To address drainage issues in the area, the city of Kenmore established a two-pronged program hoping to mitigate the problem at a Dec. 9 council meeting.
The decision creates a stormwater conservation loan program and a stormwater side line repair program. The ordinance establishing the enterprise was approved in a 6-1 council vote, with councilmember Debra Srebnik providing the lone “no.”
Earlier, the city had approved $90,000 (or $45,000 annually) in its 2019-20 biennium budget for the programs, which would aid single-family residential property owners.
The loan program provides property owners an opportunity to have maintenance work done on their property’s stormwater facilities. The loan would be low interest and the amount would be repayable to the city.
The side line repair program allows the city or contractors hired by the city conduct maintenance on private stormwater facilities. However, this can only be done if the city finds that the maintenance would be beneficial to the city overall.
The repair program additionally does not require a cost for the property owner.
According to meeting documents, either option can only be used once on a given property. An agreement that acknowledges future work on the property is also the sole responsibility of the property owner.
“As a property owner considering these two options, the obvious tendency will be to prefer the program that doesn’t incur costs to said property owner,” meeting documents state.
The city noted that the primary factor determining which option a certain property is eligible for rests on how a specific private facility ultimately helps the city’s stormwater facilities, as well as public health, welfare and safety. This also applies if the stormwater facility potentially has a negative impact on the community.
“In summary, this program adds two valuable tools to the city’s ability to respond to private property drainage issues,” meeting documents state.
The program itself has a connection to the 2015 surface water master plan update. At the time, city staff developed a new administrative policy addressing surface water management on private (or residential) property to better outline how the city can involve itself in private property drainage issues, which resulted in updates to the surface water policy chapter of the Kenmore Municipal Code (KMC).
But as the policy was being developed between 2015 and 2016, city staff didn’t have the data available to them that would efficiently quantify the concern at hand. So between 2017 and 2018, city staff executed a geographic information system (GIS) analysis.
The analysis involved combing through property records and looking at which of Kenmore’s private properties were possibly being affected by stormwater facilities that crossed between the private property in question and city right-of-way areas.
According to Richard Sawyer, the city’s environmental services manager, he and his staff additionally took several trips down to the King County archives to make sure that they were turning over every stone and ensuring that they had a record of what kinds of easements and recorded documents established the ownership of drainage pipes in city properties.
According to the meeting agenda item, some 708 properties within city limits have some type of stormwater facility that receives city right-of-way stormwater. Sawyer added that through the research, it was found that about 200 properties had some easement or recorded document that established some sort of responsibility for a given drainage facility.
However, there are about 400 remaining properties in Kenmore that have yet to be inspected. Additionally, the GIS analysis didn’t include problems related to groundwater on private properties.
Often, when groundwater originates on a private property, it is characterized as a non-private property issue, according to the meeting agenda item.
“We don’t necessarily have much information on these specific facilities but they are out there,” Sawyer said, adding that, with the new program, the city would be better prepared to provide assistance for when issues surrounding drainage come up.
The city, according to meeting documents, doesn’t have the ability to operate a private stormwater facility unless it’s part of a tract or easement that has been specifically given to the city for this specific purpose.
Currently, there are about 440 properties in the area that aren’t regularly looked at by the city.
Councilmembers had questions about the details of the program, particularly regarding eligibility and funding structure. While the ordinance establishing the program was established by the majority of the council, councilmember Srebnik ultimately opposed it in part due to a lack of clarity concerning the loan program.