Letter: Storm Water Mitigation Issues and a Proposed Solution

The following was sent to the Bloomingtonian:

From: Ted and Kathy Frick
1812 S. Weimer Rd.
Bloomington, IN 47403
Date: September 6, 2023
To: Bloomington Plan Commission
Re: Proposed Summit District PUD-18-23 along South Weimer Road
Storm Water Mitigation Issues and a Proposed Solution
We have lived in our home at 1812 S. Weimer Rd. for 46 years now. We have witnessed a lot of
change as the city of Bloomington has been expanding into this largely undeveloped area to the
southwest. When we bought our house in 1977, there was a large, fenced pasture across Weimer
Road, with cows grazing on the Sudbury farm. Harvey Sudbury and his family lived in his
parent’s farmhouse in the middle of roughly 300 acres, before they more recently built their new
house along Weimer Road near Wapehani Road.
Figure 1. View of “Shasta Meadow” Hillside from 1812 Weimer Road. Photo by T. Frick, 9/03/2023.
Possible location of proposed Weimer Retention Pond and text annotations are superimposed (also see Figure 2).
Clear Creek is not visible here because of the steep slopes along the riparian buffer.
Concerns about Flooding along Weimer Road
We have been looking out the windows of our house to the northeast at the increased erosion on
the steep hillside for 5 decades. This hillside is now referred to as Shasta Meadow
(Neighborhood #1) in the Summit District PUD proposal documentation from Plan Commission
Arbor Ridge
S. Weimer Rd.Clear Creek
2
meetings in July and August 2023. This western area along Weimer Road for Neighborhood #1
is mostly a hillside, and would be better named, Shasta Hillside. It will no longer be a meadow
when covered with streets, buildings, sidewalks, driveways, and other parking areas.
We can easily tell how much it has rained recently—just by looking at how much surface water
drains down the Shasta Hillside in the deepening ravines, and for how many hours the water
drains.
That highly visible Shasta Hillside drainage down steep ravines is a good predictor of how much
flooding there will be along Weimer Road to the north and south of our house, as well as
flooding along the Clear Creek Trail south of Rockport Road. We don’t even need to look at the
overflowing banks of the Clear Creek branch that runs from the remaining Twin Lake through
the valley along Weimer Road, and onward to the south along the Clear Creek Trail.
We’ve been watching this flooding problem get worse over the past several decades.
Water Flows Downhill
The proposed Summit District PUD is aptly named, as is Summit Elementary School. They are
on the highest ground, as is the summit of a mountain. Surface water flows downhill when it
rains. The proposed PUD will increase impermeable surface area, meaning more flowing
rainwater will not be slowed by vegetation and absorbed by soil that is no longer there. That top
soil and vegetation will be replaced by buildings with impermeable roofs, by impermeable
sidewalks and driveways, and by impermeable streets and parking areas. If the rainwater can no
longer soak in, where will it flow to and how fast will it flow? If not regulated in some way, the
result is highly predictable: flooding in lower areas which drain more slowly.
What is the Plan for Storm Water Mitigation?
Our concern is how storm water mitigation will be handled in the new development being
proposed in the Summit District PUD, something like 5,000 to 6,000 units in the present plans.
This means there will be a substantial increase in the impermeable surfaces on what is now
largely grassland and karst limestone. There will be many new rooftop surfaces, sidewalks,
driveways, streets, and parking places that are not there now. This decreased permeability
overall will undoubtably increase the storm water runoff after rainstorms and snow melts. The
questions are: Where will all this extra surface water go? And at what rate will it go downhill?
The big concern and fear is that flooding will become worse in the valley areas along Weimer
Road. There could be not only flooding of yards and residences in the valley portion, but also
the flooding and closure of Weimer Road itself at times.
After a particularly heavy rainstorm about 2 years ago, the south portion of Weimer Road at the
narrow bridge was completely flooded and impassable for about 2 days. And north of us, water
was flooding across Weimer Road where the two tributaries from the Twin Lake go through
culverts under the road. These parts of Clear Creek are already designated as a flood plain area.
That’s an environmental fact. For those of us who live on the higher ground along the middle
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part of S. Weimer Road, we were living on an island, land-locked for about a day. There was no
other way out by automobile. We stayed home until the flooding receded. Meanwhile, we could
see that our neighbors to the north had flooded yards, and we wondered if the floodwater had
damaged their houses.
Therefore, we ask: How will storm water run-off be mitigated in the Summit District PUD?
A Proposal: Weimer Retention Pond (Figure 2)
One way to do this would be to build a storm-water retention pond along the bottom of the
western hillside but above Clear Creek as part of the proposed Summit District PUD. Engineers
would be able to figure out how big the pond should be, given the severe slope and the increased
run-off from impermeable surfaces to be added in the development.
If designed carefully, the retention pond should decrease the amount of flooding along the
Weimer-Road-Clear-Creek flood plain. If the Summit District PUD does provide this retention
pond, it could actually reduce the overall flooding that currently occurs after heavy rainstorms.
Instead of making the flooding problem worse, it could help decrease the flooding along Clear
Creek and Weimer Road after heavy rains.
Figure 2. Proposed Weimer Retention Pond on Shasta Hillside1
While adding a retention pond for the development likely might decrease the available land area
for buildings and streets in the Shasta Hill neighborhood, it could be also viewed as a major
1 The retention pond would be placed and shaped by engineers to fit the contours of the land—unlikely to be an oval as depicted. The
southwest corner of the Shasta Hillside is currently lowest in elevation in Neighborhood 1, but grading during construction and installation of
storm-water sewers could dictate a different placement. Other factors to consider for pond location would include the necessary riparian buffer
zone along Clear Creek, the Duke Energy easement, steepness of slope in that area, and subterranean karst limestone. The area plan was
digitally copied from the staff report on the Summit District PUD that was included in the August 14, 2023, Bloomington Plan Commission
meeting packet (Image One, p. 8). We have added the Weimer Retention Pond to this image, solely for purpose of illustration here. The
retention pond was not part of Image One in the staff report.
Weimer
Retention
Pond
4
aesthetic feature, making the development more attractive to prospective buyers. People in
nearby units in the PUD would be looking out over a small pond to the west. People living
across Weimer Road would have more peace of mind, even though they might be looking at an
earthen dam to contain the retention pond on the western Shasta hillside. The proposed new
Weimer Retention Pond on the lower southwest end of Shasta Hill also would serve as further
wetlands for wildlife in the area.
To build up a suitable dam and sides for the Weimer Retention Pond, especially on the west and
south sides, will presumably require additional soil and rocks. The developer could potentially
save money by moving excavated soil and limestone from other parts of the development site to
construct the retention pond on the severe western slope of Shasta Hill. This could help reduce
the number of trips from the development site to an external location, as well as reduce wear and
tear on local roads from big trucks heavily loaded with excavated soil and rocks.
There may very well be other parts of the Summit District PUD where significant storm water
mitigation is needed, requiring additional retention ponds. If so, then soil and rocks excavated
for construction could be moved within the PUD area, rather than trucking them to an external
site.
The nearby Twin Lake along West 2nd Street is effectively a retention pond with an earthen dam,
which regulates runoff into Clear Creek along Weimer Road. We also note the use of a nearby
retention pond at the Tapp Road roundabout, where S. Adams Street terminates.
Other Solutions?
There are other ways to control flooding besides retention ponds. If a retention pond is not a
good solution, then Sudbury Developers of the Summit District PUD and city of Bloomington
environmental engineers should specify similarly effective storm water runoff mitigators, or even
better ones. We have yet to see a report from the Bloomington Environmental Commission
concerning the Summit District PUD.
Extending the Clear Creek Trail
Imagine also the Clear Creek Trail extending north from Tapp Road along Clear Creek and
eventually connecting to the new city trail that is proposed to run east-west along the utility
easement from Rogers Street (at the Switchyard Park) to Weimer Road. The new Weimer Pond
could even be visible from the trail, if designed properly.
Traffic Congestion Issues
The Summit District PUD proposal to build 5,000 to 6,000 units on about 140 acres will result in
population density that is very high for the city of Bloomington context. The Bloomington Plan
Commission packet for the August 14, 2023, meeting contained a significant e-mail message
from Steve Smith, an engineer and surveyor who has been around Bloomington a long time and
witnessed many different kinds of development.
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Figure 3. Weimer Road corridor (outlined in red, about 1.5 miles long)
Smith’s e-mail points out several facts which put the Summit District PUD proposal into
perspective. He referred to the Sudbury PUD, which is technically the Summit District PUD
petition, and was also referring to the information presented in the July 2023 meeting of the Plan
Commission. He compared the Summit District PUD to a recent development in Bloomington:
the apartments built on the old K-mart site on the east side of Bloomington, along 3rd Street, and
behind Bloomingfoods grocery.
We quote from his e-mail on pp. 115-16 in the Plan Commission packet for the August 14, 2023,
meeting:
“By my calculations the proposed [Summit District] PUD is about 1.5 to 2.0 times the
density of the K-mart multifamily site and about eight times larger in area….
The K-mart site has 340 units on about 12 acres for 28 units per acre. The K-mart site
plan is efficient with no land lost to environmental features, thoroughfares etc. The 140
acre [Summit District] site will lose about 40 acres to environmental features and through
S-Curve
1-lane bridge
6
roadways leaving about 100 acres for development. The density of the developed area
will be between 44 and 60 units per acre. This is about 1.5 to 2.1 times denser than the K-
mart site.

  • [Summit District] is 1.57 to 2.14 times as dense as K-mart
  • [Summit District] would be equal to 8 K-marts based on acreage
  • [Summit District] would be equal to 13 to 17 K-marts based on number of units
    Traffic was mentioned at the hearing [in July] and apparently a traffic study will be done.
    Rough projections are about 6 trips per day for each multifamily unit. Assuming a
    maximum of 6,000 units results in 36,000 newly generated trips per day. A two-lane road
    like Weimer or Adams typically can accommodate 3,000 to 5,000 ADT at a reasonable
    level of service. This doesn’t account for the issues that those roads currently have.
    The K-mart site with 340 units fronts on a State Highway with two signalized
    intersections and reasonable cross connections via Clarizz and entry to the College Mall.
    K-mart will largely serve students whose destination is a direct bus ride away. [Summit
    District], at 13 to 17 times the number of units, has access via 2 lane Weimer and Adams
    and is not close to the University or employers.
    Traffic will be a problem.”
    Smith’s e-mail is speaking largely to the Plan Commission (and potentially the City Council, if
    the petition is forwarded). And to engineers and city planners who routinely review these kinds
    of development petitions.
    We Weimer Road residents experience the traffic issues on Weimer Road almost every day,
    especially the backups at the Bloomfield Road and Tapp Road intersections when lots of folks
    are trying to go to work or come home from work. We know how bad the congestion can get at
    those two ends of S. Weimer Road, especially when there is a lot of traffic. We witnessed
    significant backups, especially when I-69 intersections were constructed at Tapp Road and West
    2nd Street.
    In addition to safety issues, the big impact on us Weimer Road and Arbor Ridge residents
    would be significant delays and congestion when trying to leave our neighborhoods. The
    brutal fact is that we currently have only two ways to go. There are no alternatives by
    driving on public streets and roads. Because there are no current alternatives.
    We also wonder who would want to live in apartments and condos in the Summit District, when
    there are significant traffic congestion problems if not adequately addressed? We don’t know
    who those people will be, but why would anyone want to live in a neighborhood where it might
    take 15 minutes just to get from home to a major thoroughfare such as the Bloomfield Rd. or
    Tapp Rd. which is less than a mile away? Not only would that affect current residents on
    Weimer Road, Arbor Ridge, and Millennium Apartments, but also new residents in the Summit
    District.
    7
    Traffic currently backs up at both ends of Weimer Road when there are more cars. Steve Smith
    estimates about 36,000 new trips for day from the proposed 6,000-unit Summit District PUD,
    and that a 2-lane road such as Weimer can handle 3,000 to 5,000 average daily trips. This would
    mean about 7 to 10 times more traffic on Weimer Road, which currently has a S-curve on a hill
    with poor visibility of oncoming traffic, a one-lane bridge, and stop signs at Tapp Road and the
    Bloomfield Road which are busy thoroughfares with traffic that does not stop.
    We hope that rational people will prevail when considering the Summit District PUD petition.
    We expect that the Summit District petition will be denied unless the petitioner can provide a
    feasible solution to the traffic congestion problem that will be created. We also expect the
    petition will be denied unless the significant environmental issues are addressed adequately—
    especially stormwater run-off and flooding along Weimer Road and Clear Creek.
    Reports from the Bloomington Environmental Commission and the Transportation Department
    on the proposed PUD are essential for planning this PUD.
    Let’s All Work Together to Make This Work
    Let’s make this a win-win-win-win for current residents along Weimer Road, Sudbury
    Development Partners LLC (The Ridge Group from Muncie), Arbor Ridge residents, and the
    City of Bloomington.
    Sincerely,
    Ted and Kathy Frick

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