The first time Hutto resident Marci Wagner’s Old Town property flooded in late 2021, she said her yard filled with around two feet of water.

Wagner's home borders the southeast edge of Durango Farms, a mixed-use development that is under construction.

Wagner said her yard has flooded three times total, causing significant water damage, and several of her neighbors’ properties have also experienced flooding.

Wagner and her neighbor Tara Velasquez said they blame the newly constructed homes at Durango Farms for the flooding—without soft ground to soak up rainfall, it instead flows downhill to adjacent homes in Old Town.

Working on the issue

Hutto City Manager James Earp addressed the matter at a March 23 City Council meeting and stated the two major entities at play are developer MA Partners and homebuilder Meritage Homes.

Earp said MA Partners’ original site plan for Durango Farms had water draining to a detention pond on the north end of the development, but when Meritage purchased the land from MA Partners, the homebuilding company determined that would not work.

Earp said Meritage devised an alternative solution the city approved: a type of drainage channel called a French drain that would carry water away from the properties.

Since the drainage at Durango Farms was a private improvement rather than a public one, Earp said city officials only inspected the design—not the finished product—until they were made aware of the flooding problem.

A city inspection of the drainage channel found it was improperly created.

“They had used the wrong pipe, and then they had backfilled it with the clay soils, which will not do what it’s supposed to do,” Earp said. “Their engineer who designed it also confirmed that [Meritage] didn’t follow any of the design.”

Earp said that in December, the city had Meritage tear out the French drain and start again. The new drain is still under construction, but Earp said this time the city is as involved as it is allowed to be.

“We have our inspectors watching their contractors, and we obviously have [residents] watching, because it’s in your backyard,” Earp said. “Since it’s a private [project], all we really can do is serve as mediators and try to leverage Meritage.”

Wagner and Velasquez estimate they are each facing at least $15,000 in repair costs for flooding-related damages—but more than likely much more.

Getting closure

Velasquez said she does not necessarily intend to take legal action against Meritage or the city, but if she does, it will not be alone.

“There are 11 homes that are part of this easement,” Velasquez said. “If we’re going to retain an attorney and we’re going to pay for all that—which it will not be cheap—we’re all going to get in on it.”

In the meantime, Velasquez said she is pleased Meritage is taking steps to remedy the problem.

Earp said while it is difficult to discern exactly why things went wrong with construction of the drainage, he intends to see the issue through.

“There’s nobody for me to talk to that was here [when the project began], and there’s no documentation that says, ‘This is why,’” Earp said. “What I can say is that since I’ve been made aware of it; we’ve been trying to get to a resolution.”

Meritage did not respond to requests for comment as of press time.

Community Impact will update this story as new details emerge.

Brian Rash contributed reporting to this story.