Dunedin resident Nancy LeFlore tries to avoid going in her backyard as much as possible during the summer.
Swarms of mosquitoes from a nearby body of standing water persistently bite her and her small Maltese, Winston. And many of them find their way into her house as soon as she opens the door.
“It’s terrible,” said the 73-year-old. “We can’t even enjoy our own yards.”
Residents in the 30-home development off Providence Road near Lansdowne have asked city staff for years to do something about the standing water on the adjacent property at 900 Sardis Lane.
A clogged culvert at the bottom of the vacant home’s narrow driveway has caused water to build up on both sides.
Recent heavy rains have exacerbated the backup, with streams forming behind some Dunedin homes.
“The property has been essentially abandoned for years,” said Dunedin resident Marilyn Dotson, 61, in a recent email to city officials. “It seems that the city should have the right to fix a drainage problem and bill the property owners for the cost if the property owners do not fix the problem.”
No one lives in the property on Sardis Lane. At the end of a sloping driveway, a dilapidated house with boarded windows sits with weeds growing all around.
Chase Bank took ownership in 2001 through a trustee deed. Six months later, Tuyet Seethaler bought it from the bank for $157,000 through a special warranty deed, property records show.
Seethaler then sold the property to 900 Sardis Lane LLC in December 2012.
The property had a $517,000 tax value as of the 2011 revaluation.
The Providence Realty agent who has the property listed could not be reached for comment.
Dunedin resident Ken Cherry, 76, said the community has tried to talk with the owner but no one has lived there since at least 2005.
It will likely be two years before the city can fix the issue, said Jennifer Frost, spokeswoman for Charlotte Mecklenburg Storm Water Services.
The department has more than 700 backlogged cases, some of which are 3 years old. A recent 5.5 percent stormwater fee increase for residential and commercial buildings may help decrease the backlog, said Frost.
As recently as April, city crews visited the property to see the extent of the drainage problem.
“It seems that the pond elevation is too high. We’ll have to look at the dam and see what can be done to maintain a lower level on it before we can address the flooding up stream,” said Storm Water Services employee Scott Houser in an email to Cherry.
During a recent walk, Cherry met a private inspector who was testing the quality of dirt on the Sardis Lane property for investors. As Cherry headed down the driveway, the man warned him about the swarms of mosquitoes.
“Be careful,” he said. “I got bit like five times while I was down there.”
At the bottom of the driveway, asphalt is breaking off because of water erosion.
When it rains hard enough, part of the driveway is underwater, said Cherry.
“You wouldn’t dare drive your car on this road (driveway), even if it wasn’t raining,” he said.
The driveway’s condition was what ultimately led storm water staff to prioritize fixing the culvert.
“Considered high priority because it is failing and water does overtop the driveway during heavy storm events,” said a staff report.
But given the backlog, residents will most likely have to wait until 2015 to see any repairs.
Cherry says that’s “unacceptable,” especially given that many elderly people – those more susceptible to mosquito-borne illnesses – live in Dunedin.
Frost noted that while “not ideal,” residents can call Mecklenburg County Environmental Health in the interim. A staff member will test the area and, if it’s determined to have a mosquito problem, will treat the area for free.
“I know it’s disappointing to hear but that’s the situation that we’re in,” she said. “We have a backlog but it’s on our list.”
Arriero: 704-358-5945; On Twitter: @earriero
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