City accepts storm-water deal

Chad Lydick, with Lydick engineers, explains the four different solution possibilities to the Clovis City Commission Thursday for storm water drainage retention for Copper Manor #2 in Clovis. (CNJ staff photo: Eric Kluth)

By Mike Linn: CNJ news editor

The Clovis City Commission on Thursday accepted a fee to manage storm-water drainage for an area subdivision, a first-time move some say could set a costly precedent.

Developers of Copper Manor II, a 38-lot subdivision near the intersection of Norris and Enloe streets, will pay a fee of $50,000 to avoid building two large retention ponds on the property.

The City Commission accepted the deal by unanimous vote, but are now in charge of diverting storm water, possibly with the use of underground pipe.

“As a commissioner, you don’t want to hurt what’s already developed, but you also don’t want to discourage future development,” Commissioner Kevin Duncan said.

Copper Manor attorney Michael Garrett told commissioners that developers shouldn’t be forced to find drainage solutions.

“The responsibility is on the city,” he said. “You’re impeding development if you don’t approve this, and if you wait too long the developer could just decide to build retention ponds and it would be like any other subdivision.”

City code requires developers to have a plan for retaining or diverting runoff water, especially if there’s a potential for the flooding of homes in lower-level areas.

But commissioners and developers say retention ponds can decrease the value of area homes, are often unsightly and unsafe, and can amount to a maintenance nightmare.

For a city growing as fast as Clovis, retention ponds will likely be inadequate forms of drainage in the future, said Public Works Director Harry Wang.

But Wang cautioned commissioners that accepting the deal without a plan to divert the water would be inappropriate. Currently much of the water is retained on the property. But in weeks the subdivision will have paved roads and water will start to flow south, where it could flood the low-lying intersection of Peacock and Chaparral streets on the way to its destination, a lake 1/2 mile south of Copper Manor.

Wang said accepting the fee would also prompt other developers to make similar offers to the city.

And lastly, Wang said the fee should have been figured based on exact drainage costs for the city and developers.

“There has to be a rational reason for accepting this money,” he said. “If we take that fee, what the city is facing is immediate impact on other properties.”

Commissioner Robert Sandoval said after the meeting he voted to accept the deal because tabling the motion would stall development in the area, which could prompt developers to build the retention ponds to avoid a long wait.
“It wasn’t an easy decision,” he said. “This is going to teach us a little bit of a lesson for future projects.”

Unlike Wang, Sandoval said this deal won’t set a precedent for other developers who may want to buyout their drainage problems. And City Attorney David Richards said the city would not be subject to lawsuits from developers hoping for a similar deal.

The Commission will have to find a drainage solution quickly to avoid potential flooding, Sandoval said. One option presented was to drain water past low-lying areas via an underground pipeline, something city officials said would cost about $150,000 and could take upwards of six months to complete.

“This is something we’re really, really going to have to do our homework on,” Sandoval said. “It’s not going to be easy.”