Officials say south suburban retention pond needed to stop flooding; homeowners don't want to move

Samantha Chatman Image
Wednesday, December 13, 2023
Harvey pond needed to stop flooding; homeowners don't want to move
The city of Harvey, Illinois and MWRD said a retention pond is needed near 153rd Street and Myrtle Avenue, but homeowners don't want to move.

HARVEY, Ill. (WLS) -- Some residents in south suburban Harvey are outraged, after learning they'll have to move out of their homes so the city can build a retention pond.

Homeowners on 153rd Street and Myrtle Avenue said they worked hard for their homes, and don't want to leave.

But the city of Harvey said a retention pond is needed to reduce severe flooding.

However, residents said they won't be leaving without a fight.

"I just don't want to leave. I'm too old," Harvey resident Joe Poole said.

Poole is 88, and has lived on the Harvey block for over 50 years.

When he learned that he and his neighbors would have to move sometime next year, he was heartbroken.

"It's my home. I'm comfortable here," Poole said. "Put yourself in my shoes, been here that many years and try to pack up someplace else."

This past July, Poole and his neighbors were informed that the city of Harvey and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago plan to build a stormwater retention basin on the block.

The goal is to address a history of flooding in Harvey.

The city of Harvey said it would need to acquire 31 total parcels, including 15 residential properties, meaning homeowners like Poole and his daughters, who live next-door, would have to leave.

Residents said they support making Harvey a better place to live, but not at the expense of people's homes.

"Why do it in an area where you have long-living residents? These residents who live on this block is what built this community," Harvey resident Lanora Poole said.

The city said the nearly $10 million project will include roughly 10,000 feet of new storm sewers, storage of 7.5 million gallons of stormwater and a new 4.5-acre park, with a landscaped water feature.

There were four public meetings, according to the city, but 2nd Ward Alderwoman Colby Chapman said four meetings aren't enough.

"Like most residents, I was stunned, sitting in City Hall learning about the project," Chapman said. "Capital improvements should never come at the expense of someone's livelihood."

The alderwoman said she learned plans for the project have been in the works since 2018, but said the city kept it under wraps until this past summer.

"We could have done some further investigation on this entire project to determine where else could this have gone," Chapman said. "This project has been done in Stone Park, in Robbins, even Dolton, and nobody was displaced. Why here in the city of Harvey is that even a thought or an ask?"

In a statement to the I-Team, the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District of Greater Chicago said the exact location of the basin was determined because it provides the greatest amount of flood relief to residents in the project area within its budget.

The department also said, "Most recently, on Sept. 16 and 17, 2023, the National Weather Service recorded more than 5 inches of rainfall in Harvey, which further highlights the additional need for stormwater management resources and the unpredictable effects of climate change that are forcing us to adapt on an unprecedented scale."

Residents said while better infrastructure in Harvey is needed, putting people out of their homes should not be on the table.

"How do we go and displace folks who have been in their homes for more than 50 years?" Chapman said.

The MWRD will try to reach an agreement with property owners on the purchase price of their Harvey homes.

If an agreement isn't reached, the department will have to file eminent domain cases.

The Harvey homeowners who spoke with ABC7 Chicago said this isn't about the money. They want to stay in their homes.