Temporary stormwater retention pond at Stonefield

The owners of the Seminole Square Shopping Center and the Pepsi-Cola Bottling Company of Central Virginia will have their day in court to argue claims that Stonefield’s stormwater management system will damage their property.

In March, Pepsi and the Great Eastern Management Company filed suit as a consortium against Stonefield developer Edens, the city Charlottesville and Albemarle County. They claimed that a new 72-inch drainage pipe installed beneath U.S. 29 creates conditions that will lead to heavy flooding.

“The plaintiffs have alleged that [Edens] has unreasonably and materially altered the existing watershed and channelized and accelerating the existing water flow,” wrote Isak Howell, attorney for the consortium, in a recent court filing.

Although Albemarle County Circuit Judge Cheryl Higgins ruled Monday that two parts of the lawsuit against Edens can go forward, she dismissed portions of the suit that targeted the city and the county.  The Stonefield development, in Albemarle, borders Charlottesville.

Higgins agreed to hear the consortium’s claims that the system will cause flooding and a request that the stormwater pipe be blocked. She will also consider at trial whether the flooding constitutes “intentional trespass.”

The plaintiffs welcomed the decision.

“We respect Judge Higgins’ opinion and appreciate her prompt ruling affirming the essential issue, [that] this is a matter between private property owners regarding the manner in which storm water is managed,” Howell said in a statement. “We look forward to the opportunity to show in trial court that Edens’ diverting and channeling of storm water to our neighboring property … is a breach of private property rights.”

However, Higgins dismissed a claim that the consortium’s private property rights were being taken, as well as a claim that their “riparian rights” were violated by the pipe and the stormwater system.

The judge also ruled that the city of Charlottesville did not violate its erosion and sediment control ordinance by allowing the pipe to be opened and that Albemarle County staff did not exceed its authority by approving the stormwater system.

“We are very pleased that the circuit court granted our motion for dismissal on five of the seven counts and we are confident that we will prevail on the other two,” said Brad Dumont, vice president of development for Edens.

The pipe is downstream from a stormwater retention basin located north of the Sperry Marine property. Edens’ plan to build a 155,000-square-foot Costco store on the site depends on filling in the basin, which can only happen if the pipe is allowed to remain open.

Higgins has not yet scheduled a date for the trial.