Businesses near Stonefield file suit against Albemarle and Charlottesville
Two property owners filed suit Monday against Albemarle County and Charlottesville claiming the local governments issued permits allowing Stonefield stormwater to flood their properties in violation of the state’s stormwater laws.
The complaint also names Edens, the South Carolina-based developer of the Stonefield residential and commercial center.
“[Edens] has intentionally, knowingly, and unlawfully enlarged the watershed at its development and constructed stormwater facilities that will overwhelm and flood the Plaintiff’s property,” reads the lawsuit filed by attorneys for the Great Eastern Management Company and the Pepsi Cola Bottling Company of Central Virginia.
The suit says Edens “knowingly constructed a stormwater system that collects and diverts millions of gallons of stormwater” into a drainage basin across city limits between the U.S. Post Office and the Seminole Square Shopping Center.
State law states that “properties and receiving waterways downstream of any land development should be protected from erosion and damage due to increases in volume, velocity and peak flow rate of stormwater runoff.”
Edens’ stormwater plans involve use of a new 72-inch pipe to run alongside a 48-inch line underneath U.S. 29. The city had ordered the new pipe to remain closed until terms of its land disturbance permit had been met, but Edens challenged the order in Albemarle Circuit Court.
That situation was resolved last week when Edens and Charlottesville City Council agreed to end a dispute about whether those terms had been met.
The previous owners of Seminole Square had granted an easement to the City of Charlottesville allowing for the city to manage the stormwater basin at an elevation up to 416 feet above sea level. Anything over that, the suit argues, should be considered as trespassing onto private property.
“The current drainage system was designed to handle … storms expected to happen once each century,” reads the suit. “A relatively common 10-year storm event will cause floodwaters … to rise to an elevation of 421 feet: five vertical feet above the present 100-year flood limit.”
The suit claims that by approving the plans, the city and the county have allowed Edens to proceed with a stormwater plan that will cause damage and flooding across the city onto private property.
“By its own engineering calculations, stormwater from Edens’ land development will flood and damage [Seminole Square’s] private property at 50 times the frequency of current conditions,” said David Mitchell, an engineer who works with the Great Eastern Management Company.
The suit argues that state law requires Edens to retain stormwater generated on its land in a storage pond so that it can be slowly released into the watershed. Instead, the plaintiffs argue that Edens’ plan for stormwater will overwhelm the existing stormwater facilities at Seminole Square.
“In a large storm event, the new additional and larger 72 inch pipe will discharge approximately 251,326 gallons of stormwater per minute in addition to the current approximately 89,760 gallons per minute flowing through the existing 42-inch pipe,” reads the suit.
The suit argues that the city and county have failed to enforce the state’s stormwater regulations.
“The series of regulatory failures by the government officials and the respective subdivisions has culminated in an unconstitutional taking of private property for private use,” reads the suit.
The complaint also argues that when Albemarle County supervisors rezoned the land for Stonefield in 2003, plans showed that the developer would have to manage stormwater on their property.
The plaintiffs claim county staff did not have the authority to approve a site plan that deviated from that which was shown in the rezoning.
The suit claims that Edens instead decided to pass the problem downstream.
“This action would give Edens the benefit of being able to avoid having to use valuable U.S. Route 29 frontage to construct the detention basin shown on its rezoning application plan, or having to build expensive underground stormwater sediement and detention systems and facilities,“ reads the suit.
Representatives from Edens, the City of Charlottesville and Albemarle County all declined to comment for this story.