would help with other problems that are not caused by water. “So, everybody stands to benefit, not just the people with the water problem,” said Zinn. He said the county is looking at a section of the tributaries that the county believes could be cleaned out that would offer some relief. Bennett then laid out what it would cost to clean out all the grown up ditches in the area that are contributing to the slowing of runoff water. “It would cost over a half million dollars,” he said. “I’m not going to vote to spend a half million dollars on that.” “The county doesn’t have a stack of money,” Zinn said. With that discussion ended, Zinn made a motion for the county to go in and clean out sections that they believe will help. Bennett seconded the motion and it passed by unanimous vote of the board. “We can go in and clean out one spot, but we can’t dredge and rip rap,” Bennett said. “We can just identify the obstructions the county can legally do. We can go forward but we can’t go back.”