Progress without vision

After the heavy rains in the summer of 2013, I met my newest neighbor Mr. Betty; I had to wear fishing waders to get to his house due to flooding. I introduced myself to Mr. Betty and asked if he needed any help recovering from the 2 inches of water that had invaded his house. He had already started to tear apart the soaked dry wall, and he paused just long enough to say “not unless you know how to work drywall.” I told him I have two hands and am willing to help. We went to work. Since that initial flooding in the summer of 2013, that same house flooded three more times. The last flood brought in more than 4 feet of water.

Last week on the same second division of Mercado Street, three new house foundations cover a .9-acre lot on Mercado and Andorra. The new sites have the typical dirt build-up of 2 feet and are butted right up to the creek tree line with barely enough room in their combined backyards to have a car perform a K-turn. I find myself pondering on how I will be introduce myself to the future new neighbors – along the same creek – who will face the same issues with flooding.

How can we identify and educate families on the potential danger of buying their dream homes on properties that will not support water drain off and will flood? Sellers who have owned property along these watershed areas are quickly selling to builders who are placing profit over consumer interest. I imagine these property sellers are feeling as though they just sold ocean-front property in Arizona: funds in hand, walking away saying “it’s not my problem anymore.”

With Navarre growing, we are seeing building contractors shrinking the typical half-acre lots into quarter-acre lots or even smaller. Water drain-off is jeopardized substantially when multiple concrete slabs lay where soil and vegetation once stood to absorb the water. This environmental problem is not going away but is growing exponentially.

Communication with our Fourth District County Commissioner, Mr. Rob Williamson, the county floodplain manager, and the compliance supervisor and building official about our communities growing concern with the overbuild up and minimum water mitigation is on-going. But, building permits have already been approved, contractors are constructing and realtors are prepping to do their honorable jobs. Shouldn’t we be thinking about the potential housing disasters our new neighbors’ face?

FEMA evaluated our area for flood/drainage management in April 2014. These new maps need to be included in the current building process to ensure our communities are set up for success with our growing population. Our current county PLAT documents (survey drawings) are dated June 1, 1974. Without sound management and scrupulous evaluations of development, we are allowing ourselves to be victims of progress without vision. Each project should be reviewed as if the approvers themselves where going to reside on the property.

When neighbors are picking up water-soaked family pictures, throwing away damaged furniture and losing their family dreams to water, it’s too late to worry about whether the result was due to floodplain, water drainage or how high the house was built up. There are times when disasters can be prevented; this is one of those times.


Joe Polhamus,


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