New housing development west of Suja Lane increases flooding to residents’ properties
By BRITTANY FHOLER
Kevin and Stacy Breaux have lived in their home on Suja Lane since 2000, just two years after it was annexed by the city of Copperas Cove from Lampasas County.
To their right lives their neighbor Pete Martinez, who also owns a tract of land that runs along the backside of some of the homes on the west side of Suja Lane.
When Quintero Engineering (on behalf of 4JC Partners, LP, which is owned by Jimmy Clark) began applications to amend the Future Land Use Plan Map and rezone nearby property for the future Valley at Great Hills development, the only residents contacted about the rezoning and amending were those whose property were directly adjacent to the 4JC property.
On Suja Lane, that included Pete Martinez, who owns a house on Suja Lane and a tract of land that runs behind his house and his neighbors’ homes.
Several homeowners on County Road 4813, west of the 4JC property, submitted comments recommending denial and spoke at the public hearing held during the Planning and Zoning Commission meeting on July 27, 2020 and again during the meeting when the council approved the requests on August 18, 2020.
Martinez also submitted a comment to the P&Z Commission recommending the denial.
In his letter, he wrote that the document initially submitted by 4JC did not depict a water retainer structure and that “simply put, this really worries the hell out of me.”
Martinez’s letter continued to suggest that the developers take into consideration the impending flooding situation for Suja Lane.
He said at that time, that he and five other residences will be in danger of flooding.
“The JC4Partners Development Legend depicts a massive area of undeveloped land converted to a major housing development covered with asphalt roads and housing structures, thus exacerbating flooding and precluding natural absorption of rain water,” Martinez wrote.
Martinez wrote that he observed the only pond or water well in the space that served as a quasi-water retainer being filled in and leveled on the main downflow of to the ditch/creek that channels through his property towards Suja Lane. He added that the three water flow areas all converge into one channel further eastward through another residence’s property.
In this letter, Martinez also suggested that the 400 feet of the creek that traverses eastward along Suja Lane from the water retainer be turned into a concrete flume to prevent increased water run-off/overflow. His denial letter was sent in September 2020.
Then in April 2021, Quintero Engineering LLC, applied to repeal the Future Land Use Plan Map previously approved and establish a new configuration for the same land uses. In May 2021, Copperas Cove city staff held a Plat and Plan Review meeting with Quintero Engineering, to establish the newest land use designations.
On May 24 of this year, Martinez again emailed the city and raised concerns about the project’s Flood Management Plan, specifically regarding proposed detention ponds.
He asked that the engineer and developer expedite the creation of a detention pond on the 4JC Partners LP property to help with impeding storm water from running to Suja Lane, since the original “quasi-natural water retaining pond” had been filled in prior to the September 28, 2020 meeting.
Martinez was informed by Project Manager Gorge Meza, with Quintero Engineering, that the small pond that 4JC had filled in would be replaced by a “significantly larger” pond, shown on the plan as Drainage Tract #1, which is seven acres on the plat, to be located between the proposed Wind Ridge Drive and Pathfinder Drive.
That day, the Planning & Zoning Commission held a public hearing, with no comments, and voted to recommend the approval of the request.
The drainage map shows a portion of Suja Lane is in Zone A, defined by FEMA as “areas subject to inundation by the 1-percent-annual-chance flood event generally determined using approximate methodologies.” Property owners with structures in Flood Zone A, which have a federally backed mortgage are required to obtain flood insurance.
The Zone A portion of Suja Lane included Martinez’s house as well as half of Breaux’s property. It did not include the lot that Damaris and Luis Gonzalez’ home and business (Kiddie Kollege Child Care) is on to Breaux’s left and only includes a corner on the southeastern tip of the lot next to their house that they also own. This lot houses a white wooden bridge that Damaris Gonzalez said has been damaged from the flooding, along with the white wooden fencing that lines the perimeter of her property.
Neither Gonzalez nor Breaux have ever had to purchase flood insurance in their years of living on Suja Lane, but they both said they expect they will be required to soon. Gonzalez said that the flooding has not gotten to the house yet, but she expects it will in time.
Breaux said that the only two drainage points that he had seen so far included one that was on his property and one that ran near the Gonzalez’ property.
On the southwestern section of Breaux’s property, there is a small ditch/creek bed that runs into two metal stormwater drains near the street. Breaux said that the creek turns at a 90-degree angle along the back line of his property to go towards Martinez’s property and eventually to the 4JC property as the origin point.
“I believe the city engineers and the engineers that work with the company did not walk and see this because this is not a drainage,” Breaux said. “This is a small little creek that is not capable of handling that much water.”
Breaux said that on any given day when it rains, the water will come over the ditch/creek bed and can get up to ankle deep in his yard. It will even get high enough to flow over to his neighbor’s yard across the street. At times, the water makes the road unpassable, and there is a section of the road that has started to wash away, he said.
Breaux shared photos and a video of the creek/drain during rainstorms showing cream/tannish-colored water rushing down the creek towards the stormwater drains at the edge of his property and towards the street.
“Now you’re going to see in the video that the problem is this drain,” Breaux said. “If they could fix this drain, a lot of the problems will go away.”
Breaux said that his neighbor on the opposite side of the street has a similar creek bed running from the street on their property, but that creek bed had been reinforced by the homeowner.
Despite being a 100-percent disabled veteran, like his neighbor Luis Gonzalez, Breaux said he plans on purchasing a tractor to use for himself and his neighbors to try and deal with the ditch/creek bed and the aftermath of the storms.
Breaux said that when 4JC and Quintero Engineering began working on the property behind Martinez’s property, they ended up raising the land by eight to 10 feet, using a caliche-like material, above where the property lines previously met and causing a steep incline.
They then put down plastic drain tarps to direct any water towards the “drains”/ditches.
Breaux and Martinez said that this results in the water to be more forcefully directed to the creek/drains, towards Suja Lane, especially towards the Gonzalez residence, which houses a state-licensed day care facility, Kiddie Kollege Child Care.
Walking towards the back of the Gonzalez’s property, the run-off from the construction site just yards behind their house has resulted in the erosion of the rear left corner of their fenced in backyard and also along the back of the side lot.
A light-colored mud and unknown materials have swept in to replace what was once plush grass, and Gonzalez says that anytime it rains, the toys and play-equipment that the kids in her care play with ends up being moved due to the flooding. The wooden beams lining the outside of the fenced yard end up moved as well.
Gonzalez also pointed out that there are holes in the bottom of the fence line from the grass and dirt being washed away, which ends up being a safety risk in case a child tried to crawl through the hole.
There is also a telephone pole amongst the trees right at the back corner of the fenced yard that shifts as the water overruns the creek bed and the run-off rushes by, creating concern for the potential hazard should it tip over into the Gonzalez’ backyard.
Because of how muddy the backyard remains from the flooding, the children at Kiddie Kollege Child Care are no longer able to play in that section of the back yard. Gonzalez said that she used to be able to hold Easter egg hunts on her property, hiding eggs all over, but due to the condition of her grass and the mud, she had to resort to holding the egg hunt under her car port this year.
Gonzalez said she is especially concerned with the state of her property after it rains considering that she runs a state licensed day care facility that could be inspected by the state at any time. Safety is major factor for her and for the children in her care, she said.
The Gonzalezes have lived in their house on Suja Lane since 2008. Gonzalez said the severe erosion and destruction of her backyard and side and front yards started to get bad after the construction began less than two years ago and has only gotten worse with each storm.
Gonzalez said that she wanted to come forward about the flooding issues she and her neighbors have been facing to hopefully have something done to fix the problem, but also to encourage people in other neighborhoods to come forward if they are facing a similar problem.
Breaux said he and his neighbors have reached out to Public Works Director Scott Osburn and City Manager Ryan Haverlah, requesting them to come look at the drainage areas and the properties, which they have.
Breaux and his neighbors met with Haverlah again as recently as Monday afternoon. Breaux said he felt that the city manager was listening to their concerns and hoped that a solution could be found.