Upgrading stormwater, water and sewer systems is a pressing priority for the City. However, these projects have become overly complex and have experienced significant challenges (e.g. Indian Creek). Most recently, the Palm-Hibiscus Project has been frozen for approximately one year and residents reported that 25+ Palm Island properties now below street level flooded during a recent storm. The Office of Inspector General is currently completing an investigation of problems on the Palm-Hibiscus Project and has also conducted interviews related to the West Ave Project.
The City Administration presented a draft West Avenue Harmonization policy to the Land Use and Sustainability Committee on May 6th, 2020 (attached). Residents have raised specific concerns (also attached) and over 150 participated in a City meeting on May 20th, 2020 to discuss this issue.
Given recent history and the need to move expeditiously, the Commission should discuss guiding principles, potential risks and inequities with the current draft policy. To illustrate, following is a realistic scenario if the current approach and policy is not dramatically modified:
Unfair Scenario to Avoid
- Roads are raised to 3.7' NAVD where there is currently no documented or real street/ property flooding
- Residents are unaware that properties previously not flooding may be at greater risk to flooding during/after construction due to road raising. The City has no study that indicates differently
- Buildings and residents receive no official public notice to discuss specific harmonization impacts or their obligations
- Numerous buildings lack the capacity to retain the 1.5 in. water depth required on their properties
- Some residents (like on Palm-Hibiscus) will not sign the City harmonization agreement
- The City will harmonize on private properties causing damages/ changes to residents’ fences, landscaping, pavements, water service lines, pipe connections, etc.
- Residents will bear these financial burdens during a recession, requiring dozens of buildings to hire their own engineers/contractors and persevere through the City and County DERM permitting processes
- The project will continue to drag on much longer than anticipated
- The City spends $100M+ of taxpayer money while residents spend millions (in total) on their properties and endure a painful process without real satisfaction
Given the recent pattern of challenges in our Neighborhood projects, today’s discussion should focus on what should be done differently including road raising/ flooding risks, financial responsibilities, assisting residents (eg. "concierge permitting") and transparency.