Not again: Rain storms flood Noroton Heights — town officials talk mitigation efforts
For the second week in a row, Darien was pounded with heavy rains that flooded areas and took down trees. On Wednesday night, the Noroton Heights shopping area on Heights Road was again submerged in water.
Businesses, like Sanda’s Cleaners, Leary’s Liquor Cabinet and Valvala’s Deli, were once again cleaning up after high waters hit.
While Valvala’s said the cleanup wasn’t that bad on Thursday morning, Sanda’s Cleaners employees expressed frustration when visited by The Darien Times.
“Last night we were up until 12 trying to clean up,” they said.
Because the road was blocked off only on one side, the waves caused by passing cars continued to send water into the cleaners.
The employees expressed frustration with the town on a variety of levels, including that they wished the town employees would make an effort to clean out the drainage area and alert the business owners when a big rain was coming so they could be prepare.
“We struggle every single time. We diligently clean and reopen the business and no one even comes and looks,” they said.
There are currently two large-scale redevelopments planned for the Noroton Heights business area. Planning & Zoning Commission Chairman John Sini told The Darien Times these projects will include flood mitigation features.
“The Noroton Heights Overlay Zone, which enabled the approved redevelopment of both the Palmer's and Federal Realty properties, included Planning & Zoning Commission requirements for the installation of flood mitigation measures. As construction unfolds, the flood mitigation strategies will be implemented at both properties,” he said.
Sini said the commission expects Federal Realty to break ground by early 2019.
“By capturing water [and then slowly releasing water under this property during flash flooding incidents], it should provide meaningful relief for the businesses along Heights Road. The Palmer's property redevelopment will also add some mitigation remedies for the area,” he said.
The detailed storm drainage plans for both approved redevelopments can be found at: darienct.gov/pzc
Sini told The Darien Times it is “physically impossible to implement the stormwater management plan given its design and required capacity before the redevelopment commences. Flood mitigation will be completed during the construction phases of each property.”
The town has had many discussions about flood mitigation in the last decade or so, but Noroton Heights seems to be the most consistently affected. Previous solutions included a project at Baker Woods, at a price tag of $6 million, including taking down hundreds of trees to flood it to help mitigate Noroton Heights flooding. That solution was scrapped in 2009.
“I can assure you that a CO (Certificate of Occupancy) won’t be issued unless the flood mitigation plan is implemented as approved and designed by experts — one of which was born and lives in the community and is the leading local expert related to this specific flood plain,” Sini said
First Selectman Jayme Stevenson said the town continues to work toward mitigating flooding problems, including a drainage project in the commuter parking area in Noroton Heights.
"The town project will provide an on-site detention system in Noroton Heights Station commuter parking lot area adjacent to the affected retailers on Heights Road to help alleviate some of the water that runs from the higher elevation onto Heights Road. We see this a complimentary project to the work proposed by the private developments, if they go forward," she said.
"The town drainage project will move forward regardless of whether the private portion of the mitigation efforts is ever constructed. We have $240,000 approved for the project and hope to install in spring/summer 2019," she said.
Stevenson added that the property the town purchased via a state open space watershed grant on Hecker Avenue is also considered flood mitigation.
“That keeps that property from ever being developed,” she said.
Stevenson added she had a few residents come to Town Hall Wednesday about flooding issues.
“We will be working with one family through the FEMA process to see what they can do to lift their home or what else they can do,” she said.
The town will also be pursuing dredging sediment by Town Hall and Gorham’s Pond when state approvals come through.
Finally, Stevenson said she wanted to remind residents that those living along waterways have a shared responsibility to keep them clear of sediment, sticks, rocks or other obstructions, and not to throw any in.
“We can’t go on private property to clean it out and that debris can become a problem for someone downstream,” she said.