On April Fools Day, appropriately, Willow Lake Homeowners Association (Willow Lake) filed a Petition for Damages against Ascension Parish, Oak Grove Townhomes, LLC and its developer, Dantin Bruce Development. According to the petition a retention pond and weir were constructed in the new development that drains into the plaintiff’s lake. Due to improper installation of two outflow pipes from Oak Grove Townhomes’ retention pond “there is an increase of water and sediment draining and flowing into the lakes located within Willow Lakes Subdivision.”
“The amount of sediment, water and toxicity being drained into the lakes in the Willow Lake Subdivision is causing an increase in the water level and damage to the lakes in general, as well as unsightly growth of weeds, slime, muddy water and toxicity in the lakes.”
Plaintiff paid for a study that “outlined the damage caused by the drainage of Oak Grove Townhomes” finding violations of the Storm Water/Clear Water Act. The petition goes on to assert that Dantin Bruce is “deliberately pumping or allowing muddy water into the north side of the Willow Lake pond and that same water was flowing into the south pond of the Willow Lake Subdivision…Violations found by Louisiana DEQ…showed that the dam and drainage built and approved by the Defendants caused severe damage to Willow Lake Subdivision by allowing the pond waters to become contaminated and possibly would kill off all fish and allow mud to flow into the Willow Lake ponds.”
Ascension’s Planning Commission approved Oak Grove Townhomes on March 14, 2018 after the panel denied the plat on November 8, 2017. Appealed to the Parish Council, sitting as the Planning Commission Appeals Board, the preliminary plat was sent back to Planning for “Reconsideration” at the urging of Councilman Aaron Lawler whose District 7 includes both Oak Grove Townhomes and Willow Lake Subdivision.
And the fix was, indeed, in. Lawler interjected himself into the negotiations which led to approval with rare conditions fabricated with the help of Planning Commissioner Julio Dumas. On March 14, 2018 Dumas prefaced his tortured motion to approve Oak Grove Townhomes the second time around (he was not present for the November 2017 denial):
“I had the opportunity to meet with the councilman and the developer and hear the situation,” thanking “the developer for spending quality time and taking advantage of the appeal process to meet with you guys in the community and address the issue. I hope I don’t have to read this into the record. Do I Cody?”
He did. The motion…
Prior to signing the final plat by the Chairman of the Planning Commission, the applicant must establish an escrow account for the amount determined by a registered civil engineer, not to exceed 100,000 US Dollars, for the sole purpose of adjusting the height of the weir and provide other drainage related improvements under the control of Willow Lake… Funds may only be used by Willow Lake subdivision.
The escrow account must be available for a period not exceed 24 months from the date the final plat is executed and recorded. In the event Willow Lake fail(s) to complete the lowering of the weir within those 24 months the developer may close the escrow account and recoup his funds, and shall be relieved of any further obligation.“
None of which ever came to pass and those localized drainage problems remain, rendered even more acute with the passage of time and Oak Grove Townhomes construction. The Petition for Damage does not seek a fix to those drainage issues but focuses on damage to Willow Lakes’ pond. The drainage problems are of longstanding and there is no easy fix.
“In an effort to mitigate damages, members of the Willow Lake Homeowners Association met with and discussed resolution with several professional lake restoration companies to outline how to prevent continued damage coming from the Oak Grove Townhomes and to clear up the damage already caused. The companies…recommended that several procedures be undertaken, such as an aeration system and chemical be introduced to improve the lakes condition. However, these procedures are not designed to prevent the lack of proper drainage coming from the Oak Grove Townhomes pond.”
The claims against Ascension Parish focus on its failure to “require a proper weir and drainage…and to monitor and require the Oak Grove Townhomes build proper drainage into Willow Lakes Subdivision.” Plaintiffs are not without fault as residents agreed to the deal forming Planning Commissioner Dumas’ condition back in march of 2018.
As of Friday no answer had been filed to Willow Lakes’ petition.