'This is ruining our property' N. Laurel homeowner says new development causes harmful runoff


A river runs through Richard Anderson's North Laurel yard -- not every day, just when the rains overflow the small drainage pond in the new development behind his home.

Water several inches deep races past his house, flooding his garage and washing silt over his yard and driveway. Mr. Anderson has complained to Howard County officials for nine months -- only to be told that the property was subdivided too long ago to be subject to current drainage regulations.

"This is ruining our property," he said. "Everything seems to drain this way."

But officials with the development's builder, Baltimore-based Cornerstone Homes, have a different perspective.

They say they have offered to install a 15-inch drain pipe under Mr. Anderson's yard that would have collected the runoff and dumped it into the Patuxent River. He didn't want it. The builders are working on other plans.

"I spent three or four months and thousands of dollars designing a system that would help Mr. Anderson's problem," said Brian Boy, one of the partners at Cornerstone Homes. "I can't help Mr. Anderson, if he doesn't want to help himself."

Residents in North Laurel Park -- a community bounded by Whiskey Bottom Road to the north, Route 216 to the south and Interstate 95 and U.S. 1 to the west and east -- regularly complain about the impact new developments have had on their neighborhood.

Just as routinely, county officials remind residents that any major infrastructure improvements -- such as drainage and water and sewer lines -- are at the discretion of the builder.

The reason: The lots on which Cornerstone is building the Patuxent Ridge development -- a development that will be under construction for the next two years -- were subdivided about 100 years ago and are not subject to the county's Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance.

Had the lots been zoned for houses more recently, that ordinance would have required Cornerstone Homes to meet current standards for drainage, water and sewer lines and to evaluate the effect of the new development on roadways and schools.

Neighbors near Mr. Anderson's home on Baltimore Avenue also complain of flooding, but they say no one gets as much water as Mr. Anderson, who has lived in the neighborhood since 1961.

"It's very difficult for Mr. Anderson," said Marsha McLaughlin, deputy director for the county's Department of Planning and Zoning. "We've tried a variety of strategies."

They include a trench that has a bed of rocks that was constructed by Cornerstone between Mr. Anderson's property and the new development. Water is directed from the new homes down the trench into a drain Mr. Anderson dug behind his house 10 years ago, when he and his wife, Margaret, had their garage built.

But that drain can't handle the volume of water that flows from the new development.

The latest plans include diverting runoff toward a wooded area on the north side of the new development instead of to the south toward Mr. Anderson's home and others on Baltimore Avenue. County officials have approved that plan and said Cornerstone can start that project when the weather improves.

Cornerstone also has yet to activate a storm water management system for the new homes that would reduce the volume of water. They are waiting until more of the development is completed so that silt from construction will not clog the system.

Ms. McLaughlin doesn't expect the latest plans to be a complete solution. "It isn't going to totally relieve Mr. Anderson's problem," she said.

Mr. Anderson, who said he feared that underground drainage pipes proposed by Cornerstone would have interfered with his sprinkler system, remains skeptical of the builder's latest plan.

"They've made promises before," Mr. Anderson said. "What they'll actually do, I don't know."

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