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Avondale Estates City Commission working to address stormwater issues

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Avondale Estates City Commission working to address stormwater issues

Avondale Estates City Hall. Photo by Dean Hesse.

Avondale Estates, GA — Stormwater was the topic of the night during the Avondale Estates City Commission meeting on Wednesday, July 12.

During a work session, the city commission discussed a stormwater project on Dunwick Drive and updating the land disturbance process to address flooding of residential properties and the city’s infrastructure from new construction.

Assistant City Manager Shannon Powell outlined a few problems the city is facing when it comes to stormwater. The city has a form residents can fill out to report issues. The system was put in place in October 2022.

“In less than a year, we’ve had over 80 reports submitted to us or complaints, and of those, over 40 of them have been about stormwater,” Powell said. “It is a daily routine for us to have conversations about what’s happening on private property and in our own infrastructure.”

The city’s zoning code sets a standard requirement for how much of a residential property one could fill and how much could be left open. But the city has seen an increase in stormwater runoff that’s impacting private property and the city’s stormwater infrastructure.

City staff is aiming to tighten up the land disturbance permitting process and tighten up the guidelines. The city commission will likely discuss the draft ordinance at its next work session.

An outline of changes to land disturbance permitting attached to the agenda highlights three problems and possible solutions. Here are the challenges:

– Problem 1: LDP regulations are unclear and spread throughout the Code, making it difficult to administer and insufficient for mitigating stormwater impacts to private property and city infrastructure. As Avondale Estates becomes denser with new commercial development, residential expansions, and accessory structures, the impacts of additional impervious surfaces need to be addressed as a part of each site’s development.

– Problem 2: Minor land disturbances (less than 1,000 sq/ft) are currently not defined by the city and not regulated, but smaller projects can result in harmful runoff during the project just not at the same scale as larger projects. Most driveway permits and some small single-family additions or accessory structures would fall into this category.

– Problem 3: The threshold for a full stormwater management plan (which addresses the capture/release of stormwater from a property after completion of the project) is set at 5,000 sq/ft of disturbance, well more than best practices recommend. Projects disturbing 1,000-4,999 sq/ft can cause a significant long-term burden on the City’s stormwater infrastructure and private property unless this threshold is reduced. Large residential additions, a new single-family residence, and new commercial development would fall into this category.

The changes could include:

– Creating a new section that will assimilate new and existing land disturbance permit triggers and requirements, and provide reference to current requirements in the stormwater and tree protection ordinances.

– Creating a minor land disturbance permit requirement so that minor land disturbance must provide an erosion and grading plan that would prevent runoff from damaging other property.

– Reducing the threshold for a full stormwater management plan to 1,000 square feet of disturbance to protect city infrastructure and provide property from uncontrolled runoff.

The ordinance also lays out what would require a land disturbance permit, and it defines land disturbance, grading and home gardens.

The ordinance would also include exemptions for work related to gardening, cultivation, or planting. Those activities would not require a land disturbance permit. Sheds or structures that are less than 200 square feet would also not require a land disturbance permit.

“We’re trying to capture and address this flooding,” Powell said. “This is standard practice. We already have some of this language in our code. This tightens it up and gives us a very clear direction, and gives our developers clear direction on what that would look like.”

In other business:

– The city commission discussed phasing the construction of stormwater improvements on Dunwick Drive. The project is one of the city’s five priority stormwater projects.

The project would be done in three phases.

In phase one, the pipes would be lined, and the catch basin would be replaced with a larger basin to capture more water. Construction is estimated to take about four to six months.

“It is a cast-in-place water-based pipe lining. It is non-invasive. No one’s homes need to be dug up…The pipe capacity for one of those pipes grows significantly just from being able to do that,” said Kristin Moretz, capital projects construction and maintenance director. “Over time, we have corrugated steel pipes and the joints become less stable, there’s erosion underneath. That fixes that problem.”

In phase two, regenerative stormwater would be installed and outfalls would be replaced. Construction of phase two would take about 10–12 months. There is an open channel behind some homes on Berkeley Road. Phase two looks at the channel and make sure the channel is stable and water can better infiltrate.

During phase three, additional infrastructure and bioretention areas would be installed, and safety improvements would be done. The city still has yet to determine the construction timeline for phase three.

– The city commission appointed Susie Deiters to serve on the city’s Historic Preservation Commission.

– Mayor Jonathan Elmore noted that residents on Berkeley Road received notice that construction would begin on a watershed project. He said the director of watershed in DeKalb County will get back to him on how the Cobb Creek project will impact Avondale Estates; however, the project is happening further downstream.

“However, we did receive indications two years ago that they were going to trench across the dam and cut everything down along the creek, like a 40-foot swath, because they have an easement to put in a new sewer line,” Elmore said. “There’s an alternative plan to go down Berkeley, cross at Banbury, and tie in the same way.”

The new DeKalb watershed director has assured Elmore that the county will do the alternative plan, so they won’t go across the dam nor cut trees down.

DeKalb County recently announced that the Cobb Creek sewer improvement project will begin on July 17.

Crews will replace about 18,439 feet of gravity sewer main lines. The work is expected to take about 30 months and be completed in December 2025, barring any weather delays, according to a press release. The major streets that will be impacted are Avondale Road Brookfield Lane, Glenwood Road, Midway Road and Peachcrest Road.

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