Official: Town's installation of drainage pipe across property violates numerous state regulations
By Sally Voth -- email@example.com
STRASBURG -- The town's removal of a stormwater retention pond in Madison Heights violates numerous state regulations, the Town Council was told this week.
Peter Trask, who said he is certified by the state as a "responsible land disturber," talked to the panel about the town's role in removing a retention pond at 622 Christiansen Drive and installing a drainage pipe across the property.
The pipe discharges onto Ralph Sine's property, releasing trash and eroding the land.
A memo from Town Manager Judson Rex to the Town Council and Mayor Tim Taylor says Madison Heights' developer had planned to remove the pond, but that never happened, and the landowners were concerned about the wet issues and safety.
"The town told them that if they would buy the pipe, [the] town would do away with the pond," Sine said in an interview last month. "In 2007, they connected this pipe to the storm drains and ran it over to my property and covered up the pond.
"It was never even brought before the town council. They just closed the pond, so they have created a disaster out there."
Trask said he suspected the destruction of the pond and piping of the discharge violated 10 regulations in the Department of Conservation and Recreation's Stormwater Management Enforcement Manual. Those violations carry fines.
Normally, those fines would be levied against the homeowner, Trask said, but the town did the work in this case.
"You've got a pretty egregious violation up there with reference to taking out the pond," he said.
Trask said he'd inspected the drainage pipe, and it's spewing out a considerable amount of sediment and trash. He said he wanted the Town Council to understand the severity of the issue. Had an average owner done what the town did, it could result in fines of tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands of dollars, Trask said.
Rex and Assistant Town Manager Greg Martin suggested that the Town Council approve $5,000 to pay Lellock Consulting to design a new stormwater detention pond.
Councilman Justin Ritenour said he worried the $5,000 fee was "only the surface," of what the issue would cost the town.
Martin said the construction project range is expected to be $10,000-$30,000, but the final cost isn't known yet.
"This will get us to the next step," he said.
Councilman Bob Baker wanted to know where the town was as far as determining whether the land is designated as wetlands, as was discussed at a previous meeting, and what that designation might mean.
That is something Lellock would answer, Martin said. He said the firm recommended the town bring a solution to the drainage problem to the Army Corps of Engineers.
"But, are we going to be in compliance with the wetlands requirements if we do what we're doing?" Baker asked.
Martin said the consultants are aware of regulatory issues and those fall into the contract with the town.
"The uncertainty concerns me, which is why I'm hesitant to approve this now until maybe we learn a little bit more," Ritenour said.
Taylor said he thought some of the questions would be answered when the engineering work is done.
"We need to learn lessons even if it was a past administration [that approved draining the pond], so that this is not repeated," Councilman Scott Terndrup said.
When it came to a vote, the Town Council unanimously approved the $5,000 contract for design services.