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Ormond Beach Observer Tuesday, Sep. 17, 2019 5 months ago

Ormond-by-the-Sea's fears of annexation and high costs deserve attention in septic-to-sewer plans

Ormond Beach's Comprehensive Plan justifies annexation fears.
by: Guest Writer

By Heather Post

Volusia County Council representative

It has become clear that Peggy Farmer is unfortunately one of many being hand-fed misinformation in a calculated attempt to mislead the public for political gains.

Her recent letter to the editor, which began with an attempt to discredit me by citing that I voted against hiring additional EMS personnel in one of our County Council meetings makes it all too clear. 

Anyone keeping up with current politics should be undoubtedly aware that I have been at the forefront, working tirelessly (and quite vocally!) for additional personnel and procedures to instill a higher minimum standard of service for our ambulance service and all other county public safety professionals. If you go back and listen to the Aug. 6 County Council meeting, it’s clear that I was absolutely in favor of providing the additional personnel requested in each area of public safety. However, when fellow County Councilman Ben Johnson amended the motion to exclude two additional law enforcement positions, giving reasons that were so blatantly being provided based on political agendas and not on merit, I opposed the amended motion for that reason and that reason only — I was not in favor of short-changing our public safety departments.

Now to address septic-to-sewer. Let’s be clear, I am not opposed to the idea of anyone in the county transitioning from septic-to-sewer or trying to better the environment in any way.

Annexation concerns

Although annexation may not have been the main intent of the septic-to-sewer conversation, many citizens have expressed a deep concern that they were provided with clearly false information regarding annexation. How can anyone dismiss what is clearly written in the city’s Comprehensive Plan (the guidelines for future actions), which states: “If a property received city water and/or sewer and they are outside the city limits, they are required to either (1) annex if contiguous or (2) sign an annexation agreement that would result in annexation once the property is contiguous”?

The city’s plan calls for sewer to be provided in small groups of streets at a time, which would in turn make new lines contiguous. There are a number of additional justifications for question here, but 1) Rick Goss, the city of Ormond Beach’s planning director, specifically mentioning annexation in relation to Ormond-by-the-Sea residences in a 2016 Ormond Beach Observer article, and 2) City Commissioner Dwight Selby reporting over and over to the public that this issue is in no way connected to annexation, are just two. 

How can anyone accept the official response to the public that this is the one specific situation where the comp plan would just not apply? 

There are also two ways to go around the comp plan directive and that would be to either enter into an interlocal agreement with the county stating that there would be no annexation, or for the city to amend its comp plan. No efforts have been made to do either in the many months that septic-to-sewer has been a discussion.   

Concerning the environmental argument, there have been clear reports from water regulatory agencies that septic in other areas of the county near our springs with direct access to our aquifer and drinking supply are in much more dire need of attention. It concerns me that these areas are not our top priority, and it’s clear to me why: Those that are pushing this initiative have the most to gain from new development in Ormond-by-the-Sea.

The citizens of Ormond-by-the-Sea have come to me with their concerns, and, I have to tell you, I’m not happy with the way that it’s been presented to residents. It should be the decision of the residents that it affects as to whether or not they wish to be annexed.

Funding concerns

The additional concerns vehemently expressed to me by Ormond-by-the-Sea residents that I was elected to represent have to do with funding.   

The majority of residents in the north peninsula are on fixed incomes, and a monthly bill increase of what some might consider a minimal amount will be devastating to sustaining their current quality of life. (For example, a $200 increase in billing for someone that has no expendable income can mean the difference between groceries or gas or paying their full monthly mortgage.) If septic-to-sewer is to become a forced reality, there must be a tremendous push to remove the financial burden from these homeowners.  

Telling someone who owns only their home that their property values will go up means nothing other than higher taxes. A person living on a fixed income who has no assets other than their home doesn’t care in their day-to-day living if their home is worth $100,000 or $1 million. It has no positive impact unless they sell. The opportunity to provide low-rate loans may seem like a viable option, but many people cannot afford a loan.        

I simply ask that the citizens of Ormond-by-the-Sea be provided with accurate information on septic-to-sewer. If septic-to-sewer is to happen in the north peninsula, then these citizens have a right to know what the real deal is, and I can promise that I will work with all parties to push for financial support so that the cost does not fall back on these residents.  

Heather Post represents District 4, including Ormond Beach, on the Volusia County Council.

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