Workers make progress on the Whitney Ranch development on Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019, in east Cheyenne. Mayor Marian Orr said the city has issued a stop-work order on the project until proper permits are obtained, along with proof that drainage, stormwater management and erosion control are in compliance with Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality rules and regulations. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

Correction: This article previously stated that the area surrounding Thomas Heights started flooding after the development was completed. The flooding actually began after the project started. The mistake is due to a reporting error. The Tribune Eagle regrets the error.

CHEYENNE – The city has issued an immediate stop-work order for all construction at the Whitney Ranch housing development in east Cheyenne until the companies obtain the proper permits.

On Wednesday, city staff received a notice that the Wyoming Department of Environmental Quality planned to issue a Notice of Violation to Homes by Guardian for failing to obtain a “Large Construction General Permit” for stormwater management. The notice pointed out that Reiman Corporation also received a letter of violation for sediment that was transported to an adjacent property.

Mayor Marian Orr issued the stop order after receiving the notice from the DEQ.

“My engineering staff was and remains concerned about proper stormwater drainage management and erosion control with the Whitney Ranch development and other future developments,” Orr said in an email.

The notice, sent by DEQ Natural Resource Program Supervisor Kevin Wells, said the violations have the potential to contribute a detrimental amount of sediment to Crow Creek.

“Based on recent inspections by DEQ, there are considerable violations for lack of stormwater management and erosion control resulting in impact to adjacent properties and (Crow Creek),” Wells wrote.

Wells also wrote the Notice of Violation could include penalties, if approved.

“Excavation and construction of houses is ongoing without a permit in place,” Wells wrote.

The only permit that goes to the DEQ instead of the city for new buildings is related to stormwater management, so the city did not know about the violations.

“We were unaware both Guardian and Reiman were out of compliance and working without necessary permits,” Orr said. “Had my administration been aware of this, city permits would not have been issued.”

Orr said the city and the DEQ will be communicating on such issues in the future to prevent this from happening again.

As for violations, this is not the first time the DEQ has intervened on the Whitney Ranch development. The first letter of violation was sent to Homes by Guardian in September for not obtaining a Large Construction General Permit.

Homes by Guardian Vice President Joe Patterson said the company worked with its engineers to implement a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan after receiving that first letter. The plan was in place when construction was stopped Wednesday.

Patterson said the letter may have been sent because of a rain storm that hit during the summer, before the retention ponds and storm sewers for the project were completed. Though there was some flooding in the area, Patterson said their engineers were talking with residents soon after that to help.

“We always try and do the best we can do,” Patterson said.

Patterson said he has been in contact with the city and has attempted to reach the DEQ. According to the mayor, the red tag stop order could take a couple of days to be removed.

Representatives from Reiman Corporation could not immediately be reached for comment.

Stormwater issues have plagued other developments in the city, including Thomas Heights, which also is a Homes by Guardian project. After the project started, residents in surrounding areas complained of increased flooding in their homes.

Orr said the Whitney Ranch situation further explains why her administration carried out a groundwater and flooding study at Thomas Heights after its completion, even though the council disapproved of the measure.

“This is a serious issue,” Orr said.

Margaret Austin is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. She can be reached at maustin@wyomingnews.com or 307-633-3152. Follow her on Twitter @MargaretMAustin.

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