Roswell neighbors fear sinkholes, stormwater damage will lead to roads caving in

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

City is just beginning to consider how to deal with stormwater repairs in private neighborhoods

Roswell residents living in a small community off Warsaw Road worry heavy rains, an overflowing creek and an old rusty pipe will eventually cause a road to collapse in their small subdivision of 30 homes — where a 15-foot sinkhole has already caved in.

Most neighbors in the Willow Brook subdivision live on a limited income and stormwater repairs are too costly, said Tony Dunbar, former president of the homeowners association.

Willow Brook is a quiet community of only two streets where the residents have been living for more than 20 years.

A one-acre greenspace located beside a creek and wooded area in the center of the neighborhood served as a common picnic area until 2019 when the sinkhole, that had been forming for two years prior, got bigger. Another smaller hole has also opened up.

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /

Dunbar said heavy rains frequently cause the creek to overflow and flood the road.

The main area of concern is in the back of the subdivision, but rainwater also comes flowing in from Warsaw Road at the front of the Willow Brook community, resident Gleide Cancio-Cubero said.

“We don’t know if we can survive with this for 10 years, five years, or six months,” said Cancio-Cubero, who is also HOA treasurer.

Dunbar, HOA president Louis Cubero and his wife, Gleide, complain that new development and rainwater flowing from Warsaw Road is the cause of their subdivision’s stormwater damage. They want Roswell’s help in repairing it.

Dunbar has discussed Willow Brook’s flooding and sinkholes with Mayor Kurt Wilson, and previously talked with officials during former Mayor Lori Henry’s administration, receiving no recourse, he said.

Credit: Adrianne Murchison

Credit: Adrianne Murchison

Willow Brook’s stormwater problem is common in private residential communities in Roswell, and city officials are just beginning to consider how to deal with it, Wilson said.

Last March, residents in another Roswell community pushed City Council to deny rezoning on a residential property on Eves Circle, saying its’ approval would’ve brought more stormwater damage to their neighborhoods.

Neighbors in the Eves Circle community showed videos of eroded property beside creeks that were much narrower a few years ago, they said.

“It’s a big deal,” Wilson told the AJC. “In five years, we will start to see catastrophic property damage.”

A 100-foot pipe that runs off the creek and beneath Willow Brook’s road is rusting and no longer has the capacity to hold water that flows into it, Dunbar said.

He built a 12-foot retaining wall on the creek four years ago. Dunbar says he’s now building a driveway on the side of his home, which is located near the front of the subdivision, to help residents in the back have a way out during severe flooding.

“It’s only a matter of time, all of this is going to collapse,” Dunbar said of the greenspace and the road beside it.

Willow Brook is a community of two private roads where residents are responsible for stormwater maintenance and repairs. Dunbar and Cubero say contractors estimate the cost to fix the 30-year-old pipe beneath the road would be $300,000.

“Most of my neighbors are elderly,” Dunbar said. “For a lot of these folks, this is going to be their last home. They don’t have $10,000 or $15,000 to contribute to fixing this ...”

Credit: Adrianne Murchison

Credit: Adrianne Murchison

Roswell’s stormwater repairs on public roads are funded through a utility fee started in 2011. The city has a backlog of public stormwater repairs totaling up to $30 million, according to Sharon Izzo, director of Environmental/Public Works.

Currently, about $1.5 million is being spent on those fixes, Izzo added.

In private neighborhoods, Roswell offers a partial reimbursement plan for dredging lakes, and ponds that are not detention ponds.

Wilson and Izzo said the costs for stormwater repairs for private roads is unknown and thought to be lofty.

While acknowledging that Roswell needs a “comprehensive stormwater policy to deal with all private neighborhoods,” the mayor had no answers on existing damage at such places as Willow Brook.

The mayor said he met with U.S. Sen. Jon Ossoff’s office in April for a preliminary discussion on possible financial help for the issue. Wilson summed it up as the start of more conversations that could lead to funding.

“If we do something for one (neighborhood) now, we have created a bigger mess for ourselves because we don’t really have a strategy,” Wilson said. “People will say, ‘You did if for them, now you’ve got to do it for us.’”

Credit: Jason Getz /

Credit: Jason Getz /