Thursday, January 25, 2007

"Beautiful View" Is Not Looking So Beautiful to Some in Salemtown

A low visibility conflict has been brewing lately among some property owners in Salemtown over a large drainage pipe installed at a new townhouse development at 6th Avenue & Hume Street called Schoene Ansicht (German for "Beautiful View"). The drain pipe would funnel rainwater run-off into the alley between 5th and 6th Avenues and possibly onto the low-lying property of neighbors who reside across the alley from the development.

According to e-mail correspondence between a Metro Storm Water Engineer and a representative of Dale and Associates, the SP zoning of the site did not deal with stormwater run-off at all. However, the property itself has been converted from one that held a small duplex hugging the corner surrounded by mostly permeable greenspace to a high density footprint covering the entire property and offering paved parking. Nearly all of the prior greenspace is gone. So, water from the re-developed property is to drain into retention tanks and overflow though a single pipeline into the alley.

This presents a problem for next-door neighbors whose property sits several feet lower than the alley. I stood in the neighbors' yard to take a picture and from where I stood the pipe seemed to hit me at eye level. In his e-mail the Metro Engineer who also visited the site told Dale and Associates that he is concerned for the adjacent property and thinks that even when the alley is paved, the pavement "inversion" will not be enough to divert the run-off to the street.

Dale and Associates told the Engineer that Public Works would not allow them to run the pipe to the street because of a sidewalk, and so they maintain that they had no other choice. They are advocating a high crown in the alley to divert water to Hume Street. But that would present another problem for the adjacent property. The corner of 5th and Hume is where the water would run. 5th and Hume is one of those water run-off problem areas that Metro Water promised to solve a long time ago, but has not done so. So, even if the run-off from 6th and Hume is diverted down the alley to Hume, it will eventually add to the post-storm ponding in the adjacent neighbors' front yard instead of their back yard.

To further heighten tensions in the neighborhood, co-owners of the development seemed to send mixed messages to concerned neighbors about the project. One co-owner told neighbors that the pipe would empty right into the alley where it currently comes out. Recently, I sent an e-mail to another co-owner with the text:
I noticed that on your 6th and Hume development you are running what looks like a drainage pipe along the property line to the alley. Will that carry water run-off into the alley or are you planning to connect the pipe to the street run-off?
I received this response:
It'll be connected underground. This was a requirement by Metro Water's Storm Water division. All of that special stuff for that underground water retension system cost $117k installed. Not to mention the amount of time it takes to custom make pieces to fit our small project.
That response does not indicate that the water would run into the alley, even though it is very clear from other sources that the water will not connect to the street run-off or underground to the storm sewers. That mixed message generated confusion--with some charging Schoene Ansicht co-owners with deception--at our last Salemtown Neighbors meeting when we discussed the pipe. The co-owners used to attend those meetings, but have stopped doing so.

Salemtown Neighbors has been very supportive of this development from the beginning. We gave approval to this and other projects so that they could get Metro Council authorization to build. I even wrote a letter on their behalf to the Planning Commission supporting their plans. However, there are increasing concerns among some members, especially affected residents, that co-owners and developers of Schoene Ansicht are not doing what they should to mitigate water run-off problems that could adversely affect some of those who have supported them in the past.

UPDATE: Schoene Ansicht Co-owner Steve Yokley responds in the comments section of this post that he mistakenly assumed that the drainage plans on this development and another they are going to start in the future were the same when he replied to me in the e-mail I quote above:
The Salem Garden project at the corner of 6th and Garfield, was slated to discharge underground. I assumed that this project would be done the same way.


  1. Wow, that's tough. As usual, you've presented what looks like a really thorough report of the situation, though, so thanks for the education on all that. If you find out about any meetings with the developers or anything where this sort of thing is being discussed, be sure to let us know -- we'd be happy to come and help represent the nearby residents who are concerned about this sort of shortsighted decision-making.

  2. I would like to make a comment on the mixed messages sent. That was not my intention; it was actually a misunderstanding on my part. The Salem Garden project at the corner of 6th and Garfield, was slated to discharge underground. I assumed that this project would be done the same way. (Got my wires crossed and details mixed up in a private email sent back to S-Town Mike see Figure 7).

    I want to emphasize that we are here to help the neighborhood in anyway we can. This is the first official development in Salemtown and we are very proud to be apart of your neighborhood.

    If any on the Salemtown Neighbors have questions feel to free call me Steve Yokley @ 977-2373 or Taurus McCain @ 977-5402. We'd be more than happy to answer any questions.

  3. What are the prices on these? Is there a website with details? I find no information on realtracs.

  4. Comment removed. No free real estate marketing on Enclave allowed without permission, especially when those marketing the townhouses were not forthcoming about their intentions to allow water run-off into neighbors' yards, possibly eroding the value of surrounding real estate.

    Taurus & Steve: what you guys don't seem to realize is that it is also the neighbors in a community who help sell properties. I can't even count the number of prospective buyers who have stopped by my house in the last three years asking my opinions about available properties on my block. And I honestly told them what I thought of the places and of those who are selling them.

    There was a time when I trusted and supported you guys, but this whole issue over water run-off that you essentially kept from us has soured any positive feelings I had about your projects. I feel that you kept knowledge of this drainage pipe on the down low even as we were supporting you to the Planning Commission and Metro Council. You are going to have to prove to me that you care as much as we do about preventing water run-off damage to the properties around you, I won't be giving any prospective buyers a positive review of the 6th & Hume townhouses, and I won't be supporting any of your other projects in Salemtown. I will encourage others likewise. I hope the affected neighbors will consider legal action to stop this drainage pipe in its tracks.

  5. Dr. Byrd,

    We are currently working with Steve Mishu of Metro Water's Storm Water Division. Prior to installing the last pieces of the system, we will run tests to make sure that the system will do what it's designed to do. It's designed to collect 5 times the amount of storm water that was collected prior to the 6 unit development. By filtering and slowly dissipating the storm water collected, the overall water quality and decreased water velocity will be a great improvement for that area.

    Feel free to call me for more info.

    Steve Yokley

  6. Prior to installing the last pieces of the system, we will run tests to make sure that the system will do what it's designed to do.

    So, you will be simulating a worse case scenerio rain event? I am wondering whether 24 to 48 hours of rain along with a topped off system would lead to ponding and run-off either across the adjoining backyard or in the front yard at the corner of 5th and Hume. I hope the adjoining neighbors are present with their own independent environmental engineer/storm water run-off specialist to judge the results of the test for him or herself. If the neighbors had never contacted and gotten a response from Metro's engineers, who also expressed concern, would you guys have been concerned enough yourself to run such a test?