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Montgomery County homeowners upset over 'rain gardens'

Rain gardens (ABC7)
Rain gardens (ABC7)
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Montgomery County and it’s Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) is trying to convince Wheaton Woods residents at a community meeting 20 to 40 foot rain gardens in their front yards on the county's right of way are a good idea.

One homeowner says "You created the problem and you're looking to solve it through us."

The county started installing rain gardens six years ago and more are on the way. It’s all part of the county’s Green Street Program.

Rain gardens collect toxic runoff from the streets during rainstorms so it doesn't end up in the Chesapeake Bay.

So far the county has built 300 rain gardens in neighborhoods and many are several feet deep. The county is in charge of maintenance.

According to the county, each green street storm water improvement costs about $25,000 - $35,000 for design and construction.

Costs depend on size, design, traffic control during construction, and other site specifics. Maintenance costs paid by the county are $2,000 per year for each green street storm water improvement.

Director Lisa Feldt of Montgomery County's DEP says "It's not a hazard and in fact you see some right behind you here at Dennis Avenue where we are sitting and I think you heard from some residents who say how happy they are with the facilities here."

Maria Michas who lives in Silver Spring isn't a fan of her rain garden that already gobbled up a friend.

"This was full of leaves and they didn't see it. They fell down. They fell in." says Michas.

Over near Sligo Creek homeowner Kit Gage says rain gardens have helped drainage issues along her street, “Overall I would say there is tremendous support for these in the neighborhood."

In Kensington Estates, homeowners are fighting back by creating mock-ups to show the county's future plans for their front yards.

Jeff Giuliani who lives in Kensington Estates says "I believe the pollutants that were filtering off into the bay are now sitting in my side yard."

Many neighbors want an alternative. They are organizing and holding meetings at night to stop rain gardens being constructed in Kensington Estates and Wheaton Woods.

Joan Beerweiler who lives in Wheaton Woods says "We refuse to call these gardens. They are pits."

Alan Willsey who has a home in Kensington Estates adds "Property values are going to drop.”

The I-Team has discovered the Montgomery County Council doesn't even vote on rain gardens and never saw alternatives like "RainStore3," a water storage system that goes underground.

Montgomery County Council President Roger Berliner who supports the county’s Green Street Program says "This is county property in which our DEP, really I think did themselves a disservice and our residents a disservice by coming forth with a plan that was probably far too aggressive and far more aggressive than it will ultimately be."

Neighborhoods don't get a vote either.

Christy Ciarametaro with the Montgomery County DEP says "We give people a chance to meet one-on-one to talk individually about the specific locations.”

ABC 7 News Investigative Reporter Scott Taylor asks "But nothing on a ballot. No type of county vote at all?"

Ciarametaro says "Right. There is not a ballot vote, no."

Are rain gardens working in Montgomery County?

Lisa Feldt says "We are monitoring. We are monitoring."

Taylor asks "Have you seen a difference right now or not?"

Feldt says "We are starting to see. It takes time to really see the effects."

The state of Maryland is doing a study on how rain gardens and other water quality projects are helping. We won't see the results of that study for at least another year.

To learn more about Montgomery County’s Green Street Program click the link.

To learn more about underground alternatives click this link.

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This story has been updated, Friday, March 3, 2017

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