Collier residents blame developer for flood damage to homes
By Megan Guza
Published: Wednesday, Sept. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
Lisa Lonerio watched in horror as rainwater washed down the hill near her Delfred Street home and gushed so hard it damaged the house next door.
“It was flying so hard down her backyard, it blew out the basement windows,” she said.
According to residents and township officials, the flooding is a result of storm-water runoff from the Prestley Heights development, which straddles Collier and Carnegie and is being development by Tri-State Design and Development.
Lonerio's house was not damaged during the storm, but, she said, she feels for her neighbors.
“To see some of these people who are older — retired and on a fixed income — to see them have to foot the bill for it is ridiculous. It's just ludicrous.”
Residents at recent township commissioners' meetings reiterated the damages to homes and property and their frustration with the perceived lack of response from Tri-State developer Hiroo Patel.
Chip Misner of Dorothy Street told commissioners the storm dumped 18 inches of water into his basement.
Eric Brandebura of Colecrest Street said his yard was filled with debris. He said he does not feel he should be responsible for its removal.
“I literally had a river running through my yard,” he told commissioners.
It has been 78 days since the July 10 floodwaters, caused by heavy morning rains, raced into yards and basements and wore on infrastructure, but Brandebura and other Cubbage Hill-area residents are still feeling the effects.
And they want answers.
“We're not going to let up,” Lonerio said. “We've been here a lot longer than that plan's been here.”
Collier officials, including code enforcement officer Tom Plietz, met with Patel Sept. 5 to discuss options for controlling the runoff. Solutions included higher curbs, increased earthen berms and larger detention areas at the development site.
Collier engineers Larry Souleret and Tim McClelland accepted the solutions with the stipulation that Patel send a detailed solution plan by Sept. 12. Township manager Sal Sirabella said no plan had been received as of Sept. 20.
Patel on Sept. 13 said that he was in the process of instituting solutions but would not elaborate.
“We are anticipating a plan from Tri-State Design that is acceptable to our engineers,” Sirabella said.
In the meantime, he said, township officials would continue to “implement all legal remedies.”
Those legal remedies include making claims for costs incurred by the township, including legal fees. Sirabella said those currently are the only avenues being pursued by the township. Residents seeking compensation for damages would have to do so on their own.
The developer's bond money could also be used to pay for township repairs.
Such legal remedies also take time — something wearing on the nerves and patience of those affected by the Prestley Heights runoff problems.
“We're all very passionate about this,” Lonerio said. “The integrity of this neighborhood has been jeopardized, and that's not right. The same people have been living here for years, and it's not fair to them to be dealing with this 50 years later.”
She said she and her neighbors do not fault residents who have bought homes in Prestley Heights, but rather the developers for not taking swift and definitive action.
“Everyone just cringes and holds their breath when we hear there's going to be a storm,” she said. “No one knows what's going to happen next.”
Megan Guza is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-388-5810 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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