VIRGINIA BEACH, Va. (WAVY) – A website for the Ashville Park development says “discover the fine art of living,” but for many residents, living there has been less a work of art, and more a piece of work.
“If I had a friend who says, ‘How do you like Ashville Park? Should I move in there? I’d be like, ‘Don’t do it, dude, you’re going to be moving into a flood area,'” said one resident. “I wouldn’t do it again if I had the option… If I knew what I was getting into.”
Another resident, Jeff Bobrowitz, only moved in to the neighborhood in July. He’s already had to deal with flooding twice.
“We didn’t expect that the pond over there would just overflow,” he told WAVY.com
As Matthew inundated most of Hampton Roads with rain, Virginia Beach officials say that neighborhood in particular saw 13 inches. Their storm water drains couldn’t keep up, and retaining ponds put in as part of the drainage system continued to rise,. Instead of get pumped out, the water spilled into the streets, trapping many people inside their home — defenseless from the rising water.
WAVY.com spoke with Deputy City Manager Tom Leahy. He says the city is well aware there is a problem with the drainage system.
“Either the design has an issue, or the construction, or both,” said Leahy.
Leahy tells WAVY.com that the developer who began building the neighborhood in 2006 went bankrupt in 2008 and had to walk away. The city had no choice but to accept the drainage system as it was. Normally, the city would do a final inspection and require changes to anything deemed inadequate.
“All we know is the ponds don’t hold as much water as they should have, and they don’t drain fast enough between ponds,” Leahy explained.
The city began studying the issue in 2012. That study won’t be completed until February 2017.
“Essentially trying to reverse engineer the storm water system so they can explain whether it’s a design issue, poor construction issue, or both. But they need to be able to understand exactly why the system isn’t working before we can put in a proper fix.”
Many neighbors think something more could be done sooner.
“If they’ve been studying it since 2012, four years is a long time to study the problem. So at some point, it needs to be fixed. You need to stop studying. You can study forever, at some point you just have to fix it,” Bobrowitz said.
Leahy says the city does try to pump out the ponds, but says the rains from Matthew were simply too much.
“The city is going to move as quickly as possible to resolve this issue because we’re very sympathetic to the residents of Ashville. They should not have to put up with this,” Leahy said.
Leahy also says it will take years before a plan is designed, approved and then constructed — leaving new homeowners like Bobrowitz left to deal with the mess for the foreseeable future.
“That’s why I’m getting flood insurance. It’s just going to happen again. Until the problem is fixed, it will just happen over and over and over again.”