Berlin Residents Express Frustration Over Drainage Issues

Berlin Residents Express Frustration Over Drainage Issues
An aerial view of Berlin is pictured. File Photo

BERLIN– Residents shared stormwater concerns with Berlin’s elected officials this week.

On Monday, several residents from Henry’s Mill approached the council to share concerns about stormwater related to the nearby Henry’s Green neighborhood. They’re hoping the town will step in to address drainage problems.

“We’ve come to meetings with all kinds of people since 2004, and with various people working with the stormwater system, the various mayors along the way,” resident Candi Combs said. “Nothing has happened.”

Councilman Jack Orris initially brought up the issue of stormwater at this week’s meeting, suggesting a presentation from the town’s stormwater engineer regarding existing stormwater features in town. He said he had questions about ditches and who should maintain them as well as stormwater inspections.

“I’ve mentioned before how I think we should do an overview of the utility,” he said, pointing out that what affected one part of the system affected the entire system. “I just think we need to sit down and hammer it out and talk about it.”

He said he’d like to see Darl Kolar, the town’s stormwater consultant, address the issue in a presentation. Mayor Zack Tyndall suggested that wait until Kolar was attending a meeting anyway.

“Each year we have Darl come up and give an overview of where the stormwater utility is as a whole,” Tyndall said. “Each time we bring him in it’s not free. We do get billed. It does erode the capabilities of the fund to be able to use his time for other things. I think these are all really good things but maybe it’s best to coincide this request when he comes before us.”

Orris said the town had allocated some of its American Rescue Plan Act funding for stormwater. Tyndall agreed that it had but said that funding was being targeted for certain projects.

When the public comment portion of the meeting arrived, stormwater again became the focus of discussion.

Jim Herman, a resident of Henry’s Mill Drive, said he consistently had drainage issues on his property. He says those issues are caused by neighboring Henry’s Green.

“It’s not fair for the Henry’s Mill people to have to pay for that,” he said. “It’s not their development that caused the problem…We need help.”

Tyndall said the issue technically was one for the Henry’s Mill homeowners association. Ted Eschenburg, another Henry’s Mill resident, said the problem was that Henry’s Green didn’t have a homeowners association while Henry’s Mill did.

“There’s not an association over there where we can talk to them about it…,” he said. “It’s not fair for everybody in Henry’s Mill to be paying for all the water from Henry’s Green.”

Westminster Drive resident Mary Hedlesky said drainage was a problem in her neighborhood too—one that increased every time people added a shed or a garden or any other feature that impacted drainage. She said there were countless flooding issues created by all of the development in the area.

Combs told the council she was one of the first people to move into Henry’s Mill.

“When Henry’s Mill was developed, it was with the intention of developing phase two, which would be Henry’s Green,” she said. “The pond in Henry’s Mill was supposed to be sized to take the stormwater for both communities. The development over in Henry’s Green was sold to a different developer. Nothing was ever done.”

As a result, she and her neighbors have been asking for help since 2004.

“People have been asking the town to get a shared facility agreement with Henry’s Green to get help from Henry’s Green on the maintenance of our stormwater pond,” she said.

Tyndall asked staff to reach out to Kolar to see if homeowners associations could pursue grants. He said it was tricky for the municipality to go onto private property but felt that maybe funding could be allocated to the homeowners association so it could address the issue.

Town Administrator Mary Bohlen said most grants lately were targeted at improving water quality.

“That’s a scientific measure,” she said. “They’re looking at nutrients removed from the system. If they’re somewhat closed systems … they’re not contributing to water quality. They’re not considered for grants.”

Tyndall said that nevertheless he’d like staff to determine if there were any options for homeowners associations.  He said he hoped the town could come up with way to leverage a little bit funding that homeowners associations could apply for.

Orris said maybe the problems could be looked at from a flooding mitigation standpoint.

“We can get into the weeds of ditches and all that, but the fundamental thing is a lot of concrete and the weather’s changing,” he said.

Councilman Jay Knerr asked if the town had a map of ditches in the area. Bohlen said it was in the process of being developed.

Councilwoman Shaneka Nichols said she was sure some sort of solution could be found.

“We are not the only people dealing with these kinds of issues in this country…,” she said. “It’s probably going not require a lot of digging. I’m sorry you ladies and gentlemen have to deal with this because of the growth that’s happening.”

About The Author: Charlene Sharpe

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Charlene Sharpe has been with The Dispatch since 2014. A graduate of Stephen Decatur High School and the University of Richmond, she spent seven years with the Delmarva Media Group before joining the team at The Dispatch.