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Longboat Key Friday, Sep. 11, 2020 1 month ago

Longboat Key church submits plan to state to address drainage issues

Christ Church hired Claybrooke Engineering Associates, Inc. to try to resolve the matter.
by: Mark Bergin Staff Writer

Christ Church of Longboat Key has submitted plans to the state to modify a drainage swale central to a legal dispute between the church and its next-door neighbor. 

Southwest Florida Water Management District public information officer Susanna Martinez Tarokh said the state needed some additional clarification from the church, which is located at 6400 Gulf of Mexico Drive.

Christ Church hired Parrish-based Claybrooke Engineering Associates, Inc. to try to resolve the drainage matter and the years-long dispute with resident Ross Toussaint, who lives next door.

“District staff have already reviewed their response to our Request for Additional Information (RAI) letter and verbally requested some clarification to complete this application,” Tarokh said. “Staff is hopeful the engineer can provide this information to the District in the next couple of days in order to have a complete application in lieu of sending a Request for Clarification letter.”

Ross Toussaint is pictured near the bioswale between his property and Christ Church of Longboat Key.

Toussaint — who lives next to Christ Church on General Harris Street — has been in a legal dispute with the church for the last 10 years over drainage which he claims is damaging his property.

“I'm a little bit anxious about how it's going be resolved, “ Toussaint said. “I don't want to just cut corners and get it resolved for a two-year fix. It’s been a problem all along, and I just want it resolved properly and repaired properly.”

The church, through its chairman John Shehorn, also declined to comment.

“However, in the interest of being a good neighbor and a source of good in the community, the Christ Church of Longboat Key proposes to implement drainage improvements to the area of concern that will benefit the Church’s neighbors and the community as a whole,” CEA engineer James Richard Claybrooke wrote in materials submitted to SWFWMD. “The main problem appears that the ‘dry’ stormwater bioswale on the east side of the property does not adequately dry out between rain events and therefore does not have the full capacity needed for the next storm event.”

SWFWMD reviewed the church’s materials to make sure the stormwater runoff is conveyed through a modified bioswale system without causing damage to neighboring properties, Tarokh said.

Claybrooke wrote that the bioswale was not functioning during CEA’s visit, specifically stating the swale had standing water and algae growth.

“The water in the swale was not percolating down in the required time and therefore it is not functioning as designed,” Claybrooke wrote.

To address the problem, Christ Church intends to add a filter drain under the bioswale. The filter drain would then connect to a stormwater pumping station. The pumping station will pump the filtered stormwater from the bioswale to the outfall structure in the northwest corner of the church property.

Claybrooke wrote that this will help drain the swale. In court documents and in previous interviews with the Observer, Toussaint said the swale frequently overflowed on to his property. A proposed inlet would collect nuisance flooding and also pump it to the outfall structure.

“During the application review process, the District will examine things like ensuring that the stormwater runoff from the adjacent property is accepted and conveyed through the altered/modified system without causing adverse water resource impacts to the adjacent properties or receiving system,” Tarokh wrote.

State records show Christ Church’s application is approved as of Monday, which was the church's initial deadline to submit the request-for-additional-information letter.

“Once the District has a complete application, the permit will be issued with a specific condition to ensure the required construction activities authorized by the permit are implemented in a timely manner,” Tarokh wrote.

Public records show that Christ Church has claimed drainage and flooding problems existed before the expansion of the church's campus in 2010. However, Toussaint claimed that is when the flooding began to affect his priority.

Toussaint said he planned to talk with SWFWMD this week to learn more about the church's proposed changes.

“I feel like this a step towards solving the problem properly,” Toussaint said.

According to Toussaint, the legal dispute with Christ Church has cost him more than $130,000.

Mark Bergin is the Longboat Key Town Hall reporter for the Observer. He has previously worked as a senior digital producer at WTSP, the CBS affiliate in St. Petersburg. Mark is a graduate of the University of Missouri and grew up in the Chicagoland area.

See All Articles by Mark

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