Neighbors speak out on Mustang Creek issues

Worried about more Oklahoma City growth in eastern Canadian County

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Checking erosion caused by water runoff from the Mustang Creek Basin tributary behind the United Methodist Church of the Good Shepherd are: From left, Canadian County Commission Chairman Jack Stewart, Westbury South homeowner Sarah Carnes and Mustang Creek homeowner Joe Bontempo. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)

By Conrad Dudderar
Staff Writer

Residents between Yukon and Mustang are asking Oklahoma City leaders to take a meticulous look at future development to address drainage and traffic issues along the Mustang Creek basin.

Property owners near the large watershed are worried a multi-use development proposed on the southwest corner of S.W. 15th and Sara Road will make a bad situation even worse.

Representatives of several neighborhoods are expected to speak to the Oklahoma City Council on April 27, when members will consider a 10-acre rezoning for “Mustang Creek Village.” (The item was postponed from the April 13th council meeting)

The site is part of a 53-acre wooded property directly east of the United Methodist Church of the Good Shepherd, 10928 S.W. 15, which has seen flood damage to the south where a tributary terminates.

A developer is seeking approval of a planned unit development to allow 80 duplexes on property already zoned for single-family homes.

Oklahoma City officials are being asked to heed concerns of people living in this growing area of Canadian County in far west Oklahoma City.

“The safety of the residents, homeowners and property owners are at risk,” Westbury South resident Sarah Carnes said. “We’re at risk of something bad happening, either people drowning or getting trapped in their homes.”

Neighborhoods across the Mustang Creek basin have reported flooding issues in recent years due to rapid development as new rooftops and asphalt replace trees and other green spaces.

Some residents say the opening of the Kilpatrick Turnpike extension on S.W. 15th east of Mustang Road exacerbated the situation.

Carnes wonders if the Oklahoma City Council could delay approval of the project until flooding issues are resolved.

Carnes, a Mustang school teacher who has lived in Westbury for 18 years, said traffic is another problem.

“I drive Sara Road every morning on the way to school,” she related. “It’s littered with potholes and the edges are washed out. … There’s no curbs, there’s no drainage, there’s no center turn lane.

“I don’t think it’s the best decision to allow them to build there when that street can’t take on any more traffic capacity at all, when it’s been ignored and neglected this long.”

Plans call for Sara Road to be four-laned between S.W. 15th and S.W. 74th starting in fall 2022. A section of S.W. 15th between Sara and Mustang roads in front of the church is due to be widened this fall.

Carnes understands the need for more development with so many people wanting to move to Oklahoma.

“Out here, the community is really great,” Carnes said. “But I think the city has an obligation to provide for those who have invested their lives in homes and the community.

And that they be responsible for what they created.”

“They keep looking at these plots of land and say, ‘We need to build more homes’. I totally understand business, development, building homes and tax revenue.”

Carnes referred to other cities that have prepared in advance for future growth, installing five-lane roads with sidewalks, traffic signals and adequate drainage structures. She wishes Oklahoma City officials would be as proactive when considering new housing additions.

When Carnes and her husband bought their Westbury South home (south of S.W. 15th and east of Sara Road), the previous owner warned them they’d be in the “no man’s land” of Canadian County – Yukon address, Mustang schools but Oklahoma City limits.

When issues arise – whether it concerns traffic, drainage, crime, or paying taxes – many residents in this growing part of “Yu-tang-City” in eastern Canadian County are confused where to turn for help.

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DEVELOPMENT ‘ON HOLD’

As development has progressed in recent years, property owners say they’ve noticed how much flooding occurs along the Mustang Creek basin south of Interstate 40.

They say drainage issues seem to arise more frequently after heavy rains, and the new turnpike extension has made matters worse.

“The best-case scenario for the community and us is to put any development in the immediate area on hold until a water study and true elevated map (is completed),” Mustang Creek homeowner Jake Bogner said.

“We need to take a break and make sure we are understanding water flow before we continue to grant rezoning for residential.”

Flooding in the Mustang Creek Addition (south of S.W. 15th and west of Sara Road) hasn’t caused significant property damage yet, according to Bogner.

“What we have noticed – and we have photos that go back to 2014 – is the Mustang Creek tributary itself and the volume of water that goes through there when we have those large rainstorms,” he said.

“The creek will run bank-to-bank. There’s lots of soil erosion.”

Mustang Creek homeowners are concerned about declining property values for those properties backing up to the creek.

A second key concern is safety with emergency vehicle access restricted when a substantial rainfall does occur.

“When rainstorms come, we are bordered on the north side and the south side by a bridge that has bank-to-bank water in it and over the top of Sara Road,” Bogner said. “That is a major issue.

“You shouldn’t have to drive through water that’s a foot deep on Sara Road.”

And a third concern among residents is having their homes flooded.

“We understand a community has to move forward and have this growth,” Bogner said.

“But we do expect the people who came before these (new) additions to be protected from these type of erosion problems.”

As new development has occurred between Yukon and Mustang in Oklahoma City limits, Bogner has noticed increased water runoff in adjacent neighborhoods.

“Our creek rises really quick when it rains and dissipates really quick when the rainfall has passed,” he noted. “With those types of rains coming downstream, we know we’re eroding. When the rainstorm lasts a day or two, it’s definitely made Sara Road impassable.”

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‘PERVASIVE’ FLOODING

The UMC of the Good Shepherd on March 30 hosted a Mustang Creek basin community meeting to discuss issues before the Oklahoma City Council meeting.

Michael W. Smith, a church trustee and certified geologist, told attendees “we are trying to prevent development that hurts the community.”

The flooding is “pervasive” and “getting worse” – risking damage to homes and other properties in the area, he added.

Smith referred to “substantial” erosion that has occurred and a “debris line” behind the church that resulted from heavy flooding.

At one point, water nearly came inside the church building.

Mustang Creek is the largest southwest Oklahoma City watershed to the North Canadian (Oklahoma) River, stretching from Frisco to County Line Road and Interstate 40 to S.W. 89th.

As a possible solution, Smith has suggested building two more detention ponds southwest of the turnpike between S.W. 15th and S.W. 29th. Another option is filling Mustang Creek with large and small rocks to slow the tributaries by reducing the water flow rate.

Eric Wegner, Oklahoma City’s public works director and city engineer, referred to the “historic flooding” across the city’s 600 square miles over the past 10 years that “couldn’t have been predicted.”

Wegner shared good news – Oklahoma City Public Works plans to conduct basin studies citywide, hopefully starting later this year.

Oklahoma City engineers also will propose ordinance updates this spring to the city council to strengthen criteria for drainage designs in new development, he added.

The developer of the Sara Road/S.W. 15th project will be required to submit detailed plans to Oklahoma City’s engineering department for review before it can start construction, Wegner emphasized.

As the April 27th Oklahoma City Council vote approaches, Canadian County Commissioner Jack Stewart has been speaking with residents about development issues near the Mustang Creek basin.

Stewart pointed out that Canadian County is the fastest-growing county in Oklahoma, citing the extensive growth along the first six miles west of the Oklahoma/Canadian County line.

And the largest city in Canadian County?

Oklahoma City … comprising an estimated one-third of the county’s estimated 150,000-resident population.

Mustang Creek homeowner Jake Bogner asks a question during a March 30th Mustang Creek basin community meeting hosted by the United Methodist Church of the Good Shepherd, 10928 S.W. 15th. The church has sustained from property damage and erosion caused by runoff from the Mustang Creek basin tributary to the south. (Photo by Conrad Dudderar)