Flooded Oakmont Commons residents seek help: Pittsburgh PA Tribune-Review, 9/18/07

By Karen Zapf

Residents of Oakmont Commons, a townhouse development that has been flooded, implored representatives from Allegheny County Monday night to take ownership of six parcels of property that abut their homes to act as a catch basin for the water.
"It's (flooding) going to continue to happen until we do something," said Dean Hornsby, a resident of the 206-unit development and a member of the homeowners association. "We are looking for help from the borough and the county."

Oakmont Commons sustained severe flood damage from Hurricane Ivan in 2004. It nearly flooded again last month.

Six of the seven parcels of property near the development are privately owned; the borough owns one.

Borough officials said last night they are looking at a range of short- and long-term solutions, including streambank restoration, reconstruction of the flow channel and construction of flood plain debris basins.

The borough also wants to develop a park on a portion of the property.

Hornsby said before the meeting that the residents would favor the use of eminent domain to create a buffer for the flood waters from Plum Creek that have damaged their properties.

Eminent domain is the right of a government to seize private property for public use in exchange for payment of fair market value.

"We would love to see eminent domain," said Hornsby. "We want a moratorium on any use (of the seven parcels of property) so that it will become a flood reserve."

"My wife and I don't feel we are 100 percent safe," said Rich Bowman, another Oakmont Commons resident.

Nearly 50 residents attended the meeting.

Allegheny County Chief Executive Dan Onorato said he is looking at several options, including building a wall that would act like sandbags to block the water, acquiring land and building retention ponds, and buying people out and relocating them. He said the latter would be least favorable and would require a lot of tax dollars.

Onorato said the county does not have the money to purchase the property that abuts Oakmont Commons.

Hornsby stressed that residents oppose a proposal by a developer to build a cement plant on one of the parcels off Dark Hollow Road.

Anthony Folino, of HHI Trucking & Supply of Oakmont, is asking the borough for a conditional use permit to build the plant in a 3.2-acre location zoned for industrial use.

"We believe it (flooding) would be worse if the cement plant went in," said Hornsby.

Onorato said he will study the borough's report on how to solve the flooding problems and "knock off some short-term then long-term solutions so there's enough protection that exists for the next storm."

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