By Doug Lindner
SOLON– Things had been moving along, albeit slowly.
The drainage issue affecting the residents of the cul-de-sac Marshek Court had made it back on the city council’s radar, and over the last month the city’s engineer and public works director had been working on a cost-effective solution.
Then came Wednesday night’s council meeting.
Residents of Marshek Court have been attending council meetings regularly for months to monitor progress on their issue, and they took umbrage during the Aug. 21 session when city attorney Jim Martinek reported on the subdivision’s history and his recommendation for the city’s legal approach.
Added to that was a report from public works director Scott Kleppe, who described the Solon school board as noncommittal regarding a small piece of land likely needed for a detention basin to relieve the problem.
At least three homes on Marshek Court have been inundated by fast moving stormwater coming into their neighborhood from the adjacent Solon Middle School and the former varsity football field.
The council members have made the problem a regular agenda item, but they didn’t even get to it officially Wednesday night because the meeting turned tense during the city attorney’s report.
City attorney Jim Martinek said he had reviewed the subdivision’s original documents and found its covenants would expire at the end of 2014.
From the city’s standpoint, he said, it would be more advantageous to have the covenants renewed and the dormant homeowners’ association revived. The covenants include the entirety of the developer’s agreement with the city, which contains negotiated provisions granting the city wide latitude to assess the property owners for any drainage improvements, he said.
“That’s a pretty serious provision in those documents that would apply to every lot in that subdivision,” Martinek said.
The homeowners’ association, active only from 1995 to 2001, would allow the city to deal with a single entity in resolving the issue, as opposed to 14 individual lot owners, he observed.
He recommended the city consider making the renewal of the covenants a stipulation of any negotiated resolution.
That didn’t sit well with the crowd.
“I thought that was dissolved. That’s why we pay the $7 extra a month on our bill,” said resident Randy Cline, referring to the 2008 agreement which sets aside money for maintenance of the drainage basin.
Marshek residents were reluctant to restart the association in 2008, and were still hesitant five years later.
“Why do you feel that it’s a bad idea to do what our attorney is recommending?” asked mayor pro tem Steve Stange.
“Why would we [want to do it]?” responded Cline. The homeowners already pay for city utilities, he said. It makes no sense to have another layer of association on top. “Why would be different than anybody living on South Iowa Street or Elm Street?”
“The legal answer to that is because your predecessor basically set it up that way,” Martinek said.
He indicated it was possible the association would only be necessary for as long as it took to find a permanent solution to the problem, and would not require an additional expense from the owners.
Cline noted the city had floated a possible solution, and he wondered whether the association would be needed if the residents all agreed to it right away.
Kleppe said it was a preliminary proposal to gauge feedback from the school and the property owners.
“We’re going to have some long discussions with the school also,” said council member Ron Herdliska. He said it would be much easier to deal one or two persons representing the home owners than with a large group.
But Cline indicated it would be difficult to reform the association, predicting some property owners wouldn’t want anything to do with it, and he chafed about the idea of facing more spring flooding in 2014.
“The city, as in you guys and the employees, to me are more concerned about other issues that shouldn’t be in front of this issue.” Cline said, citing the city hall project as an example.
“I know one thing,” he said. “If my basement gets flooded, there’ll be the biggest lawsuit this city’s ever seen from a lot of us.
“If the city’s not going to be behind us, then you might as well take that seven dollars off my bill because I ain’t paying it ever again,” he said.
The Marshek residents continued to assert that the school property behind them is a proximate cause of their flooding problems.
“I think we’re all in agreement that the school’s got a big chunk in this,” Stange said.
During a joint session in July, the city and the school district discussed the problem, and the school board indicated it would participate in a resolution.
At Wednesday’s meeting, however, Kleppe was less optimistic with the school’s response.
He and Herdliska had attended the July 12 meeting of the school board to discuss the issue (as well as the use of the former varsity soccer field). The city engineer’s preliminary proposal would require obtaining some property from the school for the drainage basin, he said, and the district “doesn’t want to lose any property,” Kleppe noted.
“We need a certain area for a detention basin. How that detention basin is configured– it can be can be configured many ways. But we still need an area for it, and the school didn’t seem too receptive of giving up much of an area, at all,” he added.
The school has been working on a facilities plan which might identify the former varsity football field as the site for a new middle school.
So what are the people living at Marshek Court supposed to do, Cline asked.
“What are we supposed to do with the water coming down there so fast?” Cline asked. “Sit there and watch it?”
“We need to work together to get it done,” Stange said.