11/14/12, 5/14/12, News Articles-BDN, Rpblcn Jrnl

By Tom Groening, BDN Staff
Posted May 14, 2012, at 6:41 p.m.
Last modified May 14, 2012, at 8:17 p.m.
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Laurie Allen gestures to the stream that runs behind her house on Seaview Terrace in Belfast on Thursday, May 10, 2012. She believes the city's decisions about stormwater management have contributed to making the stream larger and more damaging to her property.
Laurie Allen gestures to the stream that runs behind her house on Seaview Terrace in Belfast on Thursday, May 10, 2012. She believes the city's decisions about stormwater management have contributed to making the stream larger and more damaging to her property.
BELFAST, Maine — A woman whose backyard is bounded by a stream she claims the city has created and increased in size remains locked in conflict with city hall.
Laurie Allen of Seaview Terrace, a street that intersects Northport Avenue near Waldo County General Hospital, can be seen on some weekends carrying placards through the downtown that read “Belfast Bullies.” She maintains a blog on the issue and is a frequent speaker at City Council meetings, claiming the council is conspiring against her as she fights to keep her home dry and her backyard intact.
City officials maintain that the water flow, seen especially during rainy spells such as the area has experienced in the last few weeks, is part of the natural and managed drainage. Much of the city is built on a hill that pitches east to Penobscot Bay.
For Allen, the saga began last year. In June 2010, she purchased the house after a divorce, moving to Belfast from New Jersey. Last spring the stream behind her split-level ranch house filled.
“That was when it came gushing over the banks,” she said last week.
Except as far as Allen is concerned, it’s not a stream. The trench through which the water flows along her backyard was created when the flow was diverted, Allen said, when the Seaview Terrace subdivision was built in 1965. The natural drainage probably followed a course to the south of its current course, she said.
This is a point on which city officials and Allen agree. City Planner Wayne Marshall said aerial photos of the city from 1939 and 1957 show the stream, though it is likely that it was to the south of its current course.
But the city maintains that it has no responsibility to fix the problem. The subdivision, built as it was under the laws of the day, was legal and approved.
On Thursday, May 10, after a couple of days of heavy rain, Allen showed where the stream flowed, noting especially how the bank closest to her house had begun eroding. Her property line lies on the opposite bank of the stream, she said, pointing to a survey stake.
“I probably lost 4 to 5 feet of property,” she said.
Allen asserts that water has plagued the neighborhood for years, in both backyards and on the street side. Marshall confirms that in 1987, at the request of residents, the city engineer completed a report that examined the problem. It concluded the city was not on the hook for any fix.
Allen also notes that in subsequent years, major new building developments have added to runoff. They include the Captain Albert Stevens School, a townhouse development on Cedar Street, the Volunteers of America senior housing complex on Congress Street, a new hospital complex on the west side of Northport Avenue, and expansions of the Tall Pines nursing home and Mid-Coast Mental Health facility, both adjacent to Seaview Terrace.
At the top of Seaview Terrace is a culvert, about 40 inches in diameter, which feeds the trench that flows past Allen’s house. A gravel bank prevents water from flowing farther south and instead diverts it east toward the bay. Allen wants that gravel bank removed.
“I’ve asked for the full history of Seaview Terrace and the flooding,” Allen said. She said she has been stonewalled by city officials, a charge Marshall denies.
Allen said she worked behind the scenes to help city officials find a practical solution to the problem before going public with her complaints, beginning at a council meeting in November.
Some of Allen’s neighbors have grown tired of her activism, though. Bud Hand spoke at a recent council meeting asking the city to dissuade Allen from posting signs on her property complaining about her water problem.
The city’s position, said Marshall, is: “That is an active stream behind her property and it is part of a major drainage basin” for the area. When each new development in the area was built, he said, measures were taken to meet state and local regulations to hold back water from major storms.
And finally, Marshall said, the city can’t fix problems on private property.
Allen believes a fix to the water woes would cost her at least $45,000.
“If you’re not getting services from your city, where do you turn?” she asked.

11/18/12 Republican Journal  Another resident forced to get attorney's and engineers to stop City from flooding, pitting neighbors against each other. 

Councilors delay decision on High Street property consent agreement

Concerns raised by neighbor about potential flooding
Belfast — A decision about the city's entering into a consent agreement with Nationstar Mortgage to address zoning violations at a High Street property was delayed after councilors were made aware of flooding concerns voiced by an abutting neighbor.
Abutting property owner Michelle Morrow expressed the concern that a proposal to build a driveway across property at 360 High St. owned by Judith Kennedy will result in flooding on Morrow's property.
Belfast Code Enforcement Officer Tod Rosenberg explained in a memo that the city is seeking a consent agreement with Nationstar because of zoning violations that occurred at a 358 High St. property. As noted by Rosenberg, the zoning violations referred to the fact that a duplex on the 358 High St. property encroached on the property lot at 360 High St., and there was no road access or adequate available parking at the 358 High St. property.
The issue dates back to 2003, when Sean and Jennifer Weed purchased the two adjacent property lots located at 358 and 360 High St. After purchasing the property, the couple planned to construct a duplex on the 358 High St. property. However, because the property located at 358 High St. lacked road frontage, the couple instead proposed joining the two lots as one.
Eventually the duplex was constructed, but before the two lots were merged as one by deed, the Weeds divorced and the properties fell into foreclosure.
As a result, Kennedy, who is attempting to sell her property this month, agreed to grant an easement across her property to Nationstar to allow the installation of a driveway. However, Morrow, who abuts the properties, is concerned the driveway will lack adequate drainage.
Camden Attorney Paul Gibbons, who spoke on behalf of Morrow, said the matter boils down to the issue of water.
“The problem is water; it’s a threat to our property,” Gibbons said. “There are two flows of water right between the properties.”
Gibbons said he and his client want to work with the city to resolve the issue, but that they would “not allow this city to put our property in jeopardy.”
Rosenberg refuted the claim that the property is threatened by the water that flows through the area, noting that the area, which is designated a drainage swale, is a little “moist.”
In addition to his assessment of the drainage in the area, Rosenberg also explained that 15-inch culverts would be installed, which would be more than adequate to handle the water flow through the area. Rosenberg also said that there is adequate room on the property to ditch alongside the driveway to make sure the water flows where it should.
Gibbons requested councilors to delay a decision regarding the consent agreement for two weeks in order to give him time to hire a consultant to look at the property and determine if the driveway would result in any issues. However, Nationstar attorney Nate Huckel-Bauer said a two-week delay would result in the closing's being pushed back by a month. He noted that neighbors have known about the proposal for the properties for a significant amount of time and Nationstar is ready to move ahead to address the zoning issues.
“Nationstar is ready to get the property back in compliance,” Huckel-Bauer said.
The terms of the consent agreement require Nationstar pay the city $3,000 in lieu of prosecution regarding the zoning violations, and to address the zoning violations. In addition, the agreement outlines 13 specific conditions that range from creating additional parking to how the existing duplex on Lot 32A can or cannot be modified.
Councilor Mike Hurley then asked if it is possible to approve the consent agreement on the condition that the flooding concerns are addressed. Councilors Marina Delune, Roger Lee and Eric Sanders all expressed concern about making a decision at the meeting, citing their lack of expertise in regard to the issue.
Lee suggested delaying a decision to Thursday, Nov. 15, when councilors have a workshop scheduled. He noted that would give Gibbons time to have an engineer look at the property and determine if there would be flooding issues. However, Lee also cautioned that the issue must be resolved by the Nov. 15 date.
Councilors unanimously approved delaying a decision, with Councilor Nancy Hamilton absent. The date for a ruling on the consent agreement was changed to Tuesday, Nov. 18 during the regularly scheduled city council meeting.

Republican Journal reporter Ben Holbrook can be reached at 338-3333 or at bholbrook@courierpublicationsllc.com.
Comments (1)
Posted by: Laurie Lee Allen | Nov 15, 2012 07:34
Pitting neighbors against each other because of Planning's unethical and illegal approvals of forcing stormwater to private properties.Impossible to stop or correct as a layman, residents are forced into expensive legal battles in hopes of breaking them financially with our tax dollars and defense with free reign and resources of the Wall of City Hall. Council must order sewers and resident infrastructure. We are drowning while greed for "visions" supersedes our ddemise. Taken from my blog, it's hard to watch Todd being so callous, even though I've been taking it for 2 years and counting from the whole wall. Disgusting to watch them bend over backwards for those they deem worthy albeit another resident or business.

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