There, overwhelmed storm water mains sent three feet of water coursing down the street, carrying along trash bins, sewage, mulch and more, as shown in a photo taken by one resident by the light of a lightning bolt. It was a rerun of a damaging flood in the area that happened almost exactly one year ago.
This time, there had been a flood warning, so homeowners had a chance to move their vehicles to higher ground.
But the geography, geology and too-small storm water mains once again caused exhausted residents to shovel mud from their homes as they await the Arlington County government’s decision on whether to ask voters to spend $50 million next year on a variety of storm water projects.
The projects, which the county has long put off, have triggered a dispute between homeowners sick of getting flooded because of inadequate infrastructure in a time of worsening storms, and those who say affluent single-family-home neighborhoods should not get priority on major spending.
Reich, who hosted a difficult conversation on the issue with county leaders last year in his home, gave high marks to their rapid creation of a plan for how to address the persistent flooding.
“That’s all great progress, even if it takes several years to construct it,” he said. “What could they do that would bring instant relief? I don’t think there is anything, thus the door. . . . You’d need a sandbag wall several feet high.”
But at a public hearing June 30 — which many Waverly Hills residents missed after the death of their civic organization’s president a week before — other Arlingtonians criticized spending $26.9 million for storm water management in the Spout Run watershed.
“Making huge investments in relatively low-density, affluent areas seems like a step in the wrong direction,” said Clarendon resident Benjamin Nichols, one of several who advised spending the money instead on bicycle lanes, pedestrian improvements and affordable housing. “Single-family housing development is a major contributor to impermeable pavement.”
County staff members said Thursday that North Arlington is also the site of the most recent flood damage. They noted that they have invested storm water repair money into less affluent regions of the county, and that those changes have stopped flooding in places like Four Mile Run and South Arlington.
“Basically, we proposed to invest the most where the most flooding is occurring,” Greg Emanuel, the county’s director of environmental services, told the County Board in a workshop meeting Thursday.
The neighborhood, just off Glebe Road near Lee Highway, is not “some kind of bastion for entitled elitists,” Waverly Hills resident Janice Raiford Alder wrote in an email to the County Board. “There are hardworking families in this neighborhood. There are elderly people who have been here since the 70s. We aren’t sitting around at the country club eating caviar and demanding special treatment; we are a varied and colorful mix of taxpayers from all walks of life (quintessential Arlington!) who are tired of drying out our basements and replacing thousands of dollars of damaged items two or three times a year.”
If the County Board, as expected, approves County Manager Mark Schwartz’s capital improvement budget proposal July 21, the bond referendum will go on the November ballot.