NORTH CALDWELL, NJ — With 2019 having one of the rainiest spring/summer seasons in memory, the drainage issues in North Caldwell’s have become further exacerbated and documented over the past few months and came to the fore at Tuesday’s council meeting.
Leading the charge of several residents who shared concerns during public comment was Paul Scagnelli, who claimed that the Pulte Homes development company has not completed detension basin No. 2, which is a housing project that he said is approching nearly two years of work. The work included razing the once tree-lined landscape adjacent to Hilltop Reservation to build homes at the Reserve at North Caldwell, he added.
Scagnelli was joined by resident Paul Holland, who presented a video of the non-filtered, muddy water runoff that the detention basin is supposed to prevent.
“The borough administator and borough engineer should be doing something about this issue,” said Scagnelli, who recommended that construction be stopped until this situation is rectified. “Residents are still being hurt. We must make sure the detention basin is working properly.”
In response to these concerns, Borough Administrator Keven O’Sullivan said that Pulte has until Friday to provide the borough with the information it needs to make sure that it is meeting the conditions agreed upon in the contract.
Borough Attorney David Paris announced that violation notices have been issued to Pulte and that he plans to get in touch with the firm again.
Council President Cynthia Santomauro added that there “should be a stopwork order if Pulte doesn’t comply by Friday.”
“I feel the town wouldn’t get the high ratings it currently does if people saw this video and heard the testimony we are presenting,” said Holland, who described the ongoing drainage problem as a “debacle.”
Among those suffering from flooding issues is Mountain Avenue resident Sherri London, who told the borough council that her “backyard became a swamp” after a recent flash flood.
“Flooding continues all the time,” she said, requesting that an underground water study be expedited. “Underground water is permeating my property.”
Paris responded that London’s situation may be unique and potentially beyond the underground water situation. He suggested that London get an attorney to look at her particular property and make a claim against Pulte. Such a claim would go “right to the arbitrator at Pulte’s expense,” he added.
“If the arbitrator agrees with your position, Pulte will have to pay you within 31 days,” said Paris, adding that such a claim would go directly to the arbitrator at Pulte’s expense.
London concluded that something must be done quickly, stating that she is “the basin for all the water coming downward.”
“I’m afraid to go away,” she said. “I’ve been living with this fear for over a year, and still the detention basin has not been completed.”
Santomauro said the Department of Environmental Protection could play an important role in resolving this issue, but so far they have just handed out violations.
"I am sure they will take further action if violations issues aren’t addressed,” she said.
Edward “Ted” Roth, who is running for a council position in November, also called for a stopwork order until the detention basin issue is settled. He requested that Pulte address civil and structural deficiencies to the borough’s satisfaction.
Another resident who testified about major water damage issues was Brian Donnelly, who resides on Ferndale Road.
“I have muddy water that goes through my driveway and yard every time there is a major rain storm,” said Donnelly, stating that he is hesitant about putting an addition on his house due to the water problems.
Paris concluded that the Borough of North Caldwell is actively looking into these issues. He also said that Pulte’s reaction to these issues on Friday will determine what further actions must be taken.