Resident wants solution to drainage woes

Developer pledges to repair failing stormwater pond
October 5, 2017

Story Location:
Wil King Road
Lewes  Delaware
United States

Walt Wilson stands in his front yard along Wil King Road outside Lewes and stares at a large stormwater retention pond next to his property. “The pond hasn't worked since day one,” he said.

The 21,500-square-foot, 18-foot deep infiltration pond – one of two in the new Tall Grass Estates development – retains standing water and is a breeding ground for mosquitoes, he said.

He looks at plans for the community that show the pond must drain with 48 hours of a storm and within 72 hours of a 100-year storm.

The situation could be resolved within the next few weeks. Developer Alan Halle admits the pond does not drain as quickly as it should, but water runoff from Wil King Road has exacerbated the problem.

Wilson said water has spilled over onto his property.

Halle, president of Stanley Halle Communities, said water drainage problems along Wil King Road date back many years because Delaware Department of Transportation drainage ditches along the road don't work well.

He said in the past, a lot of water in the area drained onto the Hazzard's farmland that he now owns. “No one seemed to care about,” he said.

His company will dig out one foot from the pond and design a system to accept water from the houses near the entrance to the development and keep water away from the Wilson's property.

“The soil is good and the farm lays out well for the ponds in place,” he said. “The pond handled two 100-year storms last year. We'll put water on our property and that will be the end of it.”

Halle said getting the work done takes time as it progresses through the permitting and engineering phases.

During a rainstorm, Wilson said, about 5 or 6 inches of runoff from a large dirt pile – which was not protected by a silt fence – ended up in the pond covering the sand, which is key to water infiltrating into the soil in a timely manner.

A work crew can be seen removing the dirt pile.

Wilson, who is a building contractor, said the community's stormwater management system depends on the stormwater ponds working at 100-percent efficiency. “If they don't work, what happens next?” he asked.

Wil King Road has a long history of drainage issues. A couple who lives along the road near Wilson went to court over water runoff from Oakwood Village at Lewes.

“I don't want to be a bad neighbor,” Wilson said. “If they get that pond to work properly, they will never hear from me again.”

In the meantime, Wilson said, he was told to keep records and take photos and videos as construction progresses on the development.

There is a bigger question

Wilson said the bigger question is why Sussex County officials allow development in areas with drainage problems.

Wilson, who grew up on a Pennsylvania dairy farm, said he doesn't blame farmers for selling their land, but not every piece of property in Sussex County is suitable for development.

“Just because you can grow corn on it, doesn't necessarily mean houses can be built on it,” he said.

Sussex County Council approved an updated drainage ordinance in April. The ordinance eliminates outdated standards for construction – some adopted in the 1970s – and inserts detailed requirements for road construction, sidewalks, swales and systems to control water runoff collection.

It also creates new steps in the county's land-use process to require more specific grading plans for developments and individual lots to ensure rainwater is collected and flows away from homes and streets.

Tall Grass Estates did not fall under the new regulations.