SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. – Davion Hampton, a lifelong resident and community organizer, said rising waters in the streets have always been a problem.
“Man, it’s been an issue ever since I’ve been a child. I mean, I can remember coming out ... always playing in the middle of the road like in a lake,” Hampton said. “As a child, I didn’t realize how bad of an issue it is. We thought it was just fun.”
Hampton grew up in Midway and is now a developer there. Every time the residents see rain, they see problems, he said, many of which can present real, physical threats.
“It’s something that definitely hurts the community in a major way because there (are) a lot of people out here (that) don’t have cars, and they ride bicycles, and there’s a lot of walkers having to move into the street to try to go around water, and it raises a concern with people getting run over by cars trying to dodge water,” he said. “It starts to become a mess.”
Hampton said the community isn’t well-equipped to handle the flooding. Most houses use a septic tank and “antiquated drainage” system, which he said is an issue exacerbated by the growth surrounding them.
The development of newer homes is making the flooding problem worse for longtime residents. Hampton said the newer construction sits up much higher, creating “a bowl effect,” where the older homes sit in the lower part, and the water has nowhere to go.
“I see sidewalks covered. I see ditches full with nowhere to drain. I see roads with just sitting water. I mean, it’s a plethora of all kinds of issues without the drainage here in Midway,” Hampton said. “It’s becoming more of an issue, and no one is trying to fix it. No one is working on it.”
Some community members got together to form the Midway Coalition to present their grievances to the Seminole County Board of Commissioners. Hampton is one of their spokespeople.
As a developer who is building homes in Midway along Sipes Road, where some of the worst flooding occurred Thursday, Hampton said he feels like an authority on the matter but also tries to find balance to make sure he isn’t adding to the problem.
He said because he knows the area so well and the issues so intimately, he is well suited to make the decisions that prioritize his community.
“That’s one of my major things that I look into prior to me building a home is, how the water is going to drain, where it’s going to drain,” he said. “I don’t want to be more of an impact to what’s going on already.”
Mary Buckner, a resident of Midway since 1966, said she remembers how bad the flooding got during past storms.
She said flooding is a common part of their everyday lives.
“When it rains, there’s a puddle over there on my lawn and in my backyard. It’s a lot of water,” Buckner said. “And over there, it’s a lake. Yeah, very deep over there.”
Overdevelopment of new places in the area, combined with a lack of investment to improve existing infrastructures, are making the flooding issue take on a new level,” Hampton said.
As he tirelessly advocates for his community, he said the Board of Commissioners is “annoyed” with their coalition.
He said the group is just asking them to help with the problem and resolve the issue as quickly as possible.
“I think, with this being what most people consider an underserved community, or a low-income community, I really feel like we get overlooked. If we were like Heathrow or some other, Lake Mary or something, I think it would be a quicker response from Seminole County.”