Riverside trustees are poised to have the village’s engineering firm embark on a study of flooding in the backyards of homes in various parts of town in order to offer residents possible solutions and at the same time potentially influence the building code.

The flooding experienced this summer appears to have been the final nail in the coffin for residents in areas scattered across neighborhoods north of the railroad tracks, where the backyard flooding was particularly bad.

Even before those heavy rains, however, residents say that flooding has gotten worse in recent years, often, they believe, tied to new construction projects in their neighborhoods.

On Oct. 18, trustees asked Village Manager Peter Scalera and the village’s engineering firm, James J. Benes and Associates, to draw up a proposal for studying the causes of flooding in six separate locations in the village and make recommendations on potential solutions for homeowners and revisions to the building code.

Using the village’s geographic information system (GIS), officials have been pinpointing every area of flooding – whether they’re backyards, basements or roadways – whenever a complaint comes in.

“We’re not dealing with puddles,” Selborne Avenue resident Bob Koncius told trustees on Oct. 18. “We’re dealing with 100 feet by 60 feet wide, a foot of water that’d take about two weeks to relieve.”

Koncius traces the flooding on his property to the construction of a neighbor’s in-ground pool. It was because of the flooding that resulted at Koncius’ home and others adjacent to it – storm water now drains into their yards – that the village crafted a rule in the building code that calls for construction site to be graded so that storm water isn’t dumped into neighboring yards indiscriminately.

“I think this is a very good plan for helping our residents figure out a solution or simply for the future,” Koncius said.

“We’re kind of lost; we don’t know where to go.”

Conducting such a study will cost the village upwards of $20,000, money that will come from the general operating fund. The plan would involve field visits to and surveys of the areas to establish drainage patterns, identify conditions that could impact the cost of solutions and recommend improvements to drainage and the building code, which would be outlined in a final report.

While the report would identify solutions, it would be up to homeowners to either individually or collectively implement them at their own cost.

It’s unclear how long it would take to complete such a report. Scalera said he hoped to have the board sign off on conducting the study as early as December.

The prospect of spending public money to fund a survey of private property had some trustees scratching their heads.

“Now every time someone’s property floods we need to have an engineering study?” asked Trustee Lonnie Sacchi. “I think we’re opening up ourselves to being liable for people’s flooding problems.”

Trustee John Scully, too, at first objected to spending public dollars for an engineering study of private property.

“It has nothing to do with the village,” he said. “We’re in tight economic times and we’re being asked to spend $19,880 to do a survey for private land owers.”

In the end, Scully changed his mind and threw his support behind the study after listening to resident after resident tie the increase in flooding to village-approved construction.

“There’s no question in my mind, the way building projects were approved by the village has had at least some impact on what’s happening,” said Mary Rose Mangia, a resident of Selborne Road.

While private properties are involved, Mangia said, if the village could do the survey, it could have a benefit village-wide.

“You need to start looking at the building codes to alleviate this,” Mangia said. “People are going to undertake solutions on their own if the village doesn’t sponsor anything.”

Eastgrove Road resident Bob Charal agreed.

“In the last few years there has been construction on three of four houses we abut,” he said. “All had been permitted and built to specifications the village approved. It didn’t work.

“We’re talking about getting some insight into areas to determine what went wrong with village-permitted construction.”

Scalera also argued that the study could benefit the village by solving problems. The village has already done this on a smaller basis, he said.
“I think the board should also note there have been times in this village … where we’ve had two homeowners with drainage issues that have tried to work with the village to try and address those issues, and there have been times when we have used village funds to bring in Benes to give us an opinion on those two types of issues,” Scalera said.

“I honestly feel as a municipality, right, it is private property, but there are times when our principal charge is to work on ensuring the quality of life for private residents.”