Noblesville neighbors, city fight over who has to fix decades-long problem

NOBLESVILLE, Ind. -- A group of homeowners are in a battle with the city of Noblesville over who is responsible to fix an issue that has been building up for decades.

The homeowners have access to a cove along Morse Reservoir, but that cove has filled up with dirt and debris that has washed down a ravine used for storm water drainage.

"It's frustrating," homeowner Jessica Noble said. "We thought contacting you guys would be helpful to get something moving."

Noble and her neighbors said they spoke to CBS4 Problem Solvers as a last resort. The group first brought their issue to the city in 2015, but city officials have repeatedly denied their requests.

The issue is two-fold: Noble and her neighbor Jason Smith said that not only is the cove filled with debris, but the city's pipe at the top of the ravine has been failing, leading to a large sinkhole near the road.

"We brought to the city’s attention the rusted-out pipe and they told us that it had been inspected and it was acceptable," Smith said.

That must have changed, because shortly after CBS4 Problem Solvers reached out to the city, crews put up netting around the hole, then filled it in temporarily for safety reasons.

Tim Stottlemyer, who handles many of Noblesville's storm water issues as its MS4 Program Manager, sat down with CBS4 Problem Solvers to explain the city's position. He said plans were underway to hire contractors to shore up the pipe with a material that would allow it to last longer.

As far as the issue in the cove, though, Stottlemyer held firm that the city refused to make repairs or change the drainage flow.

"It’s an absolute, solid conclusion on our end, the city’s end, of where this stands," Stottlemyer said.

Stottlemyer said that photos show previous homeowners dredging out the cove, creating a sea wall, and putting in their own private pipe at the bottom of the ravine during a drought in 1988.

"They took all of that soil and piled it on top of that pipe at that time, and that was all private property improvements that were done by either homeowners or a group of homeowners in the cove," Stottlemyer said.

Since the modifications were made by private owners, the city contends that it is the current homeowners' responsibility to fix the cove on their own.

"We empathize with them, we feel for their situation ... but the city can’t spend public funds to repair a private property issue," Stottlemyer said.

Noble and Smith disagree. They told CBS4 Problem Solvers that the modifications were not made as the city claims, and that they believe that the city is legally bound to made changes to the drainage in the area because it flows through private property.

The homeowners have looked into dredging the cove themselves, but said it will be expensive and may not solve their issue.

"If the problem doesn’t get fixed in the next five to seven years, we’re just going to be in the same situation that we are, throwing away money," Noble said.

A spokesperson for the Indiana Department of Environmental Management confirmed the city's position, telling CBS4 Problem Solvers it also inspected the area and found no violations on the city's part.

Homeowners said they will keep fighting to get the issue fixed, even if the city has stood firm.

If you have a problem you'd like us to consider, contact CBS4 Problem Solvers at (317) 677-1544 or ProblemSolvers@cbs4indy.com.

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