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Flooded neighborhood fixed after WBTV Investigation, questions remain about City inspection process

Published: Jul. 1, 2021 at 3:22 PM EDT
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CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - A WBTV Investigation has helped one neighborhood in northeast Charlotte receive thousands of dollars in repairs after homeowners were plagued with flooding and drainage problems for years. The investigation also raises questions about why the glaring issues were missed by City of Charlotte inspectors.

Only a few months ago a rainy day in Caldwell Farms could cause backyards to turn into a river.

After WBTV’s initial investigation, the developer, builder and city all stepped up to fix the issue.

“The day after you made that phone call a city engineer and a city supervisor were here on the street to check things out,” Caldwell Farms resident Terri Smith told a WBTV reporter.

Smith had some of the worst flooding. After WBTV reached out to the city and Lennar Homes, Lennar got to work, installing French drains across all of the backyards. They also found moisture underneath Smith’s floorboards and are repairing that, too.

“They are going to come out, rip up the whole floor, treat everything and put down new flooring for me,” Smith said.

Smith said she hasn’t had to bear any of the costs.

“It’s been 4 1/2 years of fighting this and it’s finally resolved,” Smith said.

Given the quick and costly response from Lennar and just how bad the problem was, WBTV started investigating how the drainage problems happened in the first place.

An email obtained by WBTV through a record request starts to answer that question.

An engineer who reviewed the project wrote “instead of the back yard breaking to the designed swale at the base of the berm, the lot was filled up against the berm with what we assume was waste dirt.”

He went on to write “the most reasonable explanation is that the builder ignored the approved subdivision drainage pattern and did something different that clearly does not work in spite of the best efforts of the designer and developer.”

In February, WBTV spoke with assistant professor of construction management at UNCC Nicole Barclay about who is responsible for catching these kinds of problems.

“I do believe that the inspection space is where we need to be able to catch those errors before it becomes a long term problem,” Barclay said.

The City of Charlotte is responsible for inspections related to development, drainage and infrastructure.

“The idea that the city allowed that to happen by either not paying attention or signing off on something that they shouldn’t have signed off on is significant,” Smith said.

WBTV reached out to the City of Charlotte to ask for an on-camera interview about how this glaring error was missed and caused thousands of dollars of damage to these properties.

The request for an on-camera interview was denied again but in an email Planning Director Taiwo Jaiyeoba wrote that the city only has jurisdiction during the development stage and that the problem that caused the drainage issue happened after the builder, Lennar, got involved.

“The changes to grading on individual lots occurred later during the building permit process by the homebuilder, Lennar,” Jaiyeoba wrote.

But in a follow-up email he also wrote that the city inspects single family neighborhoods when the Certificate of Occupancy is released “to assure all public infrastructure including drainage is complete and compliant.” Meaning that inspectors saw the finished product and still passed it.

Jaiyeoba also wrote “The County is the regulatory authority for the building permit process and ensuring compliance with the State Building Code.”

In an email, a spokesperson for Mecklenburg County Code Enforcement made clear this issue does not fall in their jurisdiction.

“Stormwater management and related permitting, review, approval and on-going compliance are under the purview of the City of Charlotte for all properties within the limits of the city,” the spokesperson emailed.

“I am more than disappointed. I am disheartened that this city…didn’t look at this. This was an entire street. This wasn’t my house. This was eleven homes.

In an email Jaiyeoba wrote “Going forward, the City and County will strengthen our collaboration and partnership efforts with the development and homebuilding industry to improve on the current development process for our customers.”

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