Bethany Lutheran Church and School this week secured the go-ahead for a large addition to its campus on Modaff Road. Officials agreed to change the conditional use permit for the property, where the force of nature has transformed a dry basin designed to hold storm water into a small wetland that doesn’t drain sufficiently, contributing to the accumulation of rain water on nearby property.
“We Lutherans are kind of simple people,” said the Rev. Timothy Russow at Tuesday’s City Council meeting, where about 80 people turned out to show their support for the proposal. “But we’re really excited about our building addition.”
A basin on the church property helps manage excess rain for the nearby Winding Creek watershed, but officials said over the years the detention area has “accidentally” changed into a wetland that today is brimming in cattails and other water-loving flora. And because of apparent clogging in its bottom, the basin doesn’t drain as efficiently as it needs to. That is of particular concern because the 6,000-square-foot addition, to be built into a three-sided opening on the south side of the building, will increase runoff on the property.
Lee Mathieu, a neighbor of the church, shared his concern that the project will worsen the problem he has with the accumulation of water on his driveway after major rains. He said poor engineering, and an undersized 52-inch drain pipe, aggravate the issue.
According to Russow, meetings between church representatives and neighbors have found no opposition to the building plan, only to the possibility of an increase in flooding problems.
“We’re with the neighbors on the water thing,” he said.
Bill Novack, head of the city’s Transportation, Engineering and Development department, said it appears the restrictor device at the bottom of the former basin is clogged. The city is working to confirm the cause of the problem, he said, and keep the drain clear.
After emphasis during development in past decades was misdirected onto overland flow, area subdivisions have spent “millions and millions” of dollars to remedy subsequent flooding woes, Novack said. In some cases, neighborhoods have systematically converted detention basins into wetlands, he said, by putting in indigenous plants. In recent years, better designs have been devised to prevent flooding issues and create the need for “less human intervention,” Novack said. Expanding the capacity of collection basins also helps.
With conditions outlined for minimizing the impact of the church addition, City Council members unanimously approved the request.