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Owner of Popular Burlington Plaza Given Two Months to Show Progress on Parking Lot Flooding Issue

A Nuisance Violation Hearing at last week’s Board of Health meeting that focused on a commercial parking lot that often floods became slightly confrontational even as all parties agreed they wanted to work together to find a solution.

The item at hand was part of the parking lot for The Shops at Mall Road, formerly known as Vine Brook Plaza, at 111 Middlesex Turnpike, that routinely floods and has been an intermittent issue for many years.

Health Director Susan Lumenello said the original site plan for the location was approved in 1991 and that in 2004 there was an Order of Conditions placed on it by the Conservation Commission that the drainage must be inspected once a year due to the issue of flooding. Since that time occasional cleaning of detention and other basins have temporarily worked in easing the problem but no long-term solution has been put into place.

Representatives from the company that owns the property, Brixmor, say they have studied the issue with field surveys and engineering analyses but have not been able to determine the exact cause of the flooding.

“What I can say to you is that our interests are very much aligned with yours and we don’t want what is happening,” said attorney Mark Vaughan, representing Brixmor. “As it is, you know we have been doing everything we feel to try to address the situation and be able to prevent that ponding from taking place. I don’t want you to think that we’re not looking to do everything within our power to make it not pond the way it is but we are just at a loss now as to how to address it.”

Lumenello suggested that perhaps a more thorough cleaning of the drainage system, including pipes located underneath the parking lot, would help the situation. DPW Director John Sanchez said the spillway from the retention basin in the area of the flooding is two or three feet wide while the original plans called for one that was closer to 20 feet wide and perhaps that should be addressed. Conservation Administrator John Keeley said that another business located in the same wetland as this parking lot saw their lot sink due to the wet ground and that something similar could be going on here.

Vaughan said they would look into those suggestions. However, members of the board pressed that this is a longstanding situation and they want to see results sooner rather than later.

“It’s a very nice plaza when it’s not underwater,” Chair Dr. Ed Weiner said. “It’s also a safety issue especially in the winter when it turns to ice. What if someone hit the ice and drives into the aquifer? We just need to get it fixed – we’re not here to give you a hard time but this has been going on for 32 years.”

Vice Chair David McSweeney asked why this has not been given more attention after it has been a point of complaint from the community.

“If a giant sinkhole opened up on your property, say next to Wendy’s, would you fix it?” he asked, being told that they would. “So why is this not a top priority?”

Finally, Dr. Weiner suggested that if the problem is not fixed perhaps the area of the parking lot that floods should be fenced off and no longer used. Vaughan said that would be difficult because the lot is a “valuable asset” for Brixmor.

In the end they agreed to continue the hearing until the meeting of August 23 with the understanding the company will work with engineers to attempt to find a more long-lasting solution.