Paradise developer at odds with town over water detention rules
By Mark Squibb/December 2, 2021
A prominent Paradise developer says the town’s request to build a water detention system for his housing development at 20 Karwood Drive is both costly and unnecessary.
Hubert Hussey of Karwood Contracting estimates the system will cost $100,000, which he says will add to the overall development cost and drive up the price of each lot up by about $5,000.
The town adopted a new water detention policy, the Paradise Stormwater Management Plan, based on a study by engineering company CBCL back in 2019. The policy requires all residential subdivision developments show net-zero runoff, regardless of size or impact. Under the policy, Hussey’s development must meet the net-zero runoff policy for stormwater.
Currently, runoff from Hussey’s developments drain into Brazil’s Pond through a natural stream that Hussey rerouted and enlarged some 20 years ago, he said.
Oldtimers in Paradise will remember Brazil’s Pond as being called Neville’s Pond, before it was renamed.
The stream, which has three wider areas, or ‘pools’ to increase its storage capacity, not only serves to drain water into the pond, but is also a popular trout fishing area. On certain sections of road, you can hear the brook babble nearby.
Hussey said his latest housing project on a “little parcel of land,” is the remaining one percent left in Karwood to be developed. Meanwhile, he thought the problem of water detention from his developments was solved 20 years ago.
“Neville’s Pond was, and still is, the headland of the Waterford River, that flows right down to the harbor in St. John’s … and I said, this (water detention) has got to happen,” Hussey recalled of the work he started 20 years ago. “And I’m satisfied to pay the money, and develop it, and you know something? Everybody, after a few meetings, agreed that this made sense and we could do this. So, I said, ‘Okay, let’s do this.’ So, before we started any more development, we decided to deal with the water problems we had here, and the water problems we had coming from across the road.”
Hussey said Waterford River activists, the Department of Fisheries and Oceans and engineers all got involved with the project, transforming the stream into not only a natural water detention reservoir for Karwood developments, but a trout spawning ground.
Hussey said the town, and provincial and federal governments all signed off on the project in 2002, and the natural detention system was praised back in it’s day. Now, he’s disappointed to be told that a project that he invested in and was quite proud of is no longer up to snuff.
“I agree with water detention,” said Hussey. “I proved that here 20 years ago. I don’t disagree with it and I’m not fighting water detention. I’m fighting for this one particular site… I took care of all this stuff 20 years ago. We took care of all of this, and spent money, and now they want us to spend that money again, which I am doing. So, it’s defeating the purpose of trying to build an affordable (project), and it doesn’t make sense.”
Hussey said he told the town he would follow the new policy, but not before hiring an engineering firm to see if the work is actually necessary.
“If they say I have to do it, and the town is right, then that’s it, no question,” said Hussey. “But if they say differently, the town has a problem, because I’ll fight this in Supreme Court. Because it irks the life out of me that I could deal with a group of people 20 years ago, including the Town, who signed off on this, and it solved the problem, and there were no issues for 20 years, and now they’re going to make me do something that’s really uncalled for, in my opinion. Now, my opinion doesn’t mean a thing, I have no degrees, but the people I get to do this will have degrees.”
And so, Hussey contracted CBCL, the same firm that crafted the town’s water detention report, to examine how his new development at 20 Karwood will affect run-off into the pond. Hussey said he didn’t know CBCL was the company that crafted the policy for the Town when he hired it. But he is pleased with the findings.
The new development consists of 21 townhouses. CBCL found it will have a minimal effect on both the water elevation in the pond and its outflow.
Technically, the town agreed with CBCL. In an e-mail to CBCL, cited by Hussey, the Town acknowledged the firms’s finding that outflow will increase by only 0.2 percent. However, the town’s policy is for zero runoff, meaning that 0.2 percent is 0.2 percent too much.
The Town, in responding to CBCL, said it had not explored regional detention in the past, and has not yet fully considered the environmental impacts. For that reason, the town will not classify the pond as a regional detention system.
And though he’s complying with the mandate, Hussey said it’s a huge waste of money for “a wheelbarrow full of water.”
“I’m not against anything that makes sense,” said Hussey, noting he is currently completing a design for a much larger water detention facility on Yellowwood Drive.
Paradise Mayor Dan Bobbett said it’s simply a matter of policy.
“All new developments, whether big or small, and some even smaller than this one, are expected to follow the town’s principles and policies on storm water management,” said Bobbett. “Especially now, with all the discussions on climate change and the impact it’s having on streams and ponds, we have a duty, as far as I’m concerned, to ensure that all developments are done so that they minimize any impact on the environment.”
Bobbett said developments can’t be viewed in isolation, and the policy was put in place with the cumulative effect of multiple developments in mind.
“What we’re guarding against is the cumulative effects of multiple developments running into the same area,” said Bobbett. “It has to be controlled. The town has been in contact with the developer and explained the policy and the requirements to meet it… And while it might be just a small amount, it’s not just that, it’s the cumulative impact on all development. We can’t look at one development in isolation of the others because eventually the water will run in the direction it used to naturally flow.”
The mayor also explained how run off and its impact is calculated.
“Net zero run off is a calculation of what it was in its natural state versus what run off you will get based on development,” said Bobbett. “So, the detention piece is to allow that water to flow into a detention area and then to be slowly released, as it would be in nature. And what it does is lessen the impact on infrastructure and natural waterways and ponds… At the end of the day, we’re trying to protect town infrastructure and natural waterways and ponds. It’s not one development in isolation of another. You have to look at the cumulative effect for that reason. Going back to the discussion of climate change, it does have an effect. We have seen more storms in the last number of years, and larger storms, and more water and more rain. It’s about making sure we protect the environment and infrastructure.”