Jennifer Miller stands near what is left of a butterfly sanctuary on her property on Southburn Drive.

The recent decimation of a Hendersonville resident’s butterfly sanctuary was necessary for flood control in the Southburn Drive area, according to City Design Engineer Duane Allen. 

Allen says that more projects to control flooding and drainage throughout the city are expected with the implementation of a storm water utility – a federally mandated program. Homeowners started paying a $72 annual fee to the city in 2018 for drainage and flood mitigation projects. 

“Routinely we’ve not had that money to do the maintenance that was needed,” said Allen. “This is the beginning of that.” 

Recently, the city removed trees and a butterfly sanctuary belonging to Southburn Drive resident Jennifer Miller in order to clean out a box culvert under a bridge that crosses a Drakes Creek tributary that causes flooding in the area. 

Allen, who has been with the city for more than 20 years, says it’s the first time he can recall the city cleaning out the area. He says it’s one of several culverts that need to be maintained, but the money hasn’t been there before.  

Miller’s plight was the subject of a recent letter to the editor in the Hendersonville Standard (Resident upset over landscape removal,” Sept. 12, 2019).

In her letter Miller says that the city destroyed a butterfly sanctuary on her property without her permission. Miller also says that she wants to have a voice in restoring “the property’s wildlife function and beauty… I invite collaboration with neighbors and administrators to protect and promote the native ecosystem.”

Allen said his department did speak with Miller’s husband about the project – a fact Miller doesn’t dispute. 

 “I think what they assumed was that since they spoke to the man of the house everything would be OK,” she said. 

Allen said his department works hard to notify property owners about work the city plans to do near or on their property, and tries to minimize any damage done.

The city works with property owners as much as it can to replace or repair damage as well, Allen noted. 

In this case Allen says the city has offered to replace sod, butterfly larvae, as well as plant trees along the bank like tulip poplars. 

Miller, whose nursery of about 40 to 50 monarch caterpillars was destroyed, said she’s hoping to move forward as well.  

“I’m not about grieving what’s already happened,” she said. “My wish is for the procedures to come after me that [include being] transparent, as well as getting input from the Tennessee Environmental Council - the people who are trying to protect biodiversity in our riverway.”

Allen says he does plan to meet with a Tennessee Environmental Council representative to get input on what’s best to plant along Miller’s bank so that the same problem is not re-created. 

As the city continues to address flooding and drainage issues, Allen expects to be working with property owners like Miller more often. 

An avid hunter and fishermen, he said he realizes the balance of preserving nature in a suburban setting.  

Miller says she just wants the city to be aware of the impact they are having when performing the work she admits is needed.  

“I’m just really trying to be a good neighbor – both to the wildlife and to the people who live here,” she said. “I’m encouraging them to learn everything they can about the ecosystems they are having an impact on.”

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