Stoneleigh residents optimistic about county plans to relieve flooding

After the first two storms, John Gramiccioni knew the severe flooding in front of his Kingston Road home, in Stoneleigh, was no fluke.

In the past, rain had caused some overflow in the Towson community, he said, but nothing like the knee-high deluges that started becoming a regular occurrence in 2015.

Kingston Road flooded five times that summer, as aging and overburdened storm drains overflowed and dumped water into a dip in Kingston Road, and into neighbors' driveways, yards and basements, Gramiccioni said.

Gramiccioni installed a $6,000 drainage system on his property to protect it from flooding. His neighbor, Hildegard Trapnell, said she spent $12,000 to refinish a flooded basement after water seeped in, soiled the carpet and damaged her knotty pine walls.

"People just can't keep putting money into repairs because of the inadequate drainage systems we have in this community," Gramiccioni said.

Now, after Stoneleigh residents spent more than two years negotiating with county officials for some relief, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz is proposing to spend $1 million in the coming fiscal year toward the preliminary design of a plan to end the flooding, though actual relief could be years away.

A study of flooding in Stoneleigh and nearby Anneslie that Baltimore County Department of Public Works officials completed in 2015, suggests three options for Stoneleigh. Each calls for the county to replace and reroute storm drain pipes at a cost of $3.5 million to $5 million, according to public works spokeswoman Lauren Watley.

County officials estimate that storm drain improvements in the Kingston Road area will take two years at a minimum and potentially up to five years to complete, Watley said last fall.

Public works officials prefer the option that calls for building about 1,500 feet of new drain from Kingston Road to Regester Avenue and past Murdock Road, according to Watley. This would alleviate a jam where two 18-inch pipes converge into one pipe that leads out to Kingston Road.

"The new line would increase capacity and address the existing flooding problems," Watley said in a May 4 email.

However, the project would require county officials to acquire rights-of-way to uncover existing drainage systems buried under private homes as well as relocate utilities.

Aging storm drains in the Kingston Road area are inconsistent with current practices. Watley said May 4. Stoneleigh, which was built in the 1920s, has smaller pipes than those installed today. Additionally, county officials are unsure of the location of all the existing pipes because the developer never passed along that information, Watley said.

'It gives in'

Members of the Stoneleigh Community Association began their push for county assistance in 2015. In October of that year, they pleaded their case to county officials through a presentation they made to the Planning Board. Stoneleigh's drainage systems were outdated, they said, and drastically needed to be replaced before they caused even more damage to the mature community.

"Everything is 80 or 90 years old and at some point it gives in," Trapnell said last week. "We can't handle the stuff anymore that was OK to handle 30, 40 or 60 years ago."

Kamenetz authorized the study in July 2015. Public works officials presented its results to the community in March 2016. In the meantime, the storm drainage accessible from county-owned streets was cleaned out for the first time anyone could remember, residents said.

Gramiccioni credits County Councilman David Marks, a Republican who represents Towson, with helping residents advocate for the funding. Marks helped the group navigate the "bureaucracy of the county government," said Gramiccioni, a former president of the Stoneleigh Community Association.

"Marks never abandoned us and stayed right with us," Gramiccioni added. "I give him high marks for constituent support. If it wasn't for him I don't know that I'd be able to make it through the local bureaucracy at the county level."

Kingston Road presents one of the county's most severe cases of deteriorating infrastructure, Marks said.

"Throughout southeastern Towson, we have underground pipes that in some cases date back to the 1920s," Marks said in a May 4 email. "The county has limited money to deal with deteriorating infrastructure, and we have to address some of the most severe problems first."

Stoneleigh residents have faced the flooding problem for years, Stoneleigh Community Association president Scott Thomas said.

"In the last couple of years we're really glad that dedicated residents, our community association and representatives in the community have all come together as an integrated team and worked together for such a positive outcome with this project being funded," Thomas said.

Trapnell said she's happy with the proposed improvements and the speed at which the process is now moving.

"If you know how decisions are made in the county, three years is speedy as far as I'm concerned," Trapnell said.

Baltimore Sun Media Group reporter Rachael Pacella contributed to this story.

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