GREENWICH — Tuesday’s heavy rains caused flooding throughout town. But for one resident, the problem was just more of the same, and he is demanding action.
One of the areas hit hard was Palmer Hill Road in North Mianus. Local resident Daniel Abaroa, an engineer, has long said the culvert there is undersized and unable to handle runoff from a storm. Tuesday’s rainfall, he said, created a 4-foot-deep lake in his front yard, damaged property and flooded basements in the neighborhood.
But town officials blame the flooding problems in the neighborhood on a different cause: the properties are in the flood plain of a local brook, they say.
This is not the first time Abaroa has raised these concerns. A member of the Representative Town Meeting, he has spoken about the culvert at several government meetings in recent years, urging officials to take action.
“Flooding on Palmer Hill creates a public safety hazard with vehicles potentially hydroplaning,” Abaroa said last year at a town budget hearing on funding for capital improvements. “It also reduces response time for first responders because it is an arterial road for the town. There is erosion happening below the culvert so it is not really supported underneath and it can trap a person.”
He has noted the Palmer Hill culvert’s proximity to North Mianus School, and the drowning death last year of a 10-year-old Branford boy who became caught in a culvert in that town.
“This is a huge safety liability for the town,” Abaroa said.
But instead of making the problem better, local officials are allowing it to become worse, he said. A property at 269 Palmer Hill Road has been subdivided for six mansions to be built. Some of the work has already begun, and the construction is exacerbating the situation, Abaroa said.
He put his concerns once again into an email he sent to several officials early Wednesday morning, including First Selectman Peter Tesei, town Director of Environmental Affairs Patricia Sesto, Public Works Commissioner Amy Siebert and Director of Planning and Zoning Katie DeLuca. He included pictures of the damage from the storm.
In his email, Abaroa asked Tesei to intervene.
“You should investigate actions and intentions of the DPW on this matter,” Abaroa wrote. “Instead of admitting their mistake and making the correction, I’m afraid DPW is about to compound an error just to save face.”
He claims the DPW and the developer on the subdivision project are “working on an analysis which says that there is no increased water at the culvert.”
Tesei on Wednesday said Abaroa’s assertions “deserve to be reviewed.”
“That said,” Tesei continued, “the circumstances of Sept. 25 were unusual in that there were several inches of rainfall in a short timespan. There were many areas in town impacted by this weather event.”
Referencing past comments by Siebert and Sesto, Tesei said the town continues to monitor this situation.
“It is not one that is being ignored as Mr. Abaroa concludes,” Tesei said. “This is an issue in which the property has been shown to be within a flood plain, just like numerous other properties in town. The town continues to recommend that those property owners take the steps necessary to mitigate the impact that flooding during unusual weather events such as yesterday’s may create.”
Abaroa did not return requests to comment beyond his original email to town officials.
In his email, Abaroa said he hoped the town Inland Wetlands and Watercourses Agency would mandate upgrading the culvert as part of the development.
“All of the water runoff from the development runs alongside Apple Tree Lane and under Palmer Hill Road,” he wrote. “Since they began construction, we’ve been experiencing increased flooding to the point where the culvert, which takes all of the water away from our area, gets submerged (it can’t keep up), and this has already happened at least six or seven times this year.”
Sesto said Wednesday it was hard to say whether the subdivision was making the flooding on Abaroa’s property worse.
“Mr. Abaroa’s property is the floodplain of the on-site stream,” Sesto said. “I have no grounds to refute his claims of how flooding has changed on his site, although it is tough to attribute the full extent of the flooding to the one development. I can say, replacing the culvert under Palmer Hill Road so his and other upstream properties drain more efficiently surely has the potential to damage properties downstream.”
Abaroa’s home is in a flood plain of the Cider Mill Brook, which has a long history of flooding, Siebert said. The Highway Division checked the road and it did not overtop from Tuesday’s rain while other roads in town did, she said.
“DPW does take reviews of site development seriously, and strives to see that the storm water controls put into place meet town standards and properly manage storm water runoff,” Siebert said. “The town of Greenwich’s current drainage manual, put into place in 2012, has resulted in a decrease in parcel to parcel complaints received by the town. The parcels being developed on Palmer Hill alluded to by Mr. Abaroa are required to follow these standards.”
The DPW has already requested additional analysis from the project’s developer, 269 Palmer Hill Road LLC, to further document compliance with town standards, she said. That request was based on the concerns Abaroa had expressed previously, she said.
“We have explained to Mr. Abaroa that his parcel is in the headwaters of the Cider Mill Brook’s west branch, and the brook drains through his front yard,” Siebert said. “We understand that no one wants their basement to flood, and we continue to recommend to homeowners who live in mapped flood zones that they take measures to protect their homes from flooding impacts.”