By Randy Pierce
NEW BADEN – Legislation amending the restrictions concerning the placement of fences, sheds or other structures across or near drainage ditches was tabled by the New Baden Village Board of Trustees at its meeting held on Tuesday, September 7.
An ordinance concerning this topic was introduced and explained by Trustee Bob Oster who said passage of it was necessary in order to facilitate the village’s ability to address instances of standing water in back yards of local homes.
Oster said there are currently fences, sheds or similar items located on or near easements that will interfere with the village’s planned efforts to try to alleviate the conditions that cause the flooding.
The idea as explained by Oster included having him and the village notify the property owners to relocate these structures with an advance notice so that the drainage improvement work could begin as soon as early October, starting with homes on Thouvenot Lane.
A concrete swale would be constructed for the purpose of handling the runoff water from the adjacent yards where it now accumulates, he continued.
The village’s existing regulations allow for fences and outbuildings to be located on the easements as long as they did not impede the flow of water but the problem with this is that those structures can interfere greatly with the labor process necessary to install the swale. A provision disallowing fences, sheds or other structures to be any closer than 24 inches to the swales or drainage ditches was drawn up as an ordinance, amending what is currently in place.
“This is something we’ve had a problem with in town for a long time,” Oster said. “We can’t do the drainage projects that we want to do because we can’t get in there to work.”
Utilizing concrete swales will enable the flow of water to improve and keep it from silting up and clogging, according to Oster, “We have to get in and clean it. We can keep it clean and maintain it and we won’t have water in people’s back yards.”
Not only does the ordinance that was proposed necessitate the owners of property moving things off of the easements, it also prevents them from being moved back any closer than two feet once the improvements are completed in the form of the installation of the swales.
Water backing up into yards, Oster added, is “not flowing and it’s mosquito-infested and people are complaining about it and they want it done so now we’re going to start fixing it, we’re going to spend a lot of money on this one particular project.”
“We can’t spend the money to make this project to do what we’re gonna do then allow everybody to come back and put everything back on top of it. That’s ridiculous.”
“I don’t want to take 20 feet of their back yards. That’s not what we’re wanting to do. I wouldn’t want that,” Oster said, adding that fences, etc. can be reinstalled in the easements when the work is completed, just not inside the 24-inch work area.
The village board balked at moving ahead with this, however, following comments by New Baden Chief Building and Zoning Official Jerry Green who was in attendance at this meeting and said the ordinance presented was “over-legislating” and what was currently in place concerning the easements was sufficient to help keep the stormwater water flowing through ditches or swales.
Green further stated he did not feel property owners should have to bear the costs of moving their fences or sheds and when the exchange between Oster and him became heated, Mayor Taylor Zurliene interjected, “I don’t want to turn this in a screaming match” while referring to there being some “history” involving the two men.
Zurliene said he understood Green’s concerns about the costs to taxpayers but there is also a need to understand the importance of “clear cut rules” regarding the easements.
Green commented, “We need to enforce what we have” then following further discussion about how the board wishes to handle this, it was finally decided to table the ordinance, meaning to put off a decision, until after the trustees’ public works committee chaired by Oster has a chance to meet and hash it out before it comes back for consideration again.
The motion to table the ordinance was opposed by Oster and Doug Henderson while Nicole Pederson, Cindi Meredith-Wheelan and Rebecca Schomaker voted yes.