While some Riverside trustees openly questioned the value of a backyard flooding study completed by the village’s engineering firm, residents affected by the problem pointed to the study as the kind of thing the village can do to help residents throughout the village – and ought to do more of.
Earlier this month, Dan Schoenberg, a project engineer for James J. Benes & Associates presented his study of six separate areas in the north-central part of the village, and discussed possible solutions for relieving flooding. The presentation included aerial photos with topographical markings showing low spots behind homes, and indicated just where outlets for the standing water might be located.
The study, which was given the go-ahead in December 2010, cost the village $20,000 and was finished in June 2011. However, trustees back in December also wanted concrete recommendations about potential policy changes with respect to the village’s building code to prevent flooding in the future.
The study didn’t include that kind of information, and Schoenberg argued that the building codes the village already has in place “should catch most of the land-disturbing activities. The value of the study, he added, was to offer “one example of one way of providing technical assistance” to residents.
But some trustees complained that that wasn’t the point of the study.
“We didn’t get what we thought we were paying for,” said Trustee Lonnie Sacchi.
Trustee Ben Sells agreed, saying, “What I was looking for is, ‘Has the village done something … that has contributed to these problems?’ If so, then it’s the village’s responsibility to solve those problems and not the homeowners.”
Schoenberg argued that it was pointless to accept that responsibility, and his study looked only at relieving flooding in problem areas of the village.
“I don’t think the village bears any responsibility,” Schoenberg said. “The pattern of development happened over decades.”
The study was never meant to solve the flooding problems of every homeowner but was to be used as a resource for potential solutions. That goal has already been met in one instance.
When Lee and Jenny Hinson bought their home in the 200 block of Gatesby Road in 2010, they had no idea that it would eventually be seen as a critical flood outlet for a whole area of their block.
But the Hinsons soon enough found out about the flooding that their property was prone to.
In late July 2010, they pulled up to their new home’s driveway – they hadn’t moved in yet – to find that the entire backyard had been flooded in a driving overnight rain.
“We could’ve had the whole neighborhood over for a pool party,” said Jenny Hinson.
In February 2011, at the same time Schoenberg was performing his study, the Hinsons began to research how to solve their problem. They eventually hired a Brookfield-based landscaping firm called Dig Right In to design a solution.
What they came up with was to dig a shallow swale around the perimeter of the backyard, pitching it so that it would eventually drain down the driveway to the street. Before the entire project was complete, the Benes study identified their property as a key site in that area of the village.
The village halted the work at the Hinsons’ home, and Benes’ engineers did some consulting on the project, eventually suggesting that a trench be dug along the side of the driveway to avoid the water exiting on the driveway itself. Such a solution would increase the life span of the driveway.
When it was all said and done, the project cost the Hinsons about $30,000. But it works.
During a heavy rain this summer, the swale filled and the water traveled around and out through the trench. The middle of the yard remained if not high, then dry.
Lee Hinson said they received excellent advice and direction from Benes, which cost nothing extra. But because the of the village’s study, that additional professional advice was at least available to them.
“That’s the kind of assistance the village can offer,” said Lee Hinson. “Maybe they can pay for engineering or [topographical studies]. Or maybe they can cover the cost of a sidewalk or driveway apron. I don’t think every year it’s going to be tens of thousands of dollars. The village got what they asked for [with the study]. They just need to learn how to use it.”