Cape residents stuck with muddy mess

Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Melissa Seabaugh shoveled mud off Nottingham Drive in Cape Girardeau on Tuesday with her 2-year-old son, Ryan. Mud slides down the hill from a nearby construction site and settles in front of her house, left, whenever it rains. (Diane L. Wilson)

Melissa Seabaugh and her neighbors get nervous when it rains.

Typically after every rain shower, puddles of mud and debris gather in front of their Cape Girardeau homes on Nottingham Drive. The runoff comes from a subdivision development up the street on Ferndale Drive.

The mud remains on the street for days, said Seabaugh, who lives at 2108 Nottingham Lane. "Nobody will take responsibility for it," she said.

After every rain, Seabaugh and her three children pull shovels out of the garage to clean the mud off the street. The family walks shovelfuls of mud to a creek behind their home.

David Giles, who lives on at the intersection of Ferndale and Nottingham, watched as Seabaugh shoveled mud into a pile Tuesday. "That's an embarrassment to our city, to see a property owner out there shoveling mud off the street," he said.

Denise Merideth, who lives between Seabaugh and Giles, said Tuesday's mud pile was the biggest ever. Mud caked both her driveway and the tires of her new vehicle in the garage.

"This is a problem every time it rains. No matter if we get 1 inch of rain or 10 inches, there's mud," Merideth said.

The mud has been a problem since the development began about two years ago, the neighbors say. They're frustrated. They've complained to the subdivision developer. They've complained to the city. But they said nothing has ever been done.

"It seems like nobody cares," Seabaugh said. "When it has been going on for so long, what else can we do?"

A city ordinance requires the property owners to be responsible for cleaning up mud that runs from their property into the street. If a nuisance complaint is filed and the responsible party doesn't clean up the mess, a summons is issued.

Each time Cape Girardeau's nuisance abatement officer Ty Metzger receives a call from the neighbors, he places nuisance signs on the properties where he believes the mud comes from. Metzger did issue summonses to the subdivision developer in the past but said, "It seems like the problem's not getting any better."

Now the subdivision the mud is coming from is nearly complete. City engineer Jay Stencil said once the subdivision developer sells the lots, the developer is no longer responsible.

"The erosion control issue gets difficult once it's out of the developer's hand's," Stencil said. "If the lots are owned by several individuals it's hard for us to determine who is responsible for cleaning it up."

Contractor Dennis Davidson owns an unfinished home at the top of Ferndale. No sod has been laid on the property, which Davidson said is where most of the mud and debris came from. "We put a new silt fence up last week, but Sunday's rain was so heavy that it didn't prevent the rain from washing down," he said.

After Davidson was told about the runoff from his lot, he and another employee took over cleaning off the road on Tuesday. Seabaugh said that was the first time someone other than herself cleaned off the road.

"I understand their problem," Davidson said. "They've been dealing with this issue a lot longer than I have. I came in on the tail end of it."

Davidson said he plans to spread hay on the ground today. That should prevent most of the mud and gravel from running down the street, he said. He said the sod he will lay in the next couple of weeks will eliminate the problem.

The Nottingham Lane residents want the issue resolved. "We're not against development at all," Merideth said. "But what if I want to sell my house? Having a pile of mud in front isn't going to attract any potential buyers."

335-6611, extension 246

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