As drainage issues continue to plague some areas in Windermere, town staff, engineers and residents all are working toward finding the best solution.
In a Town Council workshop Sept. 22, representatives from Kimley-Horn presented their conceptual designs for two stormwater projects — one on First Avenue and Forest Street, and a second on Butler Street and Seventh Avenue.
First Avenue and Forest Street previously received a new French drain system in 2018 to help mitigate the stormwater issues there. However, new problems have occurred as silt and dirt from the dirt roadways began causing clogging issues.
“Those lines will have to be perpetually cleared in order to maintain the amount of flow within the line that would accommodate the amount of stormwater that would be running off of that roadway,” Town Manager Robert Smith said. “We’ve tried to maintain that as much as possible, but based on the complaints, Town Council wanted to go ahead and hire a third-party engineer to come up with a conceptual design — and ultimate design — on how to not only possibly correct any issues with that original design but also make sure that whatever the final design is takes care of it once and for all.”
Smith said Kimley-Horn came up with an open-swale system that would act as a redundancy to the existing system, and it would simultaneously create a standard road width for the town. The conceptual plan could be used as a guideline for future projects, and it would enable the town to come up with one consistent maintenance plan.
However, many were not pleased with the prospective of widening the roads. Some had concerns with road-widening impacting the town’s characteristic dirt roads and aesthetics. Other concerns of widening the roads included opening a floodgate to more cut-through traffic, or that wider roads and buffer areas would lead to non-residents using the area as parking.
“Looking at it — in my non-engineering brain — the width of the road has zero to do with stormwater,” Council Member Bob McKinley said. “The method of controlling the stormwater is the same. I think a large part of our problem is that we’re not maintaining what we already have.”
Smith said balancing the requests of all parties involved is a large undertaking that will require compromise and further research. John Fitzgibbon, a Windermere resident, agreed.
“We made the decision … to maintain dirt roads, but we also made the decision that we wanted to protect our lakes,” Fitzgibbon said. “So we have a huge, arduous decision that we made as a town to protect our lakes, keep our roads dirt, keep the charm and also design roads that are publicly safe. We have to take all those precedents that we’ve set on our engineers to determine a plan.”
Because most residents and council members opposed the conceptuals due to the roadway width, Smith said town officials will work on new conceptual designs.
“Hopefully, based on our conversations with our residents and based on our conversations with council members, we’ll find the happy medium and be able to progress with the grant-funded projects,” he said.