Cape Girardeau tightens rules on water detention

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

The Cape Girardeau City Council passed an ordinance Monday it hopes will hold builders responsible for erosion and stormwater problems in newly built subdivisions.

Under current law, once individual lots are sold the city requires little more from builders than to clean mud off streets twice per day. The inadequacy of this requirement, say city officials, became apparent in part due to problems at the newly built Arbor Heights subdivision on the city's north side.

There, residents on surrounding low-lying streets say even a light rain washes mud and debris into their yards.

Under the new ordinance builders are required to put erosion controls in place before they dig out the basement of the house. The ordinance does not specify what the erosion control must be, but hay-bales and silt fences are generally accepted methods.

"This isn't going to prevent all the mud, but with these measures we hope at places like Arbor Heights the impact will be less severe than what they have been in the past," said city engineer Jay Stencel.

Surprising to some, the developers contacted by the Southeast Missourian support the tougher requirements. "I've talked to Jay about this ordinance, and it seems like something I can live with," said Brandon Williams of Williams Brothers Contracting.

But Williams wants to see the city hold all builders equally accountable. He said he spent $1,000 for silt fences at one building location alone and wants to make sure other builders aren't cutting corners.

"I don't want this to be a complaint-driven ordinance, and I'm worried that's what it's going to be," he said. "I keep hearing from the city, "We don't have enough manpower, but if they start issuing me tickets it's going to be an issue. What they do for me they should do for all."

Contractor Mike Annis said in a heavy rain these measures will be ineffective. "Even with silt fences, under the right circumstances I'm not sure God himself could stop mud from coming downhill," he said. The ordinance also requires builders to put in gravel driveways at the site to prevent vehicles from tracking mud onto the street.

Additionally, individual lots cannot be built on inclines steeper than three feet horizontal to one foot vertical. Any exceptions to this rule will require an engineering study, timeline and soil approved by the city.

For development at the three-to-one gradient the ordinance requires thick material like sod be put in the yard to soak up rainfall. "What we don't want to see anymore is the guy who just builds and walks away and it all washes onto the people living down below," Stencel said.

The new law would also require that all commercial and residential development include detention basins with a capacity to drain water in more common rain events. The past law only asked that basins stand up to the rare 25-year rain event.

Stencel said this provision came directly from Jackson's ordinances, which he called more up-to-date and effective.

"Instead of just getting a big pipe sticking out of the ground, we're asking for a control structure called a weir. With this even in a small rain event it's going to hold some water," said Stencel.

The city worked with residents and developers in constructing the ordinance.

335-6611, extension 245

Respond to this story

Posting a comment requires free registration: