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Residents discuss faulty drain system with FBMA

Residents of The Farm at Willow Creek subdivision expressed desperation to Farragut’s Board of Mayor and Aldermen Thursday, Jan. 28.

“Our options are becoming few … we’re not going to be able to keep it together,” resident Kim Panelle said.

The subdivision’s developer, Chip Leonard, currently is involved in litigation with subdivision designers and subcontractors, and with the Town, over construction of a faulty stormwater drainage system.

The system was meant to drain water from the subdivision downhill toward the lake; instead, water is running underground and washing away earth, causing ground and street collapses in the subdivision and just off Evans Road. A good deal of the drainage water simply is disappearing.

The trouble is, no one seems to know exactly what caused the drainage system to malfunction. And no one is taking responsibility.

“Nobody involved in this thing wants to put money into it,” Town Attorney Tom Hale said.

“We can see the ground sinking. It’s sort of amazing we haven’t had a major road collapse. We all moved to Farragut because it had a reputation of taking care of its own,” Panelle said.

She asked if the Town couldn’t simply fix the drainage system and then recoup its losses in bankruptcy court, which is where the litigation currently is.

“Who would we recover the money from? The developer’s in bankruptcy,” Hale asked.

Alderman Bob Markli asked what responsibility the Town had for a developer who did not follow the law.

“The Town has some culpability in this,” Panelle said, saying the collapsing streets were a public safety issue. She quoted a Town ordinance that would require the Town to correct drainage problems in the interest of public safety.

Because of its drainage problems, the Town has not adopted The Farm at Willow Creek’s streets; the subdivision still is private property.

“In fact, it’s on private property … we have no other obligation, technically,” Alderman John Williams said.

“We have limited authority to use public money to fix private property,” Hale said.

Mayor Ralph McGill asked for the numbers on a possible solution.

Hale said estimates were all anyone had, largely because no one could agree on a solution. To replace only the leaking pipe would cost between $250,000 and $275,000. Engineering and design work could add another $150,000.

A complete replacement, which would replace the entire pipeline and place a liner in the subdivision’s leaking pond, could cost upwards of $700,000.

Town Engineer Darryl Smith said Town staff was routinely monitoring the subdivision, and though there was a wide crack between the ground and the road, staff had not seen movement in the past year.

“But that doesn’t mean everything’s stable out there,” he said.

Panelle said she saw “all parties at a dead standstill, and will be for years.”

“Please be assured we are not doing nothing,” Hale said.

“The lawsuit’s not going away, regardless of the bankruptcy,” he added.

“That still leaves us,” Panelle said.


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