Morning Read: Are homeowners to blame for some of Irene’s damage

The Glens Falls Post-Star is reporting that local officials in the Adirondack town of Johnsburg think private homeowners behaving irresponsibly may be to blame for some of Irene’s impacts.

Local officials said on Wednesday that much of the recurring damage was caused by improperly maintained private culverts and ponds that backed up and flooded nearby roads.

The town has seen “damage reoccur over and over again because of something on private property,” said Sterling Goodspeed, the town’s supervisor. “It isn’t fair for the entire tax base to carry the burden of the repair costs.”

Local officials say half of the major wash-outs in Johnsburg were caused by improper infrastructure on private property next to publicly owned infrastructure.

So what do you think:  Should homeowners and businesses be held to a higher standard?  Comments welcome below.

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9 Comments on “Morning Read: Are homeowners to blame for some of Irene’s damage”

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  1. Jim Bullard says:

    Aren’t there already standards for culverts and ponds? I was under the impression that there are.

  2. Paul says:

    Even many state “maintained” roads and culverts do not adhere to code.

  3. Mark, Saranac Lake says:

    There is a reason for “planning” and having codes for construction including the way a property is prepared for home construction. I live in a town that has enough residents that don’t want anything like that (“too much government regulation – I should be able to do what I want on my property”) but something as simple as an improperly constructed culvert can cause significant damage as is apparent in Johnsburg. Having the codes is one thing, enforcing them is another and the problems arise when something as significant as Irene comes along… and then it is too late. This is a time for those towns that were not impacted by
    Irene to learn from what has happened and take a look at how they deal with construction (or lack of) that can impact neighbor’s properties.

  4. TomL says:

    Brian, you ask “Should homeowners and businesses be held to a higher standard?”. None of the officials in Johnsburg appear to be holding private-property owners to a higher standard. They are upset that some private-property owners don’t meet the standards.

    If property-owners don’t meet code or don’t upkeep infrastructure, they should be made liable. Just as they should for any other negligent or illegal practices on their property that put their neighbors’ health, safety, and property values at risk.

  5. Nana3x says:

    We live on a low-key town road. As did my grandfather, we consider it our responsibility to keep an eye on the culvert under the road, and to ditch runoff from our property away from the road in certain possible troublespots. Neither one should bend anyone out of shape. If something more than we can handle happens, we make the appropriate call.

  6. Two Cents says:

    Aside from fees, and zoning compliance which most people think are the only purposes a municipality stick their noses into “our personal affairs”, one enormous purpose in obtaining a permit for construction is to have an inspector come out and review the work to see if it is up to Code, and there were correct building practices, standards employed during the construction process.
    Still most people may argue that this is still an interference in their rights to do as they wish on their property.
    From a former Plan Examiner’s perspective, I was criticized often for the level of detail i wanted to see on construction drawings, Design Professionals in particular were angered and saw this as insulting, homeowners felt caught between a p*ssing contest.
    Monday morning, i feel justified in retrospect.
    If the work was done without a Permit, there were no inspections, the Town should not foot the bill.
    If the work was Permitted, and work performed in accordance with the Design Professional’s construction documents as per the Inspector’s field observations, then if it is determined all was on the up and up, well there is no accounting for the force of mother nature, and still the Town should not be held to repair the work. The Homeowner should contact their insurance agent.
    If the Homeowner took it upon themselves to perform the work themselves, used poor construction practices that added to the intensity of the storm’s effects, maybe the insurance industry would like to comment on that scenario.
    Intuitive Engineers add 20% calculation factors if they like to sleep at night, for just these occassions.

  7. myown says:

    So here we have a small rural town advocating for more regulations…. interesting. Seems they are validating the concept that there are reasons to regulate or control actions on private property so as to not cause problems or expense to the community. Downright radical don’t ya think.

  8. Two Cents says:

    ..who said more?

  9. myown says:

    From the PS article: “Town officials are researching whether they can force local property owners to install or upgrade stormwater routing infrastructure on private land that appears to be causing the damage to local infrastructure.”

    If the Town already has the power they must not be enforcing it. If they don’t, they can sue the proerty owners for damage and expenses. Otherwise, they need regulations that will address the problem now and in the future.

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