Suit claims town at fault for property flooding

By Alex Bridges

Action taken years ago by Strasburg to fill in a retention pond has now landed the town in court.

An attorney for property owners Ralph Sine and Barbara McDonald has asked a judge to force the town to return the pond to its original state near their home at 401 Bowman Mill Road.

A complaint filed in the Shenandoah County Circuit Court in early April claims that filling in a stormwater retention pond in the Madison Heights subdivision forces rain to flow into their property via a pipe that releases water next to the Sine property. Strasburg’s actions also violate state laws on erosion and sediment control.

Woodbridge attorney Michael J. Coughlin filed the complaint on behalf of the property owners. Reached by phone Monday, Coughlin said he could not comment on the pending litigation at this time. Neither of the property owners returned calls seeking comment on the case.

Town Manager Judson Rex stated in an email Monday that Strasburg officials are working with the property owner and Coughlin to explore the issue. Rex said that Town Attorney Nathan Miller and Strasburg’s engineer are working with officials on possible outcomes, but discussions are ongoing.

Coughlin also sent letters to local and state officials outlining the claims and requesting relief and to notify them of the alleged violation of Virginia law. The Feb. 5 letter also serves as notice that the owners would ask a judge for an injunction to require the town restore the pond if they don’t fix the problem within 15 days.

“The Town’s actions have resulted in untreated and uncontrolled storm water flowing directly onto the Sine Property via the outfall, which has and continues to degrade the condition of the Sine Property and the water quality within the Commonwealth,” Coughlin’s letter states.

However, DEQ Enforcement Specialist Tiffany Severs states in her reply letter dated Feb. 27 that the activities Coughlin outlines occurred prior to the implementation of the state’s current regulations governing erosion and sediment controls and that the site is no longer under construction. Stevens adds that oversight of the stormwater overflow at the Sine property falls outside DEQ’s jurisdiction under the state permit regulations.

The complaint states that the town backfilled a stormwater collection pond originally built on a lot adjacent to the plaintiff’s property in the Madison Heights subdivision sometime in 2007. Alex M. Golliday and Hatti F. Golliday, of 622 Christiansen Drive, had asked the Town Council to assist them in filling the retention pond, the complaint states. The town also extended a storm water pipe from Fulton Street under the Golliday’s lot outfall at the edge of the plaintiffs’ property.

As a result, rainwater flows through the pipe and onto the plaintiffs’ property, according to the complaint. The plaintiffs claim that the stormwater flowing onto their property created a drainage channel resembling a stream. Garbage also flows through the storm sewer pipe onto the plaintiffs’ property.

The town took ownership of the storm pipe Jan. 29, 2013 once officials accepted an easement from the Gollidays, the complaint states.

The property owners claim that the town took the actions without approval by Shenandoah County, the Department of Conservation and Recreation or the Department of Environmental Quality.

Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or abridges@nvdaily.com