Residents complain of rain runoff in yards


When it rains, it pours -- into the back of Karen and Tony Barbour's $250,000 home.

The Barbours, who moved into the half-completed Diamond Hills housing development near Westminster from a 60-year-old home Roland Park little more than a year ago, say they are tired of watching torrents of water cascade down the hill into their yard and smack their basement door.

And they aren't alone. In this community of sprawling, $200,000-plus homes about three miles southeast of Westminster, some of the newer residents have complained about rushing water -- and mud, sand and sod -- coming into their yards every time it rains.

"This house is appraised at $250,000, and we can't do anything with it," Mrs. Barbour said yesterday. "It's enough to make me want to move back to Roland Park."

Based on complaints made by some of Mrs. Barbour's uphill neighbors, an inspector for the Carroll County's Bureau of Storm Water Management and Sediment Control looked at Diamond Hills earlier this week.

Although the inspector concluded that the community's developer, Law Farm Limited Partnership of Reisterstown, and the builders of the community hadn't violated any county sediment or storm water guidelines, the inspector said some work remains to be done.

Gale Smith, the county's chief sediment control officer, said yesterday that she has told the developer and the community's homebuilders to step up their efforts to stabilize the lots and minimize runoff during storms.

"This is somewhat of a normal situation when you have construction still occurring," Ms. Smith said of the Diamond Hills runoff problems. "Various areas need to be stabilized, seeded and mulched."

Ms. Smith said her office inspects the 210-unit development weekly.

In general, it is the responsibility of the developer to control runoff problems.

Mrs. Barbour's home is in a particularly vulnerable spot. It sits at the bottom of hill, below a row of large homes on nearly half-acre lots. Many of those lots are barren, so storm water there runs toward her property.

Patricia Holbert lives in one of the homes above Mrs. Barbour. She also is frustrated with Law Farm's efforts to stabilize the runoff and sediment situation.

"You look out there during a serious storm, and water just leaps over" the sediment traps that line her and her neighbors' back yards to protect downhill neighbors like the Barbours, Mrs. Holbert said.

She and her husband bought their house in the 1100 block of Canon Way this year. It was the first home the couple has owned. John Holbert retired from a career in the Army, and he and his wife have dubbed their $205,000 Diamond Hills home their dream house.

Yesterday, Mrs. Holbert still insisted she and her family were living a dream. But she said the occasional torrents of rainwater are disturbing.

She said storms also flood her street, and she wants that fixed.

So does Richard Hantgan of Law Farm. He acknowledged the neighborhood's complaints and said he was working with the county and the community's three builders to fix the problems.

"We've been out there on a continual basis," Mr. Hantgan said yesterday. "We've done what is requested by the county, we've tried to do what the homeowners want us to do. We have made -- and will continue to make -- attempts to ameliorate the problem. We are trying. We are taking steps."

Law Farm is the community's developer; the company was the purchaser of the original 130-acre tract. The developer, in turn, sold the lots there to three homebuilders -- Powers Homes, Ryan Homes and Gilligan Homes.

The houses along Canon Way -- where the Holberts live, above the Barbour's street -- were built by Powers Homes.

More than two years ago, a large development in Sykesville built by Westminster-based Powers Homes experienced similar sediment control problems. Residents of the Hawk Ridge Farm subdivision took their complaints to county and town governments, which eventually ordered Powers to stop building houses there until the company corrected runoff and sediment problems. The company fixed the problem and was allowed to continue building.

Yesterday, Jeff B. Powers said his company is committed to working with Mr. Hantgan to address the problems in Diamond (( Hills.

"We're working with the developer on some of these issues," Mr. Powers said. "We hope to have it resolved real shortly."

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