By John Schaffner

The city of Sandy Springs has decided to file legal action against Fulton County regarding the county’s lack of care and maintenance of two detention ponds at Arlington Memorial Cemetery that cause flooding of neighboring homes during heavy rains.

City Attorney Wendell Willard and City Manager John McDonough said city officials have tried on at least two occasions to meet with county officials to resolve the issue, but the county has been “no-show” both times. McDonough said he is still trying to arrange a third meeting.

In the meantime, the two detention ponds are in such disrepair, Willard said, that just about any substantial rainfall will cause water problems for homes along Colewood Way and Colewood Court and other neighborhoods along Colewood Creek.

“We have had contact with the management of the county about this problem,” Willard told members of Sandy Springs City Council during the council’s Oct 5 meeting, “because, as you recall, the dedication of the easements was done to Fulton County in recorded documents quite a number of years ago,”

Willard said the documents stated the county was responsible for the maintenance of the facility.

“The two detention ponds over a period of time have deteriorated because of siltation as well as the outlets are not functioning properly,” Willard explained.

“Unfortunate, we have not had any luck with trying to have a sitdown,” McDonough said. “We had two meetings scheduled and both of them fell through. While this action is going on, we will still continue to attempt to ask Fulton County to take of its  responsibility until this matter is resolved in court, because there are eminent concerns for public health and welfare downstream from this failed detention pond.”

Willard added, “There were several properties that suffered severe flooding.”

Councilman John Paulson asked, “Do you just spring this on them or do you call and say we are fixing to sue you?”

“I assure you I will make contact with the county attorney,” Willard answered.

Councilman Chip Collins asked McDonough, “Are we just being ignored?”

McDonough said he has not been successful in a third try to set a meeting with county management. “Because of the timeliness of this issue, we need to move forward,” he added.

Collins said he is holding a town hall meeting on Oct. 11, from 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m. at the Epstein School to discuss this issue of stormwater problems connected to the detention ponds at Arlington Memorial Cemetery and Colewood Creek as well as problems associated with stormwater runoff connected to the roadwork on Johnson Ferry and Abernathy roads.

Later, during the public comment part of the meeting, Barbara Malone, who lives as 240 Colewood Way and was representing the Council of Neighborhoods, asked if the city is enforcing its stormwater ordinances to the fullest degree, especially as they pertain to Arlington Cemetery.

“Residents suffer every time it rains,” she told the mayor and council members. She said the cemetery has cut trees several times over the years.

Malone was followed by Patti Berkowitz, who is active in protecting the city’s streams and wetlands and who spoke of the problems with stormwater runoff from the new construction on Abernathy Road.

Speaking later to reporters, Berkowitz said the Georgia Department of Transportation “is doubling the size of the road and impervious surface area,” but there have been no additional storm drains put in place along the new widened Abernathy Road.

Berkowitz said she understands there is a wetland detention area behind the former Steinway piano store in the shopping center at the southwest corner of Roswell and Abernathy roads to where all of the stormwater from that part of Abernathy Road flows. She questioned whether that one detention area could hold the additional flow that is sure to come from the amount of impervious surface on the new roadway.

Joe Earle

Joe Earle is Editor-at-Large. He has more than 30-years of experience with daily newspapers, including the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and was Managing Editor of Reporter Newspapers.