Homeowners take retention pond fight to court

By Kevin Denke
Posted 5/18/10

   ADAMS COUNTY – Horses gingerly step through standing water in the pasture outside the home of Audrey and Jack Franklin.     Audrey high-steps a knee-high electrical …

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Homeowners take retention pond fight to court


   ADAMS COUNTY – Horses gingerly step through standing water in the pasture outside the home of Audrey and Jack Franklin.

    Audrey high-steps a knee-high electrical cord inside a hallway of the home as she points to a pair of thick hoses that snake up the basement stairs and out a window. A trio of sump pumps carries water through the hoses to that same pasture where their horses wallow.

    This is not how the Franklins envisioned retirement when they moved to Brighton six years ago and bought a home near 144th Avenue and Buckley Road. Life is a day and night struggle to keep their basement from filling up with water that, they say, comes from a nearby retention pond, built as part of the Prairie Center retail development.

    “This is our lives,” Audrey says, with a hint of resignation in her voice.

    The only bigger frustration than the constant seepage of water into their basement (they estimate they are pumping out an average of 2,500 gallons a day) is the lack of responsibility anyone will take for the problem.

      Audrey said the problems started in 2005, after the massive retention pond was built. Her husband came home to find their finished, carpeted basement flooded. It was the first of a series of basement floods the couple experienced over the next five years. Audrey estimates there have been about seven to eight floods.

    The couple’s only saving grace has been the sump pumps that carry the water out of the basement. Even then, they are at the mercy of electricity and machinery. If the power goes out, their basement likely will likely flood. If a pipe blows off the sump pump, their basement will flood. It makes it hard for the Franklins to ever want to leave their home unattended. It makes it even harder to make improvements to their planned retirement home.

     “For five years we’ve done nothing,” she said. “You don’t want to paint, wallpaper, put up carpet, change out the garage door or anything, because this is not saleable.”

    She said a real estate appraiser confirmed that for them.

    “They said it’s worth nothing as it is,” Audrey said. “We couldn’t sell. Who would even look at it? Essentially what that pond has done is condemned our house.”

    Audrey believes the retention pond at the center of their problems was originally intended to collect runoff from the Prairie Center development. She questions that use now.

    “There’s no runoff in that pond, as far as I can tell,” she said.

    Instead, Franklin believes that the construction company that built the pond hit quicksoil and opened a well underneath pond. She adds that this was in addition to two fresh-water springs diverted into the pond.

    “This water’s fresh, good, clean Colorado water,” Audrey said. “It should not be in our pasture. It should be on a farmer’s field somewhere.

    “This is dry Colorado. and we are flooded,” she added. “We’ve got water coming out of our ears.”

    Audrey found few answers when she tried to determine the owner of the pond. She said Adams County told her the Prairie Center developer, THF Realty, owns the land the pond is on and pays taxes for it. Audrey said THF officials claimed they transferred ownership and responsibility to Prairie Center Metropolitan Districts 1 and 3 in July 2009, but retroactive to February 2006.

    Kathy Kanda, a lawyer for the Prairie Center Metropolitan Districts, declined to comment on the matter last week because of the pending litigation, except to say that the metropolitan districts were dismissed as defendants in the Franklins’ suit.

    Audrey said she found finger-pointing with regard to the construction of the pond. She said she learned it was dug by R.E. Monks Construction, under the direction of Brinkman Construction. Audrey alleges that the construction company informed JR Engineering when they struck the quicksoil holding down the layer of ground water beneath, but the company was directed to continue with their work.

    JR Engineering did not respond to a request for comment last week.

    Audrey doesn’t know how they would fix the problem now.

    “They’ve let the cat out of the bag,” she said. “I don’t know if it can be drained. They’ve got springs coming in on two sides, and they’ve got groundwater coming up.”

The couple sued Englewood-based JR Engineering for damages, the firm they say designed the retention pond. They named several other defendants in the suit. All but JR Engineering were dismissed. While the suit was originally scheduled for jury trial this week in Adams County District Court, Franklin said JR Engineering sought mediation late last week and their lawyer advised them not to speak any more on the matter pending an outcome.     

    An exhausted Franklin vacillates between crying and resorting to dark humor. She said she only half-jokingly told a Colorado water official of her intentions for this summer.

     ‘I told the state of Colorado, ‘OK, your water is trespassing on my land,’” she said. “I don’t care how it’s getting here. I’m going to start selling it this summer. I don’t care if I get a nickel a gallon. I’m going to put up a big sign, ‘Colorado fresh water for sale.’”

    Other times, she thinks giving up may bring more attention to their plight than the past five years of banging their head against an apparent brick wall.

     “I’ve joked that, What if we just shut (the sump pumps) off and see if the house floats?’” Audrey said. “Maybe if it floats down the driveway, we can get somebody to pay attention.”


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