Stonebrook Estates Water Action Delayed

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By: 
Kevin Murphy

MIDDLETON–After a boisterous and, at times, emotional discussion Monday between Stonebrook Estates homeowners and Town of Middleton officials about a new a storm water detention pond, it was decided another meeting was needed.

The town board wanted to consider putting a $525,000 storm water pond in Stonebrook out for bid but many of the north side subdivision’s 66 families were adamantly against it and said their concerns were being ignored.

The town board has selected a 40-acre outlot between Ellington Way and Stonebrook Circle for the detention pond and has an easement recorded on the subdivision’s mid-1990s final plat that allows the town to “manage storm water”.

The final design Town Engineer Rod Zubella partly presented Monday deepens a swale, leading to a detention basin, to four feet. Zubella said that depth was needed to prevent a graveled recreational trail crossing the outlot from being washed out again as it was during last August’s 100-year flood event.

Residents, including Shannon Smithberger, objected saying that part of the trail should be re-seeded to grass which would effectively handle a huge downpour without being washed out and eliminates the need to deepen the existing one-to-two-foot deep swale.

“There’s no justification for the ditch then,” she said.

Zubella said the trail is part of a planned bike/pedestrian gravel or asphalt path that will connect Sunset Ridge Elementary School to the city of Middleton.

However, Town Chair Cynthia Richson said the town needs to look at a grass trail in Stonebrook.

To the relief of many residents, Zubella admitted that planting short grass surrounding the 1.5-acre detention basin was a mistake. 

“We don’t have the right grass on this plan,” he said.  “We’ll review it and make it correct.”

Jim Lowe, president of Stonebrook Homeowner’s Association, said the outlot is managed as a natural area and “carving it up with bulldozers,” and seeding it to short grass would ruin its aesthetics.

Lowe called town officials “uncooperative” during the planning process for the storm water facility. Homeowners have had few opportunities to meet with officials and the town has refused to respond to a May letter asking the town to be liable for accidents on the property and responsible for maintaining the detention pond.

“This is a legal strategy…to shove the pond down the residents’ throats,” said Ed Pardon, who voiced many objections to the pond’s plan.

The homeowners doubt that the town’s easement allows for vehicle access to construct a drainage facility the size the town is planning. Also, that it will collect the amount of phosphorous and sediment from runoff as Zubella has claimed.

The HOA’s declarations also need to be amended regarding maintenance of the pond and outlot if the town takes over that responsibility from the HOA, Pardon said.

The homeowners even disagree with the town on when the project needs to be completed in order to be reimbursed by Dane County for 75 percent of the project’s cost.

“You have 15 months to do the project,” Pardon said, referring to an email in which Jeremy Balousek, the county’s manager of Water Resource Engineering, wrote that work must be completed, and reimbursement requested by October 30, 2020.

“Please work with us. We don’t want to end up in litigation,” said Pardon who has hired an attorney to represent him and his wife, Lisa Pardon’s, interests.

Zubella responded that in order to be eligible for reimbursement, the county’s grant requires that the work be completed this year, absent certain circumstances that would prevent completion of the project.

Town Administrator Greg DiMiceli disputed the claim that town officials weren’t including residents in the planning process as “disingenuous” and “unfair.”

“We’ve met repeatedly with homeowners. I’ve taken phone calls on a weekly basis. To suggest that the town is ramming it down their throats isn’t accurate,” he said.

Board Supervisor Brent Renteria was the only board member to oppose the project.

“It’s throwing a lot of money for a marginal improvement. I’d like to see an agreement so the homeowners know where the liability lies,” he said.

As discussion continued in excess of an hour, Richson suggested HOA members meet with Town Attorney Eileen Brownlee to address concerns about the project’s design, maintenance and liability so the board can resume discussion at its Aug. 5 meeting. Brownlee is also to get a written statement from Balousek regarding when the project needs to be completed to qualify for reimbursement.

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