NORTH SALEM, N.Y.--Homeowners on Westview and Ridgeway avenues could see their properties’ drainage issues resolved, but officials anticipate some of them may not be happy about it.

The neighborhoods, which lie back to back and run parallel to Route 684, were built in the late 1950s, according to Highway Superintendent Ward Hanaburgh. Since then, the town has had an easement where the properties’ back yards meet with a drainage ditch to accommodate the area’s stormwater runoff. The easement is about 1,000 feet long and 10 feet wide, Hanaburgh said.

The ditch was built so that stormwater runoff could drain from neighborhood properties toward a single place. But over the last 70 years, the drainage ditch has been naturally filled in by vegetation and trees. As a result, homeowners are experiencing backups and other water issues, such as flooding in their basements during storms. Supervisor Warren Lucas mentioned that this was an issue on Hanaburgh’s radar for years.

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“We’re slowly trying to chip away at it,” Lucas said of the town’s drainage problems. “[They’re] just very expensive issues.”
Now, Hanaburgh said, it’s time to get the ball rolling.

Site surveys were completed three years ago, he said, and are still valid. The next step is for the town engineer to draft concept plans. Once those plans are drafted, the board will have a better idea of what the cost of the project will be and can put together a bid package. Right now, Lucas said, he expects it will cost at least five figures.

Hanaburgh suggested a grass swale be created on the easement to accommodate the neighborhoods’ water runoff. The main issue, he said, will be the removal of the trees that have grown on the land; the trees are large and there is only a 10-foot right-of-way for the town’s crews to work in.

Lucas said the properties the easement runs along is not split down the middle, so the homeowners who will be affected are not the ones experiencing drainage issues.

“The people that have the easement (on Ridgeway) do not have the drainage problem; it’s the people on Westview.”

Many of these unsuspecting homeowners, prior to when the town alerted them of the easement via mail two years ago, have built on the easement, unaware that that portions of their properties are town-owned.

“We have sheds on the easement, gardens, fences–everything,” Hanaburgh said. “So it gets a little involved when we go up to start doing the work.”

Additionally, Lucas said he suspects residents on Ridgeway will not be pleased by the removal of the trees because they act as a sound barrier for Route 684, which runs along the other side of Westview. Although the homes on Westview also offer a bit of a buffer for the homeowners on Ridgeway, the road noise is a well-documented complaint among Ridgeway homeowners.

The board unanimously passed a resolution to authorize the town engineer to start drawing up plans for the site. Lucas said the project will likely go out for bid next year. 

“That’s our responsibility as the town because it is our easement,” Hanaburgh said, adding that if the town doesn’t prioritize the issue it’s likely to “end up in litigation down the road.”

Lucas said that once plans are drafted, town officials will sit down with homeowners and outline how the project might affect each individual property. Hanaburgh stressed that the town is willing to work with potentially affected homeowners, but that when it comes to tree removal, they really have no choice in the matter, as that area’s drainage is interconnected with other neighborhoods’ and the success of each one is necessary for the overall system.

There are drainage areas south of those neighborhoods that could be the site of future drainage remediation as well, he said; however, until Ridgeway and Westview avenues’ problems are addressed, work cannot begin on the others.

“It’s all coming to the point where everything’s going to have to get straightened out eventually,” he said.