The Hamilton Place Mall Turned My Property Into A Periodic Lake - And Response (3)

Monday, March 24, 2014

Mr. Mayor, 

In the letter that I wrote to you dated Dec. 3, 2013 I told you of the flooding problems we people downstream from Hamilton Place Mall have suffered since the mall was built.  A church on Hickory valley Road which was build about 40 or 50 years before the mall was suddenly being flooded as were several other properties. My property was suddenly being flooded as often as three times a month although I had never experienced any flooding since building my house years earlier.   

An elderly couple, who had lived in their house for several years, suddenly found themselves living in the middle of a lake.  These people, of very modest means, in very poor health (he was legally blind), were suddenly faced with the possibility of not having a place to live.  It is very traumatizing to face the possibility of having the home you worked so hard for to be destroyed.  It has caused me, and no doubt others, to have hundreds of sleepless nights and a very diminished quality of life caused by constant worry. 

The city stormwater official said that the mall was discharging more water than the downstream culvert at Lee Highway was capable of handling.  This left no place for the water between the mall and Lee Highway to go except onto the property of other people. Whoever planed the storm water holding facilities at the mall apparently made an honest mistake.  City officials were made aware of this flooding problem when it first started.  It was their responsibility to demand that the mall officials do whatever needed to be done to correct the problem.  As far as I know they made no such effort and the mall did nothing to fix the problem.

The city engineer told me in May 2000 that he had a study made of the mall area and found that 66 businesses that were supposed to build onsite holding ponds did not build them and that 37 businesses that were supposed to build holding ponds did not build them.  He also said that some built ponds a fraction of the size they were supposed to build them and some built on or off site ponds but did not connect them.  Storm water management was undoubtedly doing the same throughout the city.   

These people and the elected officials over them seemed to be callously indifferent as to how much pain and loss they caused their victims.  It seems incredible that these incompetents would allow these 103 businesses to violate the law and make worse an already unbearable problem. The city allowed another business to build out here about three years ago without building a holding pond.  Another business that build an offsite pond about 10 years ago filled the pond in about two years ago.  I called the storm water people and told them about the filled in pond and they said that they had no record of the pond. I understand that businesses that build ponds pay a reduced rate on the storm runoff fee.  This raises the question as to how they determine who gets the discount if they don't even know who did or did not build a pond. If the city cannot find competent people to run the storm water department then it is time that the elected officials consider privatizing this department. 

When a developer builds on a site and knows that he is required by city law to build a pond or other retention device for stormwater runoff and does not build it he is violating the law and is, therefore, committing a criminal act.  The question then is why did none of the mayors or the commissioner of public works do anything to correct this problem since it was glaringly obvious that these people couldn't handle the job they were supposed to be doing.  Was it incompetence, corruption, laziness or a combination of all three, on the part of city officials charged with the responsibility of enforcing the city law, that caused this horrific storm water runoff problem in the mall area.

When a developer increases the value of his property while devaluing another's property by knowingly violating the law he is committing a criminal act and is, therefore, a common thief.  The crimes of these despicable, greedy criminals cause real people to suffer loss of property and a diminished quality of life.  My losses from these criminal acts now stand at about $50,000-$60,000. It is also unsafe to use my garage or driveway when we have rainfall of one inch per hour or more.  When city officials allow these criminals developers to continually violate the law then they become a party to the crime.

Mr. Mayor, I hope that your administration will enforce the city laws pertaining to stormwater runoff and will build a regional holding pond to fix the runoff problem that past administrations caused to happen or raise the affected buildings.

Homer Goins

* * *

Homer, you are correct.  My family moved to our Standifer Gap Road Farm in 1967 and the farm never had flooding until Hamilton Place Mall was built.  Previous mayors have pledged to fix the problem but did not.

While I served on the Hamilton County Commission I lobbied then Mayor Gene Roberts to widen a bridge over Hickory Valley Road to take care of the two churches that flooded routinely as you so rightly pointed out. Later the second bridge was upgraded so most of that flooding was cured.  Now our farm is a detention pond for Hamilton Place  Mall that they did not build.

I was told that the bridge on the west side of our property could be widened and raised and that would solve my problem. However, it would necessitate upgrading another bridge on Noah Reid Road so it appears to be impossible financially.  

Harold.Coker 

* * * 

It is understandable how upset these folks are for relying on the Chattanooga Stormwater Board for relief from flooding, but is also understandable why it is happening to them. I want all of you to take a look at what the Chattanooga Stormwater Board chairman, Doug Stein, has his name on. The name of his company is on the machines you see in the video, he is in charge. They helped create all of this silt and mud runoff with the machines, it is partially man made. The well connected may get away with such water and erosion issues while others are fined and condemned, just like the folks flooded by the mall.  

Follow the money folks and keep an eye on your stormwater board chairman, ever hear of the "fox guarding the hen house?"  

Joe Blevins 

* * *

I read this opinion yesterday but it didn't strike a chord with me until I saw that video today, oh my goodness, my heart breaks for the residents of that neighborhood.   This is so sad, that a few are suffering so much for the many (or should I say the money) should be against the law. 

Maybe those residents should ban together and call in the EPA.  Look what happened to that rancher in Wyoming, fined $75,000 per day for building a pond on his own land.  So the next big runoff someone quick throw in a couple of fish (it would be extra points if you can find a smelt) and make a quick call to the government. 

If it sounds like I'm making light of your situation I apologize because that is not my intention.  For me property is sacred to its owner, it's the end result of years of hard work making a dream come true.  No one, particularly the government, should ever dash those dreams in the name of money for me, silt for you.   

Keep fighting and if you organize a physical protest I'd be happy to provide coffee and cake. 

Sue White



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