‘It’s a nightmare’: Resident concerns over storm water detention basin prompt city to reconsider options

CEDAR CITY — Cedar City started the construction of a storm water detention basin in the Sunset Canyon Estates development that does not appear to meet the city’s engineering standards, and after residents of the neighborhood voiced their concerns, the city has put construction on hold and is considering other solutions.

A sheer drop-off is part of the design of a detention basin, located 10 feet from the property line of a city-owned parcel in the Sunset Canyon Estates development, Cedar City, July 6, 2020 | Photo by Kelsey Cooke, St George News / Cedar City News

The current state of the basin, located at 2724 West 25 South, includes plastic fencing around part of the lot and a sheer 19-foot drop.

Cedar City resident Diana Blodgett’s property is next to the half-acre lot the city purchased for the detention basin. She told Cedar City News on Monday that the cliff is only 10 feet from her property line.

“This is a structural issue. It’s not safe for my property line,” she said. “It’s not safe for my foundation, and not to mention the 250 plus kids we have in this neighborhood.”

Blodgett said the basin is located near heavily-used recreational trails.

“It’s so great for the kids,” she said of the location of the neighborhood. “They ride bikes and dirt bikes and ATVs up there. This corner sort of is a magnet for kids, drawing everyone down to this area.”

Recreational trails can be seen in close proximity to city-owned property being constructed into a storm water detention basin, Cedar City, July 6, 2020 | Photo by Kelsey Cooke, St George News / Cedar City News

However, with all the kids in the area, Blodgett said that the current fencing is not a deterrent from entering the lot.

“You can just climb over or under this at any point, and they didn’t even fence it all the way around,” she said. “The whole back portion isn’t even covered. I’ve seen kids back here already and pets back here already. … Having a 19-foot drop in the middle of a neighborhood with these kids here, regardless of how it’s fenced, isn’t safe.”

Blodgett said she and several of her neighbors have submitted a letter to the city detailing their concerns about the basin, as well as requesting improvements from the city, including that the basin be constructed according to city standards.

Among other requirements, current city engineering standards for a detention basin, according to the city’s website, dictate a two-to-one rising slope along the outside edge of the basin that meets a 12-foot wide gravel road, and then a three-to-one downward slope from the road to the bottom of the basin.

This means that for every 3 feet horizontally out from the road, the slope should only drop 1 foot. By this code, for a 19-foot depth, the bottom of the basin would need to be 57 feet out from the road.

Section from Cedar City embankment code shows rise and drop of slope for detention basin | Photo from Cedar City website, St. George News / Cedar City News | Click to enlarge

“In the private sector if a builder tried to do something like this, the city would come in and say, ‘No, you have to follow regulation and code,’” Blodgett said in regard to the current 19-foot drop-off. “I’ve been in contact with storm water engineers all over the state of Utah and they said that this is not the way that detention ponds generally work.”

Blodgett also said she and other neighbors were concerned about the effect on property values if the city failed to maintain the property up to the development’s Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions. She said there are several examples around the state of detention basins that are landscaped and also serve as parks or recreation areas for neighborhoods.

“With all the kids we have in this neighborhood, this could be a draw to our property value as opposed to tanking it – which right now, it is.”

Blodgett added that she feels the city can do better.

“It’s just a nightmare,” she said. “Leaving this as it is during construction is ridiculous.”

A detention basin in Herriman, Utah called Hamilton Farms Park, date not specified | Photo courtesy of Suzanne Earl, St George News / Cedar City News

Construction was halted on the project as a result of the neighborhood’s concerns, and a meeting was held Tuesday with city staff and two City Council members to discuss those concerns and potential solutions.

Cedar City Engineer Kit Wareham told Cedar City News on Wednesday that the current design of the detention basin is based on the need of the area and restrictions due to the lot size and location.

“We were given an easement on this lot to put a detention basin on it, and it really is not configured to be a normal detention basin,” he said. “It’s a different situation than most detention basins. We are kind of boxed in out there.”

The half-acre parcel is located above the lowest point in the neighborhood, so in order for the estimated 3 feet of storm water runoff from the neighborhood to be caught in the basin, the basin has to be around 19 or 20 feet deep.

Cedar City Councilman Tyler Melling, who was in attendance at Tuesday’s meeting, told Cedar City News several residents in the area have reached out to him regarding the basin. He said the reason for creating the basin at this time is due to the development underway north of Sunset Canyon Estates.

“That lot had already had an easement from the city to put a detention basin in at some point,” he said. “Now that there’s development downhill, it does need to be developed and created so that the users downstream are not going to have any property damage from storm water runoff.”

Melling said the interests Sunset Canyon Estates are being considered alongside the development to the north as the city considers other options for managing the storm water.

“We’re looking at remedies that weigh both of those interests,” Melling said. “We felt that we should exhaust those other options and look into them further before pursuing further work on the detention basin where it is.”

Options being considered include rerouting storm water runoff as well as working with the development to the north to create a system capable of managing the runoff of both developments.

Melling added that if the basin does have to be completed, “preserving the neighborhood is at the forefront of that discussion.”

“If we as a city are looking at expecting more from our citizens as far as managing property and things looking nice, we need to be exemplary stewards of property as an entity, as Cedar City Corporation.”

Melling if the basin has to be finished, there are different options of materials for constructing walls around it.

“We’re going to make sure any walls we have around it are up to not only the city’s standards but also the covenants of the neighborhood,” Melling said.

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2020, all rights reserved.

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