Fort Worth

Why this plan to help Fort Worth flooding has some residents worried

Some Arlington Heights residents are concerned that a plan to mitigate flooding will hurt their historic Fort Worth neighborhood.

The city believes buying homes and replacing them with green space and a retention pond will help keep flash flood waters at bay. But some residents, including some whose property would be bought, believe alternative exists and the plan would ultimately reshape the neighbor’s character.

“We don’t want the city tearing down homes because that’ll be forever,” John Morris said. “This is an historic neighborhood with historic homes.”

Kenneth Kirkwood, whose home on Western Avenue floods annually welcomes voluntary buyouts.

“My gosh, we flood every year, multiple times a year,” he said. “I’m 100 percent on board.”

The city’s stormwater department has proposed buying up to 10 homes on Western and Carleton avenues between El Campo and Bryce. The buyout is voluntary, and the city won’t resort to eminent domain.

Homes purchased would be demolished, and the property will be graded to form a park-like stormwater detention area. If enough land is purchased, the city will consider adding “park-like amenities,” stormwater department spokeswoman Linda Sterne said in an email in response to questions. Input will be taken from residents before construction begins.

The project is budgeted at $7.5 million with about $500,000 coming from a federal grant.

The plan has been in the works since 2016, but city officials met with Arlington Heights residents Wednesday to discuss the project.

“This project will not solve all flooding problems but is another step toward reducing flood risk to properties with a high flood risk and bringing more incremental flood reduction benefits to the neighborhood,” Sterne wrote.

The city arrived at voluntary property acquisition after studies between 2006 and 2011 showed it was the only affordable solution, she said.

Two detention ponds were constructed in the neighborhood between 2014 and 2016, both on former commercial property. One, off Hulen Street behind the Walgreens, was graded down well below street and features a short walking path dotted with small trees.

Some Arlington Heights residents fear a similar project in a residential area doesn’t fit the neighborhood’s aesthetic, Jeff Watson said.

“That’s a giant eye sore dropped in our neighborhood,” he said, if the city can’t buy contiguous properties, the area will look odd. “You’re going to have these giant gaps in the middle of your neighborhood.”

Watson purchased his home at 2220 Carleton Ave. in December, and now the city is offering to buy it.

Until Wednesday’s meeting he was unaware of significant flooding at his property, but a city representative showed him video taken by the previous owner of water flowing up to the home’s back door. Watson, who works in real estate, said his research showed only minor, sporadic flash flooding.

Even with the possibility of flooding, Watson said he’s not convinced buying homes will help.

“You’re never going to prevent flash floods in Texas. It’s going to happen,” he said.

Morris, whose home isn’t part of the buyout, said the city hasn’t explored alternatives. Water-proofing, adding small retention walls and berms are options for homeowners, he said.

The neighborhood prefers the obvious — replace old, small stormwater pipes with a modern drainage system, he said.

“We have pretty old infrastructure and that needs to be dealt with,” Morris said.

Morris said he and others in the neighborhood believe much of the water that flows through their area comes from north of Camp Bowie. He suggested an independent hydrologist study water flows surrounding Arlington Heights.

Sterne said the city investigated several options, including tradtraditional open-cut storm drains, large-diameter tunnels, underground detention and wide-scale green space. Voluntary buyouts was the only affordable option, she said.

“(Buying property) is the only effective and affordable solution the City has identified to reduce flooding in the Arlington Heights area,” she said.

Kirkwood said buying up flood prone homes makes sense.

Since moving into a newly constructed home in 2012, he said he has racked up more than $100,000 in flood claims and “tens of thousands of dollars” in personal loss. Flood risk wasn’t disclosed to him, he said, because the area doesn’t fall a 100-year flood map.

He and his wife attempted to sell the home after its first post-flood renovation with no luck.

“We didn’t get any takers,” he said. “They’d hear about flooding and any interested buyers wouldn’t make an offer.”

Kirkwood uses a flood wall he can put up during heavy rain to help shield his house, but it’s not enough sometimes. Alternatives to buying homes, he said, ignore those experiencing flooding.

“It doesn’t really address the matter for the directly impacted,” he said, adding that other homeowners interested in selling are worried about speaking up.

Luke Ranker: 817-390-7747; @lrankerNEWS
Related stories from Fort Worth Star Telegram