City moves on Kimberly

Published 9:04 pm Saturday, August 11, 2012

North Main Street is closed after a storm in 2009. The area frequently floods during rain events, and the city is investigating what it would take to fix the problem.

The city has taken a preliminary step toward a possible solution to frequent flooding in the Kimberly area, but some business owners in the area aren’t happy about the prospect of moving their establishments.

The city issued a request for proposals for a “Kimberly Bridge Feasibility Study” last week. The study would be used to seek funding opportunities for actual design and construction, according to the document.

The Kimberly area, which surrounds the area on North Main Street where it crosses the Nansemond River, is prone to flooding after periods of heavy rain, even moderate thunderstorms. Sometimes, the floodwaters recede quickly; at other times, such as during a 2009 nor’easter, they can take days to leave the street dry again.

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The detour around the spot is approximately six miles, according to a letter City Manager Selena Cuffee-Glenn wrote last year to request federal funding for the project.

Preliminary studies of the road have determined that even a six-inch rise in elevation of the bridge would reduce the frequency of tidal flooding almost 65 percent. A one-foot difference would result in an 84-percent reduction, according to the letter.

A three-foot hike would eliminate virtually all the flooding but would necessitate removal of nearby buildings, according to the letter.

The study now proposed should consider a number of options, including raising the bridge and relocating surrounding businesses, according to the RFP. It also should consider opportunities to contribute to the health of the river by reducing pollutants, it says.

When the road floods, nearby businesses flood as well. But some of the owners have invested considerably in their buildings to make them less likely to flood and make cleanup easier and cheaper when they do.

“I’ve put too much money in this building,” said Mack Lester, owner of Carts Unlimited, a custom golf cart business. “We’re still putting money into it because nobody came and told us anything about it.”

Lester said he would be reluctant to move because of the visible location and the water access behind the building. His goal is to expand the business to work on jet skis.

“They would have to pay me what it’s worth to me,” he said.

A few doors down, Charlie Dick of Major Signs also said he doesn’t want to move.

“Chances are we wouldn’t be elevated to an equivalent spot,” he said.

After the 2009 flood, Dick flood-proofed his building by tearing out insulation in the lower half of the walls and redoing the flooring to make cleanup easier after floods.

Bids for the feasibility study will be accepted through Aug. 29.