By Carol Kania Morency
Home builders on Monday brought Elmhurst Public Works and Building Committee members more than 40 pages of comments and concerns related to the city's proposed new home infiltration policy, which would mandate the storage of storm water on private lots.
The policy would require new homes to have either an underground filtration system, rain garden, french drain or rainwater harvesting system, or some combination of those.
Last month, builders crowded the committee meeting room saying they were blindsided by the storage policy. Since then, a group of builders have worked to compile their complaints and ideas into a document, said Deanne Mazzochi, a lawyer and the spokesperson for the group.
Mazzochi on Monday summarized the builders' complaints, the most serious of which is an assertion that the city would have to compensate homeowners for use of their private land for what the group charged was a “de facto public works project.”
“You have no basis for this land grab,” Mazzochi said.
City attorney Don Storino said he disagreed with the group's assertion that the new policy would be a taking of private property, and added that he would never recommend the city pursue a policy that might run afoul of constitutional law.
Some homeowners don't share the builders' concerns and urged the committee to continue to consider the policy, along with other ideas for alleviating flooding in the city.
Traci Breen, a Walnut Street resident who attested to significant flooding in her neighborhood, told the committee six homes have been built around her over the past few years. While she believes inadequate infrastructure is an issue, she said new construction “has definitely worsened this problem.”
“I don't know the solution,” she said, “but I think it's multifaceted.”
Studies have been ongoing since 2010, when significant floods damaged Elmhurst. Time is of the essence, residents say, as heavy rain events seem to be hitting the city with more frequency. A brief downpour last week left residents on Parkside, Pine, and other areas notorious for flooding, knee-deep in water.
A resident committee and two outside engineering firms suggest using a combination of public and private land to mitigate flooding. The city is hoping to get permission to use properties belonging to the Elmhurst Park District and Elmhurst District 205 for water detention.
Aldermen agree that on-site storage is just one line of attack, and they made it clear they do not blame new construction for the city's flooding problems. The goal, they stressed, was to slow the rate at which storm water enters the city's storm sewers.
Given the current rate of about 200 new homes in the city each year, and with the baseline of 5,000 gallons of water stored temporarily in an underground storage system, there is a potential for about 1 million gallons of new rainwater storage over the next two to three years, 5th Ward Alderman Chris Healy said.
Third Ward Alderman Michael Bram said he was expecting more constructive suggestions from the builders, and noted that their input had already resulted in changes in the policy. The city at first wanted the storage systems placed in back yards but now may allow them to be installed wherever the builder believes is best, including under the driveway. Builders would also be able to use any vendor they want for the storage systems.
Mazzochi told aldermen the builders have suggested solutions in their report.
Because they received the builders' comments yesterday, the committee asked for more time to read and consider them. The policy will come back to the committee Oct. 28.