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Culvert draws Board ire
Holdeman told to put it back the way it was

The town of Farragut deemed work done by Jonas Holdeman, on behalf of West Side Unitarian Universalist Church, on Town-owned property at 616 Fretz Road, in violation of Town ordinances at its Thursday, Dec. 13, meeting held at Town Hall.

Holdeman, on behalf of WSUUC, appealed a stop-work order issued by Town staff on work he was doing in a box culvert on the property in order, he said, to control the flow of floodwater onto church property.

A letter sent to Holdeman by former assistant town engineer Casey Wood stated, “The retaining walls that were constructed along the stream bank were in violation of the Town’s Aquatic Buffer, Flood and Tree Protection ordinances and ordered the work halted and the property “restored to its original condition.”

Holdeman said, “The Board agenda says I am here to appeal alleged violations of three Farragut ordinances. In fact I am here to appeal an order by [former] assistant Town engineer Casey Wood to restore a blockage of the channel of the stormwater conveyance that extends some 400 feet across property of [WSUUC], to demolish two retaining walls, built to control erosion of stream banks, and to narrow the drainage channel to its pre-existing, constricted width.”

Holdeman added, “My appeal is based on refutation of the violations claim, the inappropriateness of the penalty and the [merits] of the project.”

Holdeman said he began the work on his own after his request to the Town to have blockages removed from the culvert was denied.

The work consists of the construction of retaining walls on either side of the stream and the mortaring of riprap, which the town placed in the culvert to slow the flow of water but did not anchor, to the concrete floor of the culvert.

“Careful study of the options available indicated the channel should be widened as much as feasible to allow the water to spread out and slow down and at the same time stabilizing the banks. This required the construction of the low retaining walls,” Holdeman said.

“Construction of the wall was begun in May 2007. While under construction, the Town hydrologist appeared and asked about the project. I explained the problem, the proposed solution; he seemed satisfied with the explanation and raised no objections. Construction on the second wall began four months later, undertaken in good faith since there had been no objections in May,” he added.

It was during the construction of the second wall that the stop work order was issued by Wood and the subsequent demolition order was written two days later.

Holdeman said he notified Assistant Town Administrator Gary Palmer that he intended to file an appeal but needed time to do so. He also requested specific information on the violations of the ordinances cited to which he said he never received a response.

Holdeman continued to work on the wall after the stop work order was issued “to preserve what had already been done,” he said.

Town attorney Tom Hale said, “The concern I have is that we have regulations here that deal with tree protection and deal with aquatic buffers and stormwater regulation, and the town has a lot of legal responsibility under the federal law to make sure various things happen. We have adopted these regulations and mostly these regulations say if you are going to do something in the flood way or the aquatic buffer or on property managed and maintained by the Town, you have to come to the town and get approval before you do that. There is no question that this is regulated.

“We can’t be sending the message out there that it is okay to be building things in drainage ways where water flows without getting the approval of the people who are legally responsible for dealing with those issues,” he added.

Public Works director Bud McKelvey said he witnessed Holdeman building the walls before anyone else on Town staff had addressed the issue.

“I asked him if he had permission or a permit to build these walls and he said no.

“I asked him why he did not go to Town staff [and request permission], and his exact response was he would have to hire a professional engineer to get this designed and approved and he was not going to do that.”

The Board referred the decision to have the retaining walls demolished to the Stormwater Advisory Committee based

on Town attorney Hale’s


“The question that hangs in my mind is, the structures that are there, do they [make an] impact, and is there any possibility that after they are taken down, sometime in the foreseeable future are we going to have to put them back because that is the appropriate thing to do,” Hale said.

The mortared riprap was another matter altogether.

Town engineer Darryl Smith said, “That box culvert was designed by me 14 years ago. I can assure everyone; at no point in time did I ever design a riprap dam mortared into the middle of it. I understand the concept of trying to create turbulence in there by creating the hydrolic jump that would slow down the flow of water and decrease erosion. But in real life we have sticks, we have trash, we have brush that gets caught on a dam like that.

“We might be creating a tremendous problem upstream and my recommendation is that needs to be cleaned out,” he added.

Holdeman said he had no objection to having the rock removed from the dam.

Mayor W. Edward “Eddy” Ford III said the riprap would have to be removed by either a professional service or the Town’s public works department to ensure the Town would incur no liability should Holdeman be injured trying to remove the dam.

The Board voted unanimously that the expense of this removal would be charged to the church.

Following the decision, Holdeman said he was “at a loss as to why the Board would lay any responsibility for the rocks in the culvert on the church.

“It’s outrageous, it was Smith’s design. I understand why he did it, to slow the flow of water, but they were too small and they were being carried downstream because they were not anchored in,” he added.

Holdeman said he would tell the church regarding the decision that “since I built it and I have the responsibility, I have already told the church president that I will pay whatever costs are incurred personally. It is not an easy thing to do, I am not a rich person, I live on a retirement income. I am almost 71 years old. I am just trying to create some kind of legacy.”


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