Developer didn’t get a permit; some are saying it’s causing new flooding in this park

A developer of a new addition at the 2,300-acre Viridian development failed to get a permit, which has led some Arlington residents to complain about nearby flooding on a six-acre section of River Legacy Park.

The work involved a site for 80 townhomes on the west side of Collins Street. A section of River Legacy Park, including a parking lot, has been closed because of flooding from recent rains.

“The original plans were not approved by the city at the time that dirt work occurred last year,” said Susan Schrock, a spokeswoman for the city. “The project has been on hold but now city staff are currently reviewing revised plans for the development, which includes a drainage mitigation plan.”

The revised plans are under review, Schrock said, as the city and Viridian come up with best drainage options.

“Residents have expressed concerns to the city after heavy rains over the past months created significant standing water near the project site,” Schrock said. “City staff have surveyed the flooding, which included approximately six acres of public parkland. Because it typically takes several growing cycles to determine if flooding has caused any damage to trees, the city plans to conduct a tree loss assessment in this section of River Legacy Parks in spring 2021.”

Robert Kembel, president of the Nehmiah Company, which has overseen the development of Viridian, took responsibility for the permit not being filed. The project included adding dirt to raise that section of the development out of the floodplain.

The flooded section of the park is in the river floodway.

Handout Graham Associates Inc

He said the entire Viridian development had its U.S. Army Corps of Engineers permit. A 2-acre section lacked a corridor development certificate, which is designed to guarantee flood levels are not raised in the Trinity River by new develpoment.

“We just missed it,” Kembel said. “Ultimately, I’m accountable for that. I’m not going to blame the engineers.”

Kembel said Viridian has built new trails and invested $3 million to help the park improve storm drainage.

“We’ve put in millions of dollars of additional storm drains for the water that comes into the park area to get it out quicker so those sections of the park can become usable again.” Kembel said. “For anyone to argue that we’ve damaged the park or caused anything over historical levels of flooding — nobody has produced a shread of evidence that we’ve done that.”

Arlington Mayor Jeff Williams is president of Graham Associates Inc., the engineering firm that has worked on Viridian since 2006. Williams was first elected mayor in 2015.

Williams said he was not involved in the latest Viridian phase and deferred to Kembel to speak about the project. Williams said he was a former president of the River Legacy Foundation and did engineering work when the 1,300-acre park was created.

“That park is designed to flood,” Williams said. “That’s why it’s park land. It couldn’t be developed.”

The area where flooding is occurring will be addressed as soon as the city issues a permit, Kembel said. Water is being pumped out of that area and into the river. He asked residents to judge their work once the storm drainage project is complete.

The section that flooded off Collins Street has always been flood-prone, said Larry Fowler, president of the River Legacy Foundation. He said Viridian has helped improve flooding issues inside the park.

“The river is always moving and their mitigation over there is money the city doesn’t have to spend,” Fowler said. “They’re making miles of trails and making those available to our citizens and visitors of our park.”

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