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Ormond Beach Observer Thursday, Sep. 19, 2019 4 months ago

Ormond to amend comprehensive plan following annexation fears over septic-to-sewer

Also, City Attorney Randy Hayes outlined the history of water service to the north peninsula, and why there have been about 39 annexation agreements signed in recent years.
by: Jarleene Almenas News Editor

Due to the forced annexation fears from Ormond-by-the-Sea residents over the proposed septic-to-sewer conversion, the city of Ormond Beach will be amending its comprehensive plan to clarify that the north peninsula is exempt from the city's annexation agreement requirement for connecting to utilities.

The City Commission came to a consensus on the matter at its meeting on Wednesday, Sept. 18, and plans to pass a resolution at its next meeting on Oct. 1, stating it will begin the comp plan amendment process. The amendment will need to go through two readings at the Planning Board level before reaching the commission. 

“I don’t think you have to be covering this very closely to know that we’re getting killed on this lack of clarity on annexation," City Commissioner Dwight Selby said.

Selby, who has spearheaded the septic-to-sewer effort, maintained that the conversion is for water quality. Annexation is currently the biggest objection from the residents, he said, though he predicted it won't be the only one. However, this is the one that calls into question the city's motives, Selby said, and must be addressed first.

Five Ormond-by-the-Sea residents spoke against the project at the meeting, citing disbelief in the 2013 Health Department report stating septic tanks weren't suitable for the north peninsula, and were to blame for the pollution in the Halifax River, as well as wanting more scientific studies and asking about the city enforcing the county fertilizer ordinance.

“I would like to remind [the commission] that Ormond-by-the-Sea is our living environment," Ormond-by-the-Sea resident Janet Nutt said. "We actually like it in Ormond-by-the-Sea just the way it is.”

How Ormond-by-the-Sea got city water 

City Attorney Randy Hayes sent a report on the North Peninsula Water District to the commission on Friday, Sept. 13. In it, Hayes outlined a 55-year overview of the city's policy for providing water to Ormond-by-the-Sea.

The report states that it's common for cities that provide water or sewer to properties outside its municipal limits to establish an annexation agreement as a condition, and it is Ormond Beach's general policy. However, that police has never been enforced in the north peninsula.

In 1964, there was a referendum election to annex properties in the north peninsula, and included in that referendum was aa requirement that all septic tanks would be removed and a sewer system installed. However, that failed because the north peninsula didn't want to annex, and residents feared the cost of converting to sewer.

Then, in 1974, there was a second referendum to annex the north peninsula, which would have also required the removal of septic tanks and conversion to sewer. Again, the referendum failed.

From 1972-1979, the city received request from some Ormond-by-the-Sea residents to receive potable water, and 152 residents signed an agreement to annex once the area became contiguous. 

Shortly after that in Sept. 4, 1979, the commission established the North Peninsula Water District, which at that time extended from Tarpon Avenue south to the city limits. No annexation was required and for the next 35 years, most residents didn't need to sign an annexation agreement to get city water. Only four agreements were signed; two in 1995, and two in 1996.

In 1987, local governments were required to adopt comprehensive land use plans and land development regulations, since the growth management act was enacted. 

The city adopted its first comprehensive plan in 1990, and included the annexation for water policy as a "matter of general application," Hayes' report states. That same year, the city established the West Ormond Utilities District, and unlike the north peninsula, it did require property owners to either annex or sign an annexation agreement for water. 

In 1991, the city entered into an interlocal agreement with the county to provide water and sewer to the North U.S. 1 corridor. Meanwhile, the west area of Ormond began to grow.

The city proposed an amendment to its in 1990 comp plan in 1992, which contained a reference to "North Peninsula Potential." Hayes included the following excerpt from the amendment in his report:

"The annexation of this area is impeded by the apparent desire of North Peninsula residents to remain in the unincorporated area. This has been established by the failure of two referendums — one in 1964 and the other in 1974. One of the reasons for the failed vote was the stated intent of the City to require the discontinuance of septic tanks and package plants in favor a central wastewater treatment system. The cost of retrofitting sewer lines and connecting to the City system was to be borne by the property owners. Should conditions mandate a central system in the future for public health purposes, it is likely that consensus vote for annexation could then be achieved."

Fast-forward to the start of the Cheaters litigation in 2010, and the North U.S. 1 utility service interlocal agreement was amended and provided the city with the authority to annex properties in its service areas. It was discovered that, while 60 annexation agreements were obtained from 1991-2014, there were several owners who bypassed this. Former Planning Director Rick Goss then directed staff to enforce the general policy, and that affected some Ormond-by-the-Sea residents. 

About 39 signed an annexation agreement to obtain water between 2014-2019, the report states, which is a "consequence of applying the general annexation-for-water policy post-Cheater's litigation."

“I don’t find it so much as an inconsistency, as an opportunity to perhaps clarify the policy differences between the north pen and all others," Hayes said.

Committee to follow?

Hayes also suggested that if the city moves forward with septic-to-sewer in the north peninsula, the commission should consider putting together a committee to oversee the project. It would be made up of both Ormond-by-the-Sea and Ormond Beach residents. 

Though Selby said he hadn't given much thought to a committee, the rest of the commissioned voiced support. 

“I think that would give the committee’s work some clarity and some representation, if you will, just to let them know we’re listening to you, we understand your concerns and want to hear everything you have to say as we make decisions on this matter," Mayor Bill Partington said.

City Commissioner Rob Littleton said he'd be on board with creating a committee, but that the city has to clarify the comp plan first.

“If we don’t crush the narrative that we have ill motivations, any blue ribbon advisory committee, or something, is not going to work," Littleton said.

Partington also said the city will hold town hall meetings on septic-to-sewer in the near future.

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