For several years, Gainesville resident Don Stroud and his wife have looked out the window of their home on the corner of Pine Valley and Walter Stover roads to see an eyesore.
Where Stroud’s property abuts Walter Stover Road, a one-lane gravel spit, a mudhole has formed, a result of rainwater runoff and inadequate drainage.
During heavy rains, water pools between the gravel road and railroad ties roughly marking the end of Stroud’s property. The water often flows over these ties, pushing further into Stroud’s lawn, killing the grass and a few trees over the years.
Even in the heat of June, when it hasn’t rained for days, standing water remains, acting as a breeding ground for insects and a home to tadpoles.
Stroud has taken his complaints to Hall County, hoping it will fix the problem. But, for reasons that are in dispute, no resolution has come.
The Strouds plan to file a lawsuit against Hall County in Superior Court this week, seeking recompense for the damage to their property.
“This has been going on for a long, long time,” said Julius Hulsey, Stroud’s attorney. “There are obviously politics involved in this. It’s become personal, I think.”
Stroud is certainly known among county officials.
For example, on Jan. 7, 2013, Stroud spoke before county commissioners during a work session.
According to the minutes of that meeting, “Mr. Stroud reviewed the history of the ongoing drainage problem he is experiencing on his property and that there is a lake that forms on his property from runoff from the street if there are heavy rains. He believes the county has interfered with the natural flow of water and is breaking the law.”
Hulsey said the county is in violation of a state law that prohibits interference with natural water runoff courses.
County officials have visited the property on several occasions. But all attempts and proposals to remedy or mitigate the problem have either been unsatisfactory to Stroud or too costly for the county.
The minutes continue this way: “(County Administrator Randy Knighton) said the county had offered Mr. Stroud a few different options to try to remedy the solution but Mr. Stroud did not accept any of them. He said that Mr. Stroud would like a pipe run under the road but Mr. Stroud’s neighbor refused to give his approval for an easement.”
“There’s an easy fix to this,” Hulsey said. “The county is just refusing to do it. The only thing I can presume is there’s politics involved.”
Stroud said he would like the county to build a drain under the gravel road to disperse the pooled water to the other side, into his neighbors’ yard and along the natural drainage course.
But doing this would require Stroud’s neighbor, Bill Stover, to grant the county an easement. As recently as last week, Stover told The Times he would not give his permission.
Stover said the water needs to be funneled into a nearby ditch running along Pine Valley Road.
But this isn’t the only disagreement between Stroud and Stover. The neighbors have disputed exactly where Stroud’s property line ends and Stover’s begins.
The county first received wind of potential litigation a few months ago.
In an April 4 email to county commissioners obtained by The Times, Knighton wrote, “This had been an issue we attempted to alleviate with Mr. Stroud on a number of occasions related to what he claims is water runoff on his property. I just wanted you to be aware of this given the amount of time and discussion we had with Mr. Stroud in the past.”
Hulsey said the lawsuit seeks damages and addresses multiple things, including the impact on Stroud’s property value.
“(Stroud has) gone way out of his way to try to solve the problem himself,” Hulsey said.
County officials would not comment on the case.
“Since this is a matter of potential litigation, it would not be prudent to comment,” Knighton told The Times in an email.