News and Tribune

Clark County

March 2, 2011

Waiver for parking lot at issue again: Clark County Commissioners, acting as new drainage board, make no decision on matter previously denied

JEFFERSONVILLE — The new version of the Clark County Drainage Board had a marathon meeting Wednesday night to hear an issue that has already been decided upon by the previous board.

A request for a wavier by Bohn Properties, LLC that would have allowed the completion of a parking lot without being required to test a nearby sinkhole, as required in the Clark County Drainage Ordinance, was denied by the five-member drainage board during its Jan. 6 meeting.

The Clark County Commissioners have since dissolved the drainage board, taking on the entity’s responsibilities, and opted to hear the request for the wavier again Wednesday.

When asked why the issue was back on the board’s agenda after a decision had already been made in regards to the waiver, Commissioners Les Young and Ed Meyer both said they did not know.

Commissioner Mike Moore was a member of the previous board that voted unanimously to deny the waiver.

The request for the waiver has generated controversy because of the location of the parking lot. The lot, for which a stop work order was issued in July, is adjacent to the Southern Indiana Treatment Center —more commonly known as the Clark County methadone clinic — who the lot was also being leased to. The treatment center is owned by CRC Health Group. The property was being leased by Bohn to the treatment center for $2,000 per month to be used as a parking lot.

As he did at a previous meeting of the drainage board,  Jason Copperwaite, an engineer representing Bohn, questioned again on Wednesday the practicality of the required test on the sinkhole needed to get the waiver granted.

According to the statute the test would require pumping 124,000 gallons of water into the sinkhole to test whether or not it can handle the appropriate capacity.

But Peggy Duffy, geo-technical engineer with Construction Solutions in Jeffersonville and a sinkhole expert, agreed with Copperwaite that the test in the ordinance is flawed.

“I think the test listed in the ordinance is impractical,” she said. “I think the volume is impractical.”

“Concentrating on the pump test ignores the remainder of those requirements that you read out, which are absolutely critical,” she said referencing the county ordinance.

She said a number of mitigating factors must be determined in addition to testing the water capacity a sinkhole can handle. Those factors include exploring the sinkhole, soil above, the rock and soil surrounding the sinkhole, the amount of water flow entering, and the type of debris and chemicals that could flow into the sinkhole and into the watershed area.

She also explained the changing nature of sinkholes.

“When a sinkhole tends to change, it’s typically caused by a change in drainage,” Duffy said.

She said the time to investigate the sinkhole as she outlined is about a month and the cost can range anywhere from $5,000 to $100,000.

Moore was concerned that granting the waiver provided another risk.

“If you’re going to grant a waiver I really think you are putting us in a situation where if these neighbors have flooding, you are putting us in a liability situation,” he said. “Let’s follow the ordinance that the county has created. There is no reason to offer an exemption here. You’re going to get yourself in trouble. Everybody should be following the same rules.”

A number residents near the property in question attended the meeting to speak in opposition to the board allowing the waiver.

“You could be facing litigation either way,” said John Datillo, an adjacent landowner to Bohn. “Basically, if that drainage board was to grant the wavier, then it sets me up for litigation.”

“The disapproval of this waiver is critical to the marketability of my land,” he said.

Mike Naville, attorney representing Bohn Properties, said the ordinance as it’s written may not even apply to his client.

“This is sixth-tenths of an acre of ground we’re talking about,” he said. “If you look at the ordinance that we’re talking about here, this lot is exempt from the ordinance, itself.”

Naville read the general provisions of the drainage ordinance only applied to developments of more than one acre of land.

The parking lot consumes .64 acres of land, he said.

Greg Fifer, drainage board attorney, disagreed that the ordinance didn’t apply to the parking lot when the development of less than one acre is part of a larger common development.

“They are disturbing less than one acre, but it is part of a common plan or development because it is proposed to be used as an extension of the parking facility,” he said.

The drainage board voted to table the decision, 2-1, with Moore voting against, to allow Bohn Properties to investigate hiring someone to examine the sinkhole.

However, Naville said if they decide the testing of the sinkhole is too expensive, they may build the parking lot anyway because the ordinance is not applicable to his client.

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