• A discussion of what the city should do with its property at 121 N. Front St. brought attention to flooding and possible subsidence along the city’s waterfront. Julia Roberts/News-Leader

Waterfront flooding and subsidence brought up again to commission

A discussion of what the city should do with its property at 121 N. Front St. brought attention to flooding and possible subsidence along the city’s waterfront.

At the City Commission’s meeting on Tuesday, May 7, Commissioner Chip Ross broached the subject of the property, often referred to as the “Vuturo property,” but commissioners agreed discussion about the parcel should be continued after City Manager Dale Martin presents information from his talks with two groups that have submitted plans for redeveloping the city’s waterfront. Martin said he should have that information by May 21.

City resident Clinch Kavanaugh said the entire western waterfront of the city is suffering from flooding, which is turning the area into a wetland.

“We have clear-day flooding on Front Street. When we have tropical storms, it floods. Sometimes it floods almost all the way to Second Street,” Kavanaugh said. “We have a much more important issue than parks and what we’re going to do with the Vuturo building.”

The building on the property was demolished in December. “The demolition of the principle structure is contingent upon receiving the appropriate permit to allow for reconstruction/redevelopment of the site. Following the permitting and demolition, the City Commission will determine how to proceed: leave vacant, rebuild, sell, lease, etc.,” City Manager Dale Martin said at the time.

Kavanaugh said the area is subsiding. “We have not only a problem with water coming up, we have a problem with the land going down,” he said. “This is much more important. You can’t take one parcel of property out of this whole thing. We have to look at this systemically. We have a crisis down there, albeit not a raging one.”

He said he has long been involved in projects on the waterfront and has seen indicators that the area is turning into a wetland “I noticed six to 10 years ago where the rickrack is down there, I noticed there was some wetland plants in there,” he said. “Over the next four years, I watched them come up, all the way to Front Street. I’m convinced that we have a subsidence problem down there. We have global warming and tides are coming up. Not only do we have clear-day flooding – that means there’s no rain – but water is just coming up.”

Kavanaugh said the city has not looked at the issue of flooding but focused on smaller projects. He said the flooding issue should be the priority.

“We have not taken a focused look at what we’re going to do about hardening our city, our Historic District,” he said. “What are we going to do with Front Street? We have serious engineering problems, and you’re jumping way, way far ahead.”

Kavanaugh suggested the city appoint Storm Water Manager Andre Desilet to manage the work needed to address subsidence and flooding in the waterfront area, since Desilet has knowledge and experience, according to Kavanaugh, in how best to apply for grants, issue bids and requests for qualifications, and other processes related to funding engineering projects.

Mayor Johnny Miller agreed that the flooding issue is the first step in developing the waterfront.

“I don’t think we can move forward at all until we find out where this water is coming from, how much is coming, how to abate it, and how much money we’re losing,” Miller said. “If we wait much longer, we’re not going to be able to develop it because we don’t develop wetlands. We are creating a wetland.”

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