Poor drainage on Armory point of contention

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Each spring Melinda Morison says water from spring runoff floods her property on Armory Road. Water accumulates and then drains into the only culvert on the east side of the road and empties out on her property.

She says the culvert was placed when there were few houses on the west side of the road and the east was part of Flathead County, and runoff runs down her driveway and into her front yard on its way to Cow Creek. She says the annual flooding has gotten worse, and she’s concerned about an increase in stormwater could result in more damage to her property.

“I understand the city needs to do infill,” Morison said. “But our road and infrastructure is not being addressed for the current owners on the road and there are consequences that come with new development. All the water is going to be pushed onto our property.”

Morison made her comments to City Council last week and was among several who expressed concerns regarding a planned 15-lot subdivision located at 133 Armory Road. She noted that she wasn’t against the subdivision, but wanted the city to address the drainage issues in the area.

Louise Fisher requested a preliminary plat for the subdivision known as Mountain Brook Subdivision for the 7.46-acre property that is currently undeveloped. The lots are planned to have frontage along a new publicly maintained road connecting to Armory Road at the north and south ends.

Council ultimately split 4-2 on a vote in approving the subdivision. Councilors Richard Hildner and Melissa Hartman voted against.

Mayor John Muhlfeld and Council directed city staff to look into the issues raised by Morison regarding the culvert draining onto her property.

“If city infrastructure is causing any issues on private property then this needs to be addressed,” he said. “We need to more frequently be inspecting our infrastructure throughout town.”

Armory Road is on the city’s list of streets set to be reconstructed using resort tax, but based upon its ranking on the list likely wouldn’t be reconstructed until at least 2027. City staff noted, however, that list is currently being re-evaluated and Armory could end up being moved up higher on the priority list.

Councilor Richard Hildner said concerns about stormwater runoff were enough to sway his vote.

“I’m voting against this because I’m uncomfortable with the impacts stormwater could have downstream,” he said.

Councilor Andy Feury said while he understands the water runoff concerns raised by Morison and others, he said the type of soils in that area don’t allow for water to sink in on the undeveloped land and thus a stormwater system in the development may help.

“If the stormwater system is property designed you may find that the situation improves,” he said. “We do have to rely on the fact that we have a good staff.”

City Planner Bailey Minnich noted that the subdivision would be require to install a stormwater system that wouldn’t allow any increase in water runoff from the current amount produced on the property now.

Minnich said the city can’t require the developer to make off-site improvements to Armory Road regarding stormwater.

The developer must have a certificate of subdivision approval obtained from the state Department of Environmental Quality and approval by the city Public Works Department approving any storm drainage. The developer will be required to submit an engineered stormwater management plan for approval by the city.

Wil Goodpaster, with TD&H Engineering representing the developer, confirmed that the property wouldn’t be allowed to produce any more stormwater runoff than it currently does prior to being developed.

“You will have increased in volume of runoff, however, it will not be able to impact the existing system at any rate greater than is already seen,” he said.

During public comment, Scott Bates, who also resides on Armory Road, expressed concerns about safety on Armory for pedestrians and bike riders.

“This is a high density recreation area,” he said. “There is a lot of bikes using the road and people going over to use the skate park [at Armory Park],” he said. “So many people recreate on Armory road, but it’s so narrow that two cars can’t pass each other when someone is walking on the road.”

He suggested that the street that will pass through the new subdivision connecting to Armory include a bike path rather than a sidewalk.

Council took the idea and included it in the conditions for the subdivision that a shared-use path be included in the subdivision.

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