The recent storms have created high water nightmares for people all over the region. In many cases, the high water is a by-product of a nearby creek or river.
But in one neighborhood in Huntington it's a drainage issue. We’re not talking about the century old storm drains downtown that overflow and flood streets and viaducts. This is a new neighborhood with homes valued at a half million dollars. So who's to blame? Well, that's where things really become muddied.
The one thing everyone can agree upon is the one thing that can't be denied. In an extremely heavy downpour, the Pleasant Valley subdivision has a drainage problem. The dispute is over responsibility. The homeowners association says the developer is to blame.
"This is 3 times in 6 weeks this has happened," says Mark Brown of the Homeowners’ Association, "and basically each individual property owner is on his own."
Developer Larry Ellis says the homeowners are to blame, “Why don't you do it? And I said, well, because I have told you before that it's your responsibility to take care of the storm system or anything that's in this right of way."
Pleasant Valley is a three phase development. The people who live in A, the lower phase, say they're being inundated with water runoff from B and C, the higher phases. They believe the developer failed to install the proper drainage in B and C.
Frank Markun of Huntington says, "You basically have water coming down off B and C and converging right at a central point. And the drains...there's one drain on this side of the property, a 24 inch drain to handle all of the runoff from C and B and A."
But Mr. Ellis says several of the homeowners ignored his warnings to maintain culverts in their front yards near the road. In an effort to improve the look of the landscape in an upscale neighborhood, some people installed drain pipes in place of the culvert and then covered them up and extended their lawns to the street.
Mr. Ellis comments, "Which is fine. It looks real good. But what they've done, they've forgotten to put the swale (culvert) in. Therefore, the water has no place to run except in the street. And then what it does when it finally finds a place it can get over, then it goes over and just sweeps everything out."
One homeowner who only wanted to talk off camera backs up Mr. Ellis' claim that the roughly 4 acres cleared so far in the upper most phase haven't significantly increased water flow to the lower phase. This is a contention that some of the other neighbors call ridiculous.
Mr. Brown says, "We've had the WV Department of Environmental Protection out here two or three times this week. They've studied the run-off problem, but it's a bureaucratic process. It takes awhile for them to act, to come up with the recommendations. And we're just hoping we can get some alleviation from the water coming from above us."
Last month, the department issued a cease and desist order on any further development of the upper phase.
The law requires developers to obtain a permit for any land disturbance greater than one acre.
While some of the neighbors are pinning their hopes for alleviation of the water runoff on a ruling from the department. Mr. Ellis believes any eventual ruling will clear the way for a permit and continued development.
He faxed us a number of documents from a civil engineer that back up his work on the Pleasant Valley Subdivision. Some of the neighbors say Mr. Ellis gave them the ok to run the pipe and cover up the culvert. Mr. Ellis says one neighbor set precedence against his wishes so it's been difficult to reject others who want to follow suit.
This is a multi-layered dispute that may end up in court before anything is ever resolved.