Bruce Malek cattleman dam map

Dixie Drive resident Bruce Malek points out the number of homes in the watershed area draining into the Knox Cattle Company Dam on Yauger Road. Speaking during a public meeting on Aug. 12, 2019, Malek said the city and property owners both have an obligation to pay for dam repairs.

MOUNT VERNON — Residents in and adjacent to The Landings had a chance Monday evening to voice their opinions about who should be responsible for repairing the Knox Cattle Company Dam on Yauger Road. They took advantage of the opportunity.

The focus of the public meeting, held at The Station Break, was to discuss the city's proposal to transfer $300,000 out of its reserve funds to pay for the repairs. Residents focused on who would repay the city for the repair costs.

Mallard Pointe resident Michael Haughton provided pictures that he said show the primary spillway is undersized and unable to handle the runoff from Yauger Road. He also said that in a July 24 conversation with Mia Kannick, program manager for the Ohio Department of Natural Resources' Division of Water Resources, Kannick said that had ODNR seen site development plans, ODNR could have determined the dam would be classified as Class I.

“The overall plans were flawed from the start,” he said. “The engineer signed what was going to be a Class I dam.”

Michael Haughton

"When the city engineer approved this [development site plan downstream], he approved the measurements that made this a Class 1 dam in 1999," said Mallard Pointe resident Michael Haughton.

Noting that the stormwater discussion is important to the city, Haughton said, “Doing nothing, in my opinion, is a poor thing to do when ODNR says eight homes on Mallard Pointe are a potential loss of life.”

Tim Williams, Woodlake Trail, said he considers himself a citizen of Mount Vernon, not The Landings. When buying his property, he conducted the appropriate research, including a title search.

“Not once was there any mention that we could be held responsible for where our storm water went,” he said.

“When was I invited to step in and fix [the problem]?” he asked. “Am I welcome to go onto that property? The answer is probably no. We are all Mount Vernon citizens, and if this needs to be fixed, I am willing to fix this along with every other citizen to make sure none of my neighbors get flooded.”

Sue Kinton, also of Woodlake Trail, said she and her husband did not know they were part of a homeowners association until they received a copy of the bylaws at their closing in 2013.

“We went to the first homeowners' meeting and were told of the dam, but we were assured it wasn't an issue,” she said. “The city approved the houses downstream which changed the class of the dam, and the city bears some responsibility.

“No one can tell us what the cost is going to be, how many will be paying for it, or how long,” she continued. “Will it be assessed to our already high taxes? What if in the future we are told that more money is needed? We are part of the city of Mount Vernon and as such pay for other repairs that are done around the city.”

Amy Baden

"I really do not understand why our elected officials can't vote," said Wildwood Lane resident Amy Baden, referring to the conflict of interest issue that bars four council members from voting on the city's proposal to transfer $300,000 from its reserve fund to pay for dam repairs. "It is an interest, not a conflict of interest."

Amy Baden, Wildwood Lane, said she also learned about her homeowners' association at the closing, but nothing was mentioned about the dam.

“Everybody in The Landings pays property tax,” she said. “That is an awful lot of money. We all pay income tax, sales tax. … Placing a lien doesn't damage people who already have a house but people who want to move into the neighborhood.”

A Waters Edge homeowner said the city should acquire the dam based on three reasons:

  1. The dam was not built before the development.
  2. The city uses the lake as part of the city's stormwater program.
  3. The city approved units in a high-risk area which changed the classification from a Class 2 to Class 1 dam.

Regarding the city's concern about setting a precedent for getting involved with private property, he noted that the Knox Cattle Company Dam is very different from the Walmart retention pond.

“I think you will agree the city didn't handle this properly years ago. I think the city should consider acquiring the property,” he said.

“No one person caused this problem, but we all need to fix it,” said a Crown Hill resident.

Councilman Chris Menapace spoke not as a councilman but as a private citizen. Menapace, one of four council members prohibited from voicing an opinion or voting on the transfer of the $300,000 due to conflict of interest, received an email around 5:30 p.m. from Law Director Rob Broeren stating he could speak as a private citizen.

Menapace asked the four council members who can participate in the issue — Janis Seavolt, John Francis, Matt Starr, and Mike Hiller — to hold another public hearing so that he has time to prepare his comments as a public citizen. He also requested more information about the legality of only three votes being needed to approve the transfer (due to the conflict of interest recusals) rather than five of seven votes as initially intended.

Dixie Drive resident Bruce Malek questioned when The Landings' stormwater abatement plan, dated Aug. 27, 1999, was filed and approved by the city as the lake inspection report was not completed until September 1999. He also noted that Crown Hill Condominiums (2002) and Mallard Pointe (1999) were built after Waters Edge initially owned the lake.

“The subsequent result was to kick the dam up from a Class 2 to a Class 1,” he said. “The city imposed these additional requirements without requiring any additional work to the dam. This looks to me like the lake is being used to carry storm water from an entire area, not a phase or a development.”

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Woodlake Trail resident Bob Rafferty said that 18 property owners were specifically excluded in their deeds from The Landings homeowners' association as well as from access to the dam. If the homeowners' association is found liable, the number of properties that drain into the area, including Woodberry Glenn and Crown Point, increases the number of owners responsible for repairs to around 260. Even more property owners would be included if the scope were broadened to include New Gambier and Upper Gilchrist roads since they are part of the watershed area.

“I believe the issue is much broader than limiting it to the 151 people,” he said.

Jeff Harris, Woodlake Trail resident and president of The Landings Phase 7 & 8 Homeowners Association, said the HOA has engaged legal counsel. He had three points or questions for council:

  1. The stormwater plan dated Aug. 27, 1999, was not a matter of notice or awareness. HOA members did not know it existed until this year.
  2. What are the specific and enumerated enforcement actions initiated by ODNR?
  3. Regarding future ODNR inspections, will they only review those specific failures identified, or are they more general, routine inspections?

Keith Burley owns a small undeveloped lot in The Landings that is adjacent to his New Gambier Road property. He was a member of the city's Stormwater Advisory Committee.

“My focus is that the Knox Cattle Dam deals with a private property issue that the city is trying to help the residents with,” he said. “I do not support the city using funds from the reserve fund to finance the activity as there is no assurance that the city will be reimbursed for years to come. I believe there will be years of lawsuits and judgments before ownership, and therefore, financial responsibility will be determined.”

Burley added that as a member of the stormwater advisory committee, he does not believe it is appropriate to link a private property matter to the need for a public stormwater utility and management system.

Cloyd Yough, Wildwood Lane, said the whole issue is a way for the city to get more stormwater money. He suggested the city take ownership of the pond and dam, ascertain the cost to bring it up to code, and then go for grant money to fund the repairs.

He also suggested the city put a hold on any further stormwater activity until the city “gets it act together” and table Ordinance 2019-30. Ordinance 2019-30, which was up for a second reading in council's legislative session later Monday night, amends the city's penalties for violating stormwater rules.

The current code states that residents have 10 days to pay any fines, expenses, or penalties associated with stormwater noncompliance or else be taken to court. Ordinance 2019-30 amends that process to include allowing the city to place unpaid fees as a lien against the property.

Council members did not respond to questions during the meeting. Those attending were encouraged to submit their comments to the city administration, which will compile the comments, answer the questions, and provide the results by around noon on Aug. 22.

The deadline for comments is 5 p.m. on Aug. 19.