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Drainage Presents Thorny Problem for IWC

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KENT—The Inland Wetlands Commission were presented with a sticky problem at its Jan. 22 meeting and professed that it did not have an answer.

Victoria Hamilton and John Slowik, owners of property at 111 Geer Mountain Road, have experienced problems with surface water runoff on their property and, following consultation with engineers, decided to install a ditch alongside of the road to direct the water away from their land. 

Land Use Officer Tai Kern told the IWC members that the driveway for the property has “been an ongoing problem” and that the owners had taken action to save their driveway without a permit.

“I confess upfront that we did this,” said Hamilton, apologizing to the commission and promising to answer questions about a “hastily put-together application.”

She told commissioners that they have a right-of-way to get to their property and that the driveway had deteriorated and been replaced some years ago. There was speculation that a pipe had collapsed while work was being done on the drive, but no pipe was discovered.

In an effort to collect the water and move it off the property, they approached neighbor Wendy Murphy to see if they could direct it toward her pond, but she declined.

“She feared that chemicals would make their way to her pond,” Hamilton reported. “The only other place to go was the stream, so we dug a trench.” She said the trench is lined with stones and that they anticipated putting dirt over the stone and grassing it over. 

She said they had consulted “three or four engineers.”

“Most of those consulted would have preferred the pipe,” interjected Kern.

Commission member Paul Yagid said he could understand Murphy’s point of view, but conceded that Slowik and Hamilton “have a serious problem.”

Chairman Lynn Werner wondered if “a more natural solution” could be devised that would capture the water and let it filter through plants. Hamilton said the trench does not go as far as the stream, leaving the redirected water to find its own way over a natural surface. 

Yagid suggested making a rain garden there to filter the water before it gets to the stream. 

Murphy, who attended the meeting, suggested the problem could be solved if the trench were redirected, allowing it to flow toward “a huge conduit under the road.”

“We all understand gravity,” she said. She said the water is affecting a stand of trees on her property.

Hamilton responded that her engineer said that would not work.

“No one on the commission has the expertise to tell you what to do,” said Werner. “We’re dealing with water that is there and we’ve got to figure out a way that it doesn’t wash the drive away and doesn’t affect the brook.”

The couple was directed to confirm the depth and length of the drive that they had put, to confirm the size of the pond, and how far their trench is from the road and stream.

They were directed to work with Kern to complete a site plan for the next meeting and to work with Cynthia Rabinowitz of the Northwest Conservation District to provide a list of native plants to be placed in the area.

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