Erosion Creates Huge Hole; Threatens Homes In Winston-Salem

WINSTON-SALEM, NC -- Time is running out on a Winston-Salem family's efforts to save their home.

The Kimbrough family is fighting the City of Winston-Salem to fix an erosion problem caused by a drainage pipe that runs through their property in the Twin Cedars subdivision.

The pipe was installed by the developer but collects city runoff water.

City leaders have assumed partial responsibility but say a local ordinance, limits how much the city can do to help the Kimbroughs.

"Basically the city owns up to that right of way boundary. That will be considered a city pipe for ownership, operation and maintenance. Once [the pipe] crosses the right of way onto Mr. Kimbrough's property, it's considered a privately-owned pipe," said Keith Huff, the city's storm water/erosion control director.

But Bobby Kimbrough says that's unfair.

"It's like if you were running a business over here and you ran all your waste down my property and you say, 'it's off my property so I don't have anything to do with it.'," Kimbrough explained. "But you're going to tax me for running your water through my property. There's got to be another way."

Where grandkids used to run and play in the backyard, the hole has taken space and made it unsafe.

Because of the erosion, the property now appears to sit on a 10-foot cliff that's slowly eating closer to the house.

The storm water drain greatly deteriorated and bits of the wall of sand around it flushes away with each rainfall.

The Kimbrough's home is one of two being threatened by what the city is calling a "sinkhole."

The Kimbroughs refuse to call it that because a "sinkhole" implies a natural phenomenon.

The vacant home next door, is much closer to the hole and could lose its foundation first but it's in foreclosure and the bank might just write it off as a loss instead of paying to fix the drainage problem.

"I'm concerned because I know once that part falls in on the other side, they are going to condemn that house," Bobby Kimbrough Senior said, "When it comes to mine and it falls in, I have to get somewhere to stay, they will condemn mine and I'll lose everything I have in it."

The city has estimated the cost to fix the storm drain and close the hole at $170,000.

But the family says their home is only worth about $130,000.

According to the city's storm water director, the Kimbrough's property qualifies for the city's cost-share program.

It allows the municipality to pay 70-percent of the cost of private property damage in cases like this but that amount cannot exceed $35,000.

"We do have compassion and empathy for anybody in this situation, it's just a matter of what the city equitably can afford to give service on as far as each citizen. Because these problems are not unique to Cedar Post," Huff said.

Huff adds that the city budgets $250,000 each year for the cost-share program and the ordinance is currently under review.

But the Kimbroughs don't have time to wait.

"If the council can't make a decision to do what's right then they need to change the law," Kimbrough said.

Some cities around the Triad don't have a cost-share program. Among the ones that do, Burlington caps its share at $10,000 or 50-percent if it's less.

In Greensboro, as long as the water running through your property is a city runoff, the city will pay 100-percent of the cost.

UPDATE 5/16/14

WFMY found out this huge hole is already weighing not only on the Kimbrough's minds but their wallets as well. They hired an attorney about two months ago. Bobby Kimbrough Jr., the Kimbrough's son said they have no choice but to take this issue to court.

Kimbrough Jr. said, "I see the stress that it causes them and that's one of the reasons that I'm standing here versus them. My mother doesn't even want to discuss it. It's that painful."

WFMY asked the city point blank: Can you make an exception for the Kimbroughs?

Keith Huff, the Storm Water and Erosion Control Director for Winston-Salem said, "It is an unfortunate situation. Again, as staff we have to apply that policy uniformly to everybody."

The only hope for the Kimbroughs is if the ordinance is changed. Right now, city council is reviewing it but it doesn't look promising after the public works committee recommended they keep the ordinance as is. Winston Mayor Allen Joines thinks the city's current ordinance is generous.He doesn't think it's fair to ask other taxpayers to pay for repairs on private property.To that, Bobby Kimbrough Jr. is inviting the mayor to see the hole in person.


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