Mitchell pressures legislators over drainage

Ocean View Councilman Perry Mitchell asked for state or federal assistance for longstanding drainage issues in the development of West View off of West Avenue this week in a letter addressed to state Sen. George Howard Bunting and Rep. Gerald Hocker and copied to everyone from local media outlets to the Hon. Joe Biden, vice president of the United States.

Town engineers presented a proposal to fix problem areas of New Castle Court, Judith’s Run, Tyler Drive, Sussex Court and West Avenue back in May and said then that the problems had been made worse since the filling in of a drainage swale by a property owner in 2005. But Wally Brown, who was the property owner that filled in the ditch that had gone across his land, views the situation differently.

He said sees it more as a twofold problem involving a culvert put in by the developer of Meylee Estates, a development adjacent to West View.

“Solution one is stopping the water from entering West View. Solution two is providing the remaining water somewhere to go,” he said in his own letter to the editor. “The ditch that existed on private property was never placed outside the realm of being private property and was never intended to be used as the principle means to drain that area.”

Mitchell wrote this week that, because of the estimated cost of the project, he was requesting a state grant to fund it or, at least, a matching grant. In his letter, he acknowledged that Hocker had responded to a previous letter about the issue, but he deemed that response an unacceptable one.

“Since I have sent my original letter in Dec. 24, 2008, I have not received any reply from you, except that Rep. Hocker said it can be corrected by forcing a wetlands violation, which I found is not a valid response since DNREC has already reviewed this issue,” wrote Mitchell in his letter.

“The Delaware Division of Parks and Recreation was contacted over a year ago and advised that it had no jurisdiction concerning the filling of the ditch by Mr. Brown since it was on his own property,” he continued. “Also, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers also declined to accept jurisdiction.”

Mayor Gordon Wood said this week that Hocker was being more than helpful in the area of drainage problems in the town and expressed disappointment in the tone of the letter from Mitchell, which was sent by Mitchell alone and not by the town council or Ocean View as a municipality.

“Rep. Hocker has interceded in the past with getting money for the town on drainage projects in Ocean View, something people might not know,” Wood emphasized. “He is working actively attempting to support our town in correcting an unfair burden on West View, not withstanding Mr. Mitchell’s unfair criticisms.

“That’s just Perry being Perry,” Wood added.

Hocker said that, on Tuesday of this week, he met with Wood, Town Manager Conway Gregory, Ocean View Public Works Supervisor Charlie McMullen and representatives from the Soil Conservation District and DNREC about ways to solve the issue.

“I have been working with the town for some time,” said Hocker. “To give people the impression that we weren’t doing anything was out of place. When it was brought to my attention, right away I turned it over to the Conservation District. It is a flood problem that needs to be addressed.”

Hocker also said that he has more towns in his jurisdiction than any state legislator and isn’t sure that there will be the kind of money available to pay for the size of project that is needed in Ocean View to fix the drainage woes. “We’ll do all we can but we are cutting everything,” he emphasized of the state’s ongoing attempts to balance its budget.

Back in May, town engineer Kercher Engineering’s proposed solution to the problems included placing in some of the swales a geo-textile fabric that will keep out dirt but allow water to drain through into the surrounding ground, combined with stone and a perforated pipe that will help keep down mosquitoes and filter out large debris while still allowing the water to percolate into the soil; the reopening of the filled-in swale section, leaving it again as an open swale; adding a “Stormceptor” element that will collect sediment and allow flowing stormwater to continue unimpeded through the drainage system to the existing Judith’s Run ditch; and re-grading ditches as needed to ensure they are properly angled to allow stormwater to drain away.

In May, after residents of nearby Savannah’s Landing expressed concerns about the resulting impact on their community, Kercher assured them that the resulting flow from West View’s Stormceptor into Savannah’s Landing wouldn’t be a dramatic change.

“It will not be a river,” he said, emphasizing that the idea of the drainage system proposed was to reduce overall flow by allowing the stormwater to percolate into the surrounding soil as much as possible as it runs through the system.

As for Brown, he maintains that he called and asked the town and DNREC before proceeding with filling the ditch, and he maintains that he was told that, because it was on his private property, filling it was allowed. He contends that action did no more to exacerbate the problem than did development elsewhere in the area.

In May and again this week, Brown said he objects to the town’s requests for a 10-foot-wide “maintenance easement,” which would serve to permit town employees to legally go onto properties – including Brown’s – that border the drainage swales, in order to maintain them. Instead, Brown proposes a “contract” between the town and the swale-neighboring property owners that would permit the placement of an 18-inch, enclosed drainage pipe along their adjoining property lines with the eventual redirection going to a low-lying, forested area of several acres within West View.

A Jan. 27 council workshop, specifically concerning the West View drainage problem, was rescheduled this week due to inclement weather and will now be held on Thursday, Feb. 5, at 7 p.m., at town hall.