Palm Coast’s Proposed Stormwater Management Ordinance Includes Undeveloped Land

If you own land in Palm Coast, be prepared to pay for stormwater management under a new ordinance. If you don’t like it, you will have only 90 days to appeal.

Palm Coast, FL – September 30, 2010 – At a Palm Coast City Council workshop Tuesday, council members discussed a proposed Stormwater Management Ordinance. A new ordinance is necessary to replace the 2004 ordinance which does not conform to Florida Law. At stake is a substantial amount of lost revenue to the City; money it has been collecting for years. Some landowners feel the proposed ordinance pushes the legal envelope, trying to justify calling it a fee rather than a tax.
Palm Coast’s stormwater management system is unique in that it uses swales, ditches, canals, and even roadways to divert excess stormwater. The system successfully handled last year’s record storm which dropped up to 27" of rain on the area. Major flooding within the City was avoided.[Story]
But the system is 30 some odd years old and showing its age. A major failure within the last year was expensive to repair and closed one of the City’s busy streets for months. Without question, the system, like any utility service, needs a funding source.  A usage fee was chosen rather than a tax in the original 2004 ordinance. But in April, 2008, the City received a letter from Chiumento and Guntharp, a law firm representing a group of landowners, informing the City that its stormwater ordinance did not conform to Florida statutes. The letter suggested that the fee was really a tax, one which voters had not approved. Months of study followed, culminating in the draft ordinance which has been discussed at two recent City Council workshops.
The new ordinance perpetuates the charge as a fee based on the premise that all land within the service boundaries benefit from the system. They should pay for that benefit unless they are able to prove that they have no impact on the system. For instance, that portion of Grand Haven east of Colbert Lane has its own stormwater system which discharges water directly into the Intracoastal Waterway. The new ordinance will allow that portion of Grand Haven to be excused from future fees.
Grand Haven residents currently pay $8/month to the service district as well as paying toward their own CDD which owns and maintains Grand Haven’s system. Grand Haven will receive a refund for fees collected after the April, 2008 Chiumento letter. The refund will go to the CDD rather than individual residents; however the residents will enjoy the benefit to the extent that the CDD’s refund is used to offset a portion of future CDD assessments.
Grand Haven is the largest example of an exemption but they are not alone. The total loss of revenue to the City needs to be offset by additional revenue sources. The City chose to look to owners of undeveloped land to make up the shortfall, again claiming that although the land is in an undeveloped state as it was before the City built its stormwater system, the property still benefitted from it.
The proposed ordinance represents a compromise. It recognizes that some properties have attributes that mitigate their impact on the system. They may have retention ponds and other methods of handling stormwater. Some have wetlands. Some have vegetation and soil conditions that allow stormwater to penetrate the soil rather than creating runoff. Some Palm Coast lots have swales while others do not. To the extent any property reduces its dependence on or use of the system; it can receive credits (up to 100%) against future fees. But here’s the catch.

Filing Deadline

Landowners must file for their credit within 90 days of the effective date of the new ordinance. Appeals will not be accepted after the deadline. The evaluation of the appeal will be based on a technical analysis requiring information (proof) that a typical landowner may be unable to provide without engaging an engineering professional at their own expense. Upon request, the City will perform the engineering study on the property owner’s behalf, but will bill the property owner for the service.
Here are a few suggestions from Palm Coast Councilman Frank Meeker for landowners who don’t want to hire either an engineer or City staff for the technical evaluation of their property. Among the list of mitigation factors that can earn discount credits are a few that a landowner might be able to handle alone:
  • Wetland: The EPA has a National Wetland Inventory Map. If your property has wetlands, simply print a copy of the map including your property and submit it with a letter or other acceptable form to the City.
  • Flood Plain: Refer to the FEMA flood plain map. If you are in a flood plain, you qualify for a credit.
  • If you live in a development, your developer probably had to obtain a St. Johns River Water Management District permit. If so, the SJRWMD will have a copy on file. It should provide wetland information and pervious vs. impervious data.

Tax or Fee?

Raising the tax millage rate is a move city officials want to avoid if possible which accounts for the ongoing trend towards calling revenue sources fees. The 10% franchise fee assessed against refuse collectors end up as a 10% increase in residents’ monthly refuse disposal bill; the same for cable service. Just how does the storm water fee compare to residential property taxes.
  • The City of Palm Coast’s ad valorum (property) tax on a vacant Palm Coast lot assessed for $10,000 is $35.00. If no mitigation credits are allowed, the storm water management fee will be $72 per year (6$/month)>
  • A Palm Coast home assessed at the median area selling price of $135,000 with a $50,000 homestead exemption will pay a $297.50 ad valorum tax and $96 storm water fee equaling ($8/month).
The ordinance will likely be scheduled for first reading at the October 5 meeting of the Palm Coast City Council.
1 reply
  1. George Edward Chuddy
    George Edward Chuddy says:

    What about us…

    We are palm coast pioneers and ‘Atlantis Development Co’ took care of all these Levitt I.T.T. Developer pledged Amenities / Features / Improvements for Palm Coast, Inc. We did not pay for drainage / stormwater from the year 1972 until the year this Century of 2005. Now we pay; we have regularly asked the Utility Department why we aren’t *Grandfathered* in because of this; we still have to pay. The most recent reply from Utility is that it was not *itemized* then.
    SEE: Atlantis Development Co.
    Streets and Drainage – The Company will construct paved streets and drainage facilities in accordance with specifications accepted by Flagler County. the date for completion of the streets and drainage facilities in a particular section will be the Improvement Completion Date as set forth in the Homesite Purchase Agreement. The streets have been dedicated to Flagler County. Streets have a least an 18 to 20 foot driving surface over a 50 foot right of way.
    Water – Atlantis Development Corporation , a wholly owned subsidiary of the Company, will construct, operate and maintain a water supply system. The date of which potable water will be supplied to any particular section will be the Improvement Completion Date as set forth in the Homesite Purchase Agreement. All buildings must be connected by the purchaser to the central water system within 90 days after such system becomes available to the purchaser’s property, as provided in the Covenants and Restrictions heretofore recorded in Flagler County, Florida. Thee Covenants also provide for a connection fee presently estimated to be $50.00, based upon current construction costs. The connection fee is payable on the date the system is connected to the building.

    Sewage: Atlantis Development Corporation, a wholly owned subsidiary of the Compnay, will construct, operate and maintain a waste collection and treatment system. In Section 1, palm Coast. The Company makes no representation as to the extension of the central sewer system to any other areas of Palm Coast. The Company intends, however, to extend the central sewage facilities to one or more additional areas of Palm Coast, when and as the same becomes economically feasible. When and if a central sewer system becomes available to a lot, the purchaser is required to connect any buildings within 90 days thereafter, as provided in the Covenants and Restrictions. The Covenants also provide that the lot owner shall pay a connection fee on the date that the central sewer system is made available to his lot, whether or not a connection is actually made at that time to the central system, or at the time the Company conveys title to the lot, whichever date occurs later. The connection fee is presently estimated to be $ 500.00 for each lot based upon current construction costs, or for each two units in areas where multi-unit structures are permitted.

    Until such time as the central sewer system is made available to a purchasers lot, owners of homesites will be required to install their own septic tanks and related drain field for sewage disposal, subject to the requirements of and approval by the Bureau of Sanitary Engineering of the Division of Health, Department of Health and Rehabilitative Services of the State of Florida. The current approximate cost for such installation is $ 350.00. If and when the central sewer system is available to the purchasers lot, no septic tanks or other individual or privately owned sewage disposal system shall be installed or permitted to be used.

    If a purchaser intends construction of a home prior to the availability of central sewage facilities and the governmental authorities will not permit installation of a septic tank, the Company will exchange his property for another at the then same selling price in an area where such sewage disposal is available or septic tanks are permitted.

    Canals – The Company intends to construct all canals by the Improvement Completion Date as set forth in the Homesite Purchase Agreement. In addition, the Company has made provision for bulkheading along the main canals, where in its opinion, such bulkheading is advisable. The Company makes no representations as to maintance of the canals or of the bulkheads. The canals are to be a minimum of 60 feet wide and 8 feet in depth.

    Lakes and waterways in Section 1, 11, 12, and 13 will not have access to the Intracoastal Wateraay. Fentress Cove in Section 1 does not have access to the lakes in said section. Waterways in Section 13 will not have access to those in Sections 11 and 12.

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