New Bern residents, city debate who is in charge of drainage ditch


NEW BERN, N.C. (WNCT) A drainage ditch in the Southgate subdivision in New Bern has not been cleaned out in over a decade, according to resident Linda Hill.

“The ditch has filled in,” said Hill. “We’ve had several storms that have come and left debris all up and down the ditch.”

Hill’s home backs up to an elevated Lowe’s Home Improvement Center so an added frustration for Hill and her neighbors is stormwater running down the slope behind Lowe’s into their yards.

It has nowhere else to go because the ditch is filled in.

Hill used to live in the home next door to her current property but moved away in 2006.

When she returned last year, she was surprised to find the ditch had been filled in due to a lack of maintenance.

“I’ve contacted the City of New Bern several times about having the ditch cleaned out,” said Hill.

She was referred to Avery Smith, the superintendent of the stormwater division for the city.

“[Smith] finally made a notation that it was the property owner’s property and that the city was not responsible for cleaning out the ditch,” said Hill.

But, she remembers the city cleaning out the ditch in the early 2000s and says it’s their responsibility to maintain it.

9 On Your Side spoke with Avery Smith who explained that the ditch was in fact not the city’s responsibility, but the responsibility of either the homeowners or the Lowe’s Home Improvement Center which backs up to Hill’s home.

“Now Lowe’s and her home in Southgate are strictly private,” said Smith.

The city’s ordinance for watercourse protection says it’s the responsibility of the property owners or lessee to keep up with the maintenance.

Although this ditch, in particular, is a drainage and utility easement.

“The misconception about most easements are that they belong to the city,” said Smith.

Smith says an easement is a legal agreement, saying if the city needs to do utility work, it can do so without legal ramifications, but it does not make land in the easement the city’s property.

Smith suggested Hill use a surveyor to determine whether the property is on Lowe’s property or the Southgate subdivision side.

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