Elevation of new home builds creates flood concerns for Palm Coast residents

Birchwood Drive resident Mara Weurth said she tried to contact the city before any foundation was poured, only to find there is no maximum height elevation for developers to comply with.

Birchwood Drive residents are concerned that the elevation of the new construction build will send stormwater runoff into their yards. Photo by Sierra Williams
Birchwood Drive residents are concerned that the elevation of the new construction build will send stormwater runoff into their yards. Photo by Sierra Williams
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The new home construction that borders the north side of Mara Wuerth's home on Birchwood Drive is noticeably higher in elevation than her own.

“It’s way too high,” Wuerth said. "I'm pretty angry because of the stupidity [of the situation]."

Wuerth began to contact the city about the elevation before any concrete had even been poured at the site. That was around three weeks ago. And now, she said, the city has finally come out to see the problem but claims nothing can be done because there is no maximum height requirement for contractors to comply with.

Paul Fink, who lives on the other side of this new construction build, said he couldn’t believe it when he found out there wasn’t a regulation on elevation. From his backyard, he could see the head and shoulders of a contractor on the site above Fink's privacy fence.

A construction worker leveling the dirt for the foundation on a new build on Birchwood Street can be seen head and shoulders over Paul Fink's privacy fence. Photo courtesy of Paul Fink

“It just doesn't make sense," Fink said. "You know, everything [else] in this town is regulated.”

Both Fink and Wuerth are worried that the home's elevation will cause flooding in their yards, and they will get stuck with the bill to fix a problem they didn't cause.

New construction builds are required to be a minimum of 12 inches above the crown of the road, Deputy Director of Stormwater Lynn Stevens said. There’s no maximum height restriction because builds may need different heights to manage stormwater runoff appropriately, Stevens said.

“There's no maximum because each lot is different,” she said. “Stormwater require[s] that all water from a home site must remain on that home site, and it must flow to the front swale.”

The 98 Birchwood Drive build is adhering to a stormwater mitigation plan it filed with the city before construction began, she said. Wuerth said the 98 Birchwood home is 3 feet higher than hers and Fink's. Stevens said city staff members have measured the build and found the build to be 1.23 feet higher than 100 Birchwood and 1.09 feet higher than 96 Birchwood.

Once construction is completed, the city will conduct a final inspection and survey to ensure the home is graded properly, she said.

“We do not allow home sites to drain on to vacant properties or other properties,” Stevens said. “So if a property is holding water in the back, it's because of [the] drainage, allowed them to drain onto vacant properties.”

Stevens said fixing the drainage problems would be at the cost of residents on their own properties.

The problem is not unique to Birchwood Drive. 

Palm Coast residents turned out in force at the Palm Coast City Council meeting on Nov. 7 to share their concerns about the elevated new builds with the City Council. Wuerth was among them. 

"We're finding out that there's a huge lack of regulation in this city, as far as we're concerned," Wuerth told the council. "And we hope that you will address that."

Palm Coast Vice Mayor Ed Danko went out to the site at Birchwood to look at the home after he was contacted by the neighboring residents.

“It looks a lot worse in person,” Danko said.

In response to the abundant public comments on the issue, Stormwater Director Carl Cote was asked to explain the requirements for new builds. Cote said developers have to show that the homes are graded properly so that water flows from the back to the front of the property into the swale system.

"Right now, those lots are just rough-graded," he said. "The final grading will get done later."

Danko asked Cote what that meant for water coming down the sides of the home.

"You would be okay living next to [a home] like that?" Danko said.  

That question elicited an uproar of applause from the crowd and a rebuke from the mayor. 

"Vice Mayor, that question is out of order," Mayor David Alfin said.

As residents continued to talk over the council members, Alfin banged his gavel in an attempt to silence the crowd.

"I will ask you to quiet down or I will recess the room," Alfin said.

Alfin said that each of the speakers' individual properties will need its own solution. He asked the residents experiencing elevation problems to contact the city so that city staff can go out and survey. 

Council member Theresa Carli Pontieri said some of the residents in the crowd had reached out to her as well, and she has asked city staff members to begin reviewing the city's Land Development Code. 

"I have asked to be updated on our staff to address this on a larger scale," Pontieri said. 

Danko told the Observer it’s obvious to him that the house is too high and is going to cause a problem. It’s not something he’d want to see next to his own home, he said.

“Water has to go somewhere,” he said. “And I don’t know where it’s going to go with the way this is laid out.”


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