A SPECIAL MEETING OF THE BOARD OF COUNTY COMMISSIONERS
MARCH 30, 2007
The Lake County Board of County Commissioners met in a special workshop session on Friday, March 30, 2007, at 9:00 a.m., at the Bob Norris Auditorium at the Agricultural Center, Tavares, Florida. Commissioners present at the meeting were: Welton G. Cadwell, Chairman; Jennifer Hill, Vice Chairman; Elaine Renick; Debbie Stivender; and Linda Stewart. Others present were Sanford A. “Sandy” Minkoff, County Attorney; Cindy Hall, County Manager; Wendy Taylor, Executive Office Manager, County Manager’s Office; Barbara Lehman, Chief Deputy Clerk, County Finance; and Susan Boyajan, Deputy Clerk.
PRESENTATION – HOME BUILDERS ASSOCIATION – STATE OF HOUSING
Mr. Jim Bible of the Home Builders Association of Lake County stated that the housing industry in Lake County had experienced very significant changes over the past 20 years. He related that in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, mobile homes were the dominant housing structure, but with the devastating freezes of the 1980’s and the resulting availability of land for development, conventionally built single family housing began to dominate the market. He commented that families were attracted to Lake County because they could buy larger houses and lots for less money than Orange and Seminole Counties, and that this trend continued into the early part of this decade, because of its proximity to major roadways leading to the employment centers in Orange County. He reported that the construction industry was the third largest sector of employment, behind government and health care, in Lake County, and he opined that the importance of the construction industry to the economic health of Lake County mimicked the State of Florida and that in 2006, Florida’s residential construction and real estate industry contributed more than $65 billion to the state economy. He opined that a study commissioned by the Home Builders Association showed that new residential housing paid for itself due to local income and taxes generated and local jobs that were created.
He stated that housing prices had increased dramatically in the past four years, and that since 2003, the price of residential land had increased from $15,000 per acre to over $50,000 per acre, and development costs had increased almost 100 percent. He reported that changes to the building codes throughout the years as well as increased impact fees and material costs resulted in home prices that were not affordable to 70 percent of the families in Lake County. He presented a chart showing that there was steady increase in single family home construction from 1996 until 2004, when the housing market started to decrease due to major price increases, hurricane damage, and material shortages, and that the decrease in building activity continued throughout this year. He also noted that at this time, Lake County had too many inventory homes and that until the existing inventory of new and existing homes was reduced substantially, there would not be an improvement of home building. He reported that a new 1500 square foot home was selling for $225,000. He calculated that the adoption of the proposed school and road impact fees would increase the price of this home to $249,000, making even a starter home even more unaffordable to most Lake County families.
Mr. Gerry Suarez Jr., Senior Vice President of Thomas Mortgage, addressed the affordability issue in terms of a family’s ability to qualify for purchase of a home. He presented data for a 1500 square foot home, using a 5% down conventional mortgage, assuming good credit, and calculated at 6.25 percent interest with no points, showing the monthly payment at $1,744 per month, which would mean a household would have to earn $63,420 per year to qualify, which would exclude 70 percent of Lake County residents. He went on to calculate these numbers using the proposed impact fee increases factored in, showing a monthly mortgage cost of $1,938 per month, meaning they would need to earn $70,000 per year, excluding 75 percent of residents. He specified that this would mean an additional 6,800 families would no longer be able to afford to buy a new home. He pointed out that teachers, police officers, nurses, fire fighters, paramedics, and administrative assistance were all being priced out of homeownership.
Ms. Kelly Pisciotta, Development/Public Relations Director for Habitat for Humanity Lake County, reiterated the fact that there were 70 percent of Lake County residents that could not realize the American dream of homeownership, and that Habitat for Humanity did not have the resources to help all these families by themselves. She noted that Affordable Housing only was able to assist 44 families last year, down from 159 in 2002, even though the attendance to their classes had increased substantially. She also stated that the current impact fee proposal would make it necessary for Habitat for Humanity to double their cash sponsorship to build a home, which would mean their numbers would decrease and more people would continue to live in substandard housing. She urged the Board to keep in mind the families that lived and worked in our county when they made their decision.
Mr. Bill Evans, Century 21 The Pendergast Group, commented that their profession was one of the single largest employment sectors in Lake County, and that they had a vested interest in property tax rates, insurance premiums, and impact fees. He reiterated the concern of the other speakers regarding the affordability of homes, as well as concern about residents unable to sell their homes. He urged the Board to carefully research and study the ramifications associated with an increase in impact fees and the effect on property taxes, insurance rates, and affordability of homes.
Mr. Don Magruder, Vice President and General Manager of Ro-Mac Lumber and Chairman Elect of the Florida Building Material Association, stated that housing costs have increased 121 percent in the last six years. He noted that even though many people believe that building material costs have skyrocketed, the total raw cost for all construction materials had only increased 21 percent in that time. He stated that other causes of housing price increases were government regulations, wage increases, and the anti growth movement, which had reduced the number of buildable lots and densities that would encourage reduced housing costs. He also noted that there were more people per house than there were ten years ago because the high cost of housing was forcing some residents to live with relatives or friends, impacting infrastructure without an increase in revenue. He was concerned that there were not enough significant employers in other industries where residents could earn a living to sustain the economy of Lake County.
Mr. Jim Bible concluded by stating that the decrease in construction would result in loss of tax revenue and impact and permit fees, and that families were starting to leave Lake County for more affordable areas. He opined that the County was facing serious problems of difficulty sustaining affordable housing and economic growth and diversity. He stated that he hoped the Commissioners would let the builders participate in comprehensive discussions concerning the community’s future and thanked the Board for the opportunity to provide them with this information.
Commr. Cadwell asked Mr. Bible whether their association was taking any official position in regard to the Legislature lifting the cap on the Affordable Housing Trust Fund. He stated that last year the Board of Realtors and the Association of Counties stood together on that issue.
Ms. Jean Kaminski stated that their state association had lobbied very hard and were very involved in the implementation of the original Sadowski Act and to get that cap lifted or removed, which was a high priority for them this year.
PRESENTATION – SOUTH CAMPUS GOVERNMENT COMPLEX PROJECT
Mr. Jim Bannon, Facilities Development and Management Director, gave some background information about the South Campus Government Complex, stating that in August of 2005, the Board approved the wording of the architectural contract from Starmer Ranaldi, and in February of 2006, the architect presented the Master Site Plan and schematic design of the South Campus. He went on to explain that in May of 2006, the Board approved an amendment to Starmer Ranaldi’s contract for the complete architectural services inclusive of design development and construction documents. He further stated that in November of 2006, the Board approved the contract of the construction management services with Ajax Construction. He noted that they would be showing the Board the range of buildings that were planned and the projected costs associated with those buildings, and they were seeking the Board’s direction to move forward with construction documents on any of the buildings they approved.
Mr. Bill Starmer of Starmer Ranaldi Planning and Architecture Inc. addressed the Board and commented that they would be making a presentation of the master plan and some concept drawings where they projected in square foot cost based on empirical data. He opined that the construction manager had a detailed analysis of buildings at this point, and that the numbers portrayed would be fairly accurate and conservative, including everything such as construction costs, soft costs, furniture, fixtures, and equipment. He showed the Master Plan of the 50 to 60 acres that they were starting with originally, using County Road 448, State Road 19, and County Road 561 as landmarks to show the location. He stated that there would be a central plant that would feed all the buildings and showed where the various entrances were to the complex. He also gave an overview of the site, pointing out the Public Works building, Public Safety facility with the Sheriff Operations and Fire Rescue and EOC center, Health Department, and Fleet Maintenance.
Ms. Starmer then showed each facility individually, starting with the Public Works facility, stating that it included two stories and 30,000 square feet and had a brick and masonry veneer with a metal roof, and showed the fleet maintenance floor plan. He showed the Public Safety building next as a three-story building that would house Fire Services, Administration, EMS, Emergency Operations Center, and the complete Sheriff Operation Center. He commented that as they had gone through the design of that, they thought that one or more portions of that building might not be built, such as the EOC or Sheriff Operation Center, depending on funding.
He stated that they had broken the development of this into several phases. He specified that the initial infrastructure costs to get the site started would be just over $12 million. He related that another option was that once the site work was done and complete, they could build the Public Works office building with paving, parking, and retention for approximately $11 million. He mentioned that another option would be to build a fleet maintenance complex and include EMS, Fire Services, and Public Works for between $17 million and $18 million, but if the County chose to do only a portion, they broke it up to show what each individual portion would cost. He presented another option where they did only Fire Services, EOC, and EMS with associated parking for about $22 million. He also provided the Board with a data sheet containing a running tally of the departments, square footage, parking demands, and the costs that those departments were currently spending to lease space.
Commr. Stivender asked Ms. Cindy Hall, County Manager, if they could do this project in phases or if she had a scenario of what portions of this project would be completed initially, since they were still waiting to see if the legislature passed any legislation that would affect the County’s monetary outlook.
Commr. Cadwell stated that he had been looking at the numbers and the dollars that the County was spending for leased space to determine what would make the most sense and who was in the most dire need, and he thought that it looked like fleet maintenance, Public Works and the Health Department should be their top three items, even though they might have to revamp or decrease those, but that he thought they should at least get the complex started out there.
Commr. Stivender stated that she had the same three departments in mind, but she wanted to know what staff’s recommendation was about the direction they should be going.
Ms. Hall commented that those buildings would make sense, and that she had talked to all the departments that had an interest in this particular campus.
Commr. Renick and Commr. Stewart both expressed concerns about going forward with this project, especially with the property tax issues resulting in the County being unsure about what was going to happen in the future.
Ms. Bannon noted that they were only approving the initiation of construction documents, and although there was a cost associated with that, they would still come back to the Board when they got to the real cost, and they would have an opportunity then to decide to proceed with the construction or not.
Commr. Cadwell commented that the County was not going to commit any more than their bonding capacity was, and pointed out that it was in the State Constitution that if they had bonded that money, the State could not take away the revenue that covered those bonds.
Commr. Stivender commented that they had been working on the Public Works and the Health Department building for the last 15 years and that they were spending a lot of money on leases.
Ms. Hall explained that the timing of the actual cost of the downtown campus should be coming back at about the same time the County would know the cost of those buildings, and at that time, they would have a pretty good idea of whether they had the dollars to move forward with construction on this. She stated that they also at that time would know how they fared with the legislative sessions as far as the property tax and that type of thing. She commented that they would buy a little time simply by going to the next step at a fairly conservative level.
Commr. Renick commented that she and Commr. Stewart were coming in late on this, and they had not seen the space needs study or the population projection that they were building to, and that they would both be more comfortable seeing those numbers.
Ms. Hall stated that she was glad to get them the space studies that were completed in 2004.
Commr. Renick inquired how much of the cost of the Health Department building was the County responsible for.
Ms. Hall responded that she had asked Community Services that question, and they had just given her a two-page response yesterday afternoon, but that she was still studying that, but that she could get it out to all the Board members and that they could take that into consideration as they started working on the actual documents for the Health Department and whether to downsize it.
Commr. Stivender stated that at this point the Board was looking into construction documents on the Public Works and Fire Services fleet maintenance at approximately $13 million, the Health Department at a reduced size and cost of approximately $10 million, and the Public Works office at approximately $11 million. She inquired about the cost of the construction plans.
Mr. Bannon responded that they had already agreed to contract with the architects to proceed forward on a fee basis based on a percentage of the final construction cost of the project. He also explained that they had already agreed on a fee with the construction manager to bring them to the maximum guaranteed price in the $250,000.00 range. He commented that they were committed and had already funded that amount of money, and when they get to the guaranteed maximum price, they would come back to the Board. He further noted that the architect’s projected cost was $3.5 million, but that it would not be that high, since that cost was based on all of the buildings.
On a motion by Commr. Stivender, seconded by Commr. Hill and carried by a vote of 4-1, the Board gave approval for Starmer Ranaldi to start construction documents on Public Works Fleet Maintenance, the Health Department building, and Public Works office for the south campus.
Commr. Renick voted “no.”
RECESS AND REASSEMBLY
At 10:00 a.m., the Chairman announced that the Board would recess for ten minutes.
PRESENTATION – PARKS AND RECREATION ENHANCEMENT PROJECTS
Mr. Jim Stivender, Jr., stated that the presentation that day would be focused on a few things, but that there were going to be two more presentations that would be made in the next four to six weeks. He stated that they were going to discus the MSTU that they had for services such as parks, stormwater, and road maintenance and that they were going to explain what they planned to do with the money that they were asking for.
Mr. Bobby Bonilla, Parks and Trails Director, thanked the Board for all the commitment they had received for the last few years for the parks and trails, and that as they continued to improve their park system, these were some of the basic improvements that they believed were needed immediately. He specified that clean, attractive prefabricated restrooms were needed at Ferndale Preserve, Lake Idamere Park, Lake Jem Park, Marsh Park, Paisley Park, PEAR Park, Palatlakaha River Park, Pine Forest Park, and Twin Lakes Park, so that they could do away with portable toilets, at an MSTU cost of $95,000, along with some grant dollars and existing impact fee money that he had in the park system, and that he would like to use that to complete the nine locations.
Commr. Stivender commented that in the past while on the City Council in Tavares, she dealt with problems with vandalism at the restrooms, and asked if he thought there would still be problems with that, even though they now had rangers.
Mr. Bonilla responded that the good thing about these restrooms were that the Park Rangers would open them in the morning and close them in the evening, and that there were more people keeping an eye on them now than in the past.
Mr. Bonilla also stated that Ferndale Preserve remained closed until they could get a parking lot installed, and recommended drivable grass for the parking area at an MSTU cost of $335,000.00, which he related would be environmentally friendly, require less maintenance, be permeable, be better for stormwater management, and be fitting for the 28,000 square feet of parking lot. He commented that doing that would allow the park to open and for them to proceed with the restoration and the programs that they had forthcoming. He also mentioned that entry signs were needed at the above-mentioned parks as well as a few others, at an MSTU cost of $120,000.00 and that these parks were not currently promoted the proper way as far as signage. He showed an illustration of the proposed sign and opined that it was a big improvement to what they currently had out there.
Commr. Cadwell asked Mr. Bonilla if they were planning on funding all of this out of the MSTU.
Mr. Bonilla responded that that was correct, and the only one they were adding more funding to would be the prefabricated restrooms, for which they were also using grants and impact fees in combination.
Commr. Renick asked if the MSTU for this was just strictly for parks.
Mr. Stivender responded that this was an MSTU that was for municipal type services and that it was for stormwater, parks, and some road maintenance.
Commr. Renick stated that she would like to see all the things presented, but that there were some major stormwater projects and expenses that needed to be put into place too. She commented that the money they would be using for the parks could also be used for stormwater.
Commr. Stewart commented that it was her understanding that there was plenty of money for stormwater.
Mr. Stivender stated that there were a lot of projects and designs they were currently planning and projects under construction now with contractors with retrofit systems, so they were actively moving forward with that and they would continue to do that with allocated funds.
Commr. Cadwell noted that when they expanded this MSTU, they added some millage to it to fund these projects, so they were not taking any money out of the original stormwater fund that was set up, and that it was still growing.
On a motion by Commr. Stivender, seconded by Commr. Hill and carried unanimously, by a vote of 5-0, the Board approved the park projects presented, including prefabricated restrooms, the Ferndale Preserve Parking Lot, and entry signs.
PRESENTATION – COMPREHENSIVE PLAN PROCESS
Ms. Carol Stricklin, Growth Management Director, addressed the Board to request direction regarding the scheduling of work sessions for review of the Comprehensive Plan elements that had been transmitted to the Board from the Local Planning Agency (LPA). She stated that they were recommending holding three work sessions following transmittal to them of those documents, and they proposed to get that material to the Board in mid-April of each of those elements along with a cover memo that summarized the pertinent changes to the Comp Plan, the major issues, and the major implementation tasks. She commented that they would get that to the Board at least two weeks prior to the first work session, which they were planning to schedule for the last week of April or the first week of May after they check with the Board office on some available dates in that time frame. They were also planning on having the second work session at the Board’s regular second meeting in May and then schedule an additional special work session later that month, possibly in conjunction with the Budget Workshop. In addition, they were asking for direction regarding public input at one or more of those work sessions, possibly the third one, and in addition, Mr. Charles Gauthier, Director of the Division of Community Planning, Florida Department of Community Affairs, offered to come to Lake County and address the Board regarding the statutory planning requirements for the Comp Plan.
Commr. Hill inquired whether the County received the grant for technical assistance from the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) that Ms. Stricklin had referenced in her March 8 memo.
Ms. Stricklin replied that they had been informed that they would be making a decision in May regarding the award of that grant, and then the technical assistance would occur over the summer.
Commr. Cadwell stated that if the Board was comfortable with the third workshop, to go ahead and plan that as a public input workshop, understanding that the public would still have an opportunity at the public hearings to comment.
PRESENTATION – FIRE MSTU
Ms. Regina Frazier, Budget Director, stated that in December, 2006, Ordinance No. 2006-115 made changes which enabled them to levy an ad valorem tax to help fund fire rescue, and they were directed to bring back some options. She provided for the Board in the backup an example of a very basic example showing the funding of fire rescue at 50 percent at the assessment they currently used and 50 percent through ad valorem, to give them some idea of the impact that it would have. She commented that this could be done in any percentage split. She noted that they were going through the process of hiring a consultant to update the study that was done in 2003, and then they would bring forward more information. She made the recommendation to table any plans to pursue any split using ad valorem revenues due to the uncertainty of this revenue stream.
Commr. Renick stated that the Board decided to look into this to see whether or not it was wise, but even before the talk of what was going to happen with ad valorem taxes, she started to have serious reservations about going down that road.
Commr. Cadwell wanted to clarify whether she just wanted to table it or to reverse the action completely, and noted that it was an Ordinance.
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, stated that they created the Ordinance which would authorize it, but it would take the budgeting process and so forth in order to implement it. He explained that they could go so far as to repeal the Ordinance, but as long as the Board did not include it in their budget, it would not go forward at any time.
On a motion by Commr. Renick, seconded by Commr. Hill and carried unanimously, by a vote of 5-0, the Board moved to table the issue regarding the split funding using Fire MSTU and ad valorem taxes.
PRESENTATION – ALTERNATIVE WATER SUPPLY OPTIONS
Mr. Gregg Welstead, Deputy County Manager, stated that about two months ago they received a presentation by the Water Alliance regarding alternative water supplies and the options available to the municipalities and the County. He noted that Mr. Jerry Salsano was a consultant working for the St. Johns River Water Management District and that he was actively involved in other alternative water supply projects throughout Central Florida.
Mr. Jerry Salsano stated that he was a former utilities director and that he knew about money and the pressures they were facing, and that there were concerns throughout Florida about what was happening in Tallahassee, and he had a great appreciation for that. He stated that he had monetary help for the County that had fiscal year numbers tied to it. He commented that he wanted to impress upon the Board that acting now was in their best interest as far as securing money that otherwise would not be available to them.
He started out by giving background information that reported that the Tri-District Central Florida Coordination Area (CFCA), which included South Lake County, had put a limit on withdrawals from the Florida aquifer after 2013. He stated that even though 2013 was six years away, it took between ten and 13 years to develop one of the big alternative water supply projects, and strongly suggested that the County started now. He commented that using deficit water supplies briefly after 2013 while they were working on other sources was probably permissible, but the District would not be very forgiving in the permitting process if the County was not working on bringing another source on line by that time. He noted that the first step was planning and designing the plan, which he was going to focus on in this presentation. He opined that the solution would probably be to use a river as the first choice of a water source, and he was asking them to start looking hard at their real choices for the water supply plan. He hoped they would have an agreement in place by August to do this cooperatively, and then ultimately they would not have a consultant on board until several months after that, likely in the next fiscal year. He showed a slide focusing on seven utility providers in Lake County that would have a projected deficit in 2025 at greater than .35 million gallons a day.
He commented that there were a lot of places to get water from, but that it would not be cheap. One source was the St. Johns River, which was between State Road 50 and Deland and would offer a little more than 110 million gallons a day of available supply balance after being used by other areas. Another source he mentioned was the Ocklawaha River which would yield 108 million gallons a day. He opined that since it was located in Marion County, one problem with it was that Marion County was developing its own water supply plant and might want to protect this as their own source, but that there was no regulation to preclude anyone from moving that water elsewhere. He commented that the Ocklawaha River was freshwater, which would make it much less expensive to treat than the St. Johns River, which was saltwater. Another potential source he talked about was the Upper Basin, which he did not recommend due to other demands on it from Winter Garden and Apopka and the quality of the water. Mr. Salsano emphasized that the deficit numbers he used were based on the assumption of optimal reuse of wastewater and conservation of existing water supplies. He also noted that the use of seawater as an alternative supply would be twice as expensive because of the treatment and transport issues.
Ms. Salsano opined that this County needed to make an organized plan to design and construct one or more facilities or partner with others to do so. He stated that he had previously discussed three projects in particular for Lake County, which were St. Johns River near DeLand, St. Johns River Yankee Lake Project, and the Lower Ocklawaha River near Silver River, which would have some political challenges associated with that. He commented that with these projects, they could partner with other counties such as Orange and Seminole, which would allow our County to share pipe, treatment capacity, and bonding authority, all of which would reduce Lake County’s costs. He also showed schematics, maps, and charts showing cost estimates as he spoke in detail about each individual project and noted that the cost for each project would be inversely proportional to the number of participants (decrease when the number of participants increases). He noted that the water produced in this manner by any of these options would be at least three to four times more expensive than the current cost.
Mr. Salsano described the preliminary design report and why that was an important step in this process by getting them to the 35 percent design stage, giving them a package, allowing them to go to the permitting agencies, and providing an opportunity to contract for a facility in multiple ways. He stated that their consultant team would answer all their questions for them and ultimately give them a report. He also showed a project overview describing the steps of developing a project, which were to organize, plan, design, and construct, and reiterated that partnering with others would reduce these costs. He explained that the expected outcome would be a PDR (preliminary design report) that identified the best source, places, and sizes for facilities and mains; identified the best treatment options and partner system modifications, if necessary; put the County at about 35 percent design to be ready for permitting; and prioritized project delivery and financing options. At that point, the County would decide who would own and operate it, who would be customers and partners, and how construction would be procured and contracted. He cautioned, however, that identifying partners could be difficult, because some partners might decide to drop out due to costs, which would result in an increased cost, which could cause even more partners to drop out. He mentioned several ways that the County could participate in the planning and PDR process, including as an administrator, developing a procurement package, procuring, refining scope and negotiating cost with the consultant and executing the process.
Mr. Salsano related that the District was willing to contribute 30 percent to the planning of it, less $350,000 (which would be refunded if partnering with another county). Also, he noted that the County would get up to 40 percent of the construction money. He opined that applying for federal funds would be a waste of time and money in the foreseeable future, but that Florida Forever money was available in limited amounts to help to secure land. He presented a graph showing low, expected, and maximum costs for Lake County for planning and PDR costs, with the expected amount at $3.3 million and a graph showing that those costs would be less for Lake County if they partnered with Orange County. He commented that one good thing about this was that all the partners’ shares would be budgeted over three fiscal years, because the process took 30 to 36 months. He also presented a timeline which showed that the total process of an existing project with six willing participants would take ten years.
He brought up the positive and negative aspects of the Yankee Lake site in Marion County, the advantages being that it had a utility with a site ready to go to plan for the County, and that even though it would cost more for engineering, design, and construction, it would cost less money for legal fees and administrative hearings that they might encounter if they went to Ocklawaha, but that they should factor in the potential political ramifications. He recommended partnering with the Villages and other utilities in Marion County so that the project had a benefit for them as well. He suggested that when the County did Phase I of the PDR, that they evaluated the advantages and disadvantages to each site and use the outcome of that to decide the direction of the rest of the decisions. He recommended that the St. Johns River Water Management District be a partner in an Interlocal/Funding Agreement, because they could give them ad valorem to help the County with the planning effort and that embedded in that agreement, would be an encumbrance agreement which would tie up water protection sustainability money. He stressed that it was important to act now because if there was an agreement in place by August 14, 2007 that showed they had a commitment to do this project, they could get some of the Fiscal Year 2007-08 WPSP funds, and that money would essentially be held in escrow encumbered for the County now to be used in 2010 to build a facility. He also commented that once an agreement was in place, they would be eligible for that money for the following years. However, if they did not have an agreement by the deadline, they would be giving up this year’s portion of the money. He also opined that another reason to act quickly was that the County was already five years behind for a ten year project, and that they would get their funds from the District by showing that it was at least a line item in the budget. He stated that they would help the County develop and refine the scope for the project. In addition to that, he explained that the next step for the County would be to draft and execute an agreement, budget the one-third of the funds, and decide who will contract and who will administer it.
Commr. Renick suggested that the Board should devote a whole workshop to this. She wondered what role the Board would play, since they were not a water provider. She also commented that this was all geared toward projected demand, and to control the demand, they could control growth and conserve. She opined that this was a huge issue with a lot of matters to discuss, and she asked the Board to direct staff to have a workshop on this.
Commr. Hill stated that they would need to know what funding sources they could possibly use or not use. She also reiterated the fact that they were not a utility and did not have those funds coming in as other private partners might.
Commr. Stivender wanted to know whether they would be the facilitator, umbrella, or other kind of participant.
Commr. Cadwell stated that it seemed to him that the first thing they would need to do would be to set up a work session on this issue, and before they get to far into it, the Board needed to have a discussion about what their philosophy would be and what the future of the Water Alliance would be. He commented that the Water Alliance was not initially set up to conserve water, but to protect their own ability to pump water, but it had gotten convoluted at different times from what they were supposed to actually be doing. He thought that they could do this quickly, since he did not think there was a lot of background work that staff needed to do to start with, and that he thought April would be a good time to have that work session.
PRESENTATION – STORMWATER ISSUES
Mr. Gregg Welstead, Deputy County Manager, stated that over the course of roughly the last year or so, staff had been concerned about the issue of stormwater in subdivisions. He commented that one large issue was that the County did not have sufficient safeguards in place to protect individuals, the community, the environment, and the County. He specified that the process that they had did not really identify potential problems until too late. He commented that this was a huge issue when it came to people’s personal property. He went on to note that currently the County did not monitor development sufficiently, because they did not have the rules or staff to do so. Some of the subdivisions with stormwater problems that he noted included Oak Hill Estates, the Vistas, Harbor Hills, Magnolia Point, and Emerald Greens. Some of those problems were that properties were eroding into the neighboring properties, retention walls were not put up, a drainage easement over time had been classified by DEP as a wetlands due to not monitoring stormwater, and dirt from construction of pools filling in drainage swales.
Mr. Welstead stated that the County should require a minimal site plan submittal for residential permits, which was the footprint of the house on the property with easements and setbacks, so that there was no real transition from the original drainage to what was actually built on the site. He stated that without that, they ended up enforcing after the fact or during construction based on citizen calls, making compliance difficult and pitting neighbor against neighbor in some cases. He commented that there currently was no follow up on lot grading during construction of residences, pools, and other development.
Ms. Mary Hamilton addressed the Board regarding the problem with the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System), stating that its purpose was to minimize adverse effects of stormwater on land and water resources; improve, restore and maintain the quality of surface waters; and prohibit non-stormwater discharges. She explained that Lake County began their Phase II permitting on September 2004, and that it was a five-year cycle. She also mentioned that we were in year three now, and that the County must apply for renewal in year four. She reported that they had to quantify in that report the dollars that they were spending on stormwater projects and summarize all reportable work and maintenance activities. She stated that they were regulated under their permit for MS4 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System), which included culverts, inlets, storm sewer pipes, channels, swales, canals, stormwater ponds, and any “Municipal” stormwater structure. She went on to explain that the NPDES was the program that the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) used to regulate stormwater discharges, and that the goal of the NPDES Program was to reduce pollutant loadings to receiving water bodies to the maximum extent practical. She emphasized that NPDES was the law, citing the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948, the Clean Water Act of 1972, and the Water Quality Act of 1987, when stormwater rather than wastewater became a concern. She noted that noncompliance could result in fines, starting at $25,000 a day and a year in prison and going up from there, and opined that this was a serious issue.
She commented that the area she was most concerned about was the illicit discharge component, because the County was not currently complying. She showed slides of a list of legal and illicit discharges that were put out by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and things that the DEP had adopted as allowable that the County wanted to incorporate into their ordinance, such as landscaping, air conditioner condensate, and foundation drains. Some potential County activities she named that could result in illicit discharge were vehicle washing, vehicle maintenance, spills, street maintenance, chemical storage, landscaping and grounds keeping, fertilizers, and dirt road construction. She related that FDEP would enforce permit deviation, such as not having a program implemented that was stated in the NPDES permit, and would look at the degree of the potential for environmental harm.
Ms. Hamilton presented the City of Tampa case a couple of years as an example of FDEP enforcement issues. She explained that Tampa had an MPDES permit, and through their routine DEP audit of their system, it was found that there were huge volumes of complaints coming in about construction sites allowing sediments to enter Tampa Bay via canals. Primarily, what those residents were concerned about was that the canals were silting, and they could not get boats out. However, when DEP got those complaints, they were looking at it from the water quality perspective. When they went through Tampa’s program, Tampa claimed that they had interlocal agreements for construction inspections with Hillsborough County that covered them. She related that when DEP looked through those documents, they did not cover them specifically for those items, and the City was found to not have a sufficient construction inspection program in place. They could not come to reasonable terms, so the consent order was entered for five years until 2008. It was negotiated down to $100,000.00 for in-kind projects to mitigate sediment loads, and in addition, they were required to do a stormwater study and implement the top 30 priority projects.
Ms. Hamilton related that when the County went through the tornadoes in February, she got a call from the EPA stating that they would be visiting our County under the guises of educating the County on how EPA enforcement worked. They inspected residential construction at Bella Collina and would be sending a letter to the property owner about nonconformance, copying the County on that, and will be checking to see that the County ensures Bella Collina does what they were supposed to do. She was also concerned that there appeared to be a lot of disconnect between the State and the Federal. She mentioned that the City of Dallas, Texas just went through an EPA audit and that they were looking at a $3.5 million settlement right now, under the guise that they were sued over their stormwater program not having enough staff or money. She wanted to make the Board aware that the EPA was now approaching our County to look at our system.
Mr. Welstead stated that they were already in the process of putting together a presentation, but when Ms. Hamilton came to him with this information, he was concerned. He stated that he would like approval of the Board to change a number of facets to the program that they believe would actually deal with the problems. One change that he recommended was the adoption of an illicit discharge ordinance. He also wanted to make LDR changes regarding construction such as code changes for the construction runoff, possibly looking at silt fencing, and he was concerned that currently no one actually went out to inspect. He recommended survey requirements for multiple vertical control points and commented on submission of documents in pdf electronic format in addition to any other format required. He also wanted to upgrade the plot plan submittal requirements, and wanted the grading plan to be consistent with the construction plan, with an elevation on it. He recognized that on larger lots consisting of several acres, stormwater might not be a concern, but that it could be on lots less than an acre. He wanted changes that made sense and impacted as few people as possible.
He commented that in order to accomplish the changes, the County needed to do inspections, including initially and ongoing during the project construction to make sure it satisfied NPDES requirements. One of the things they considered as they went though this was that in all likelihood, they needed to do an inspection to ensure that a building or house was being put where they thought it was going to be built, and to get elevation of the house where it was supposed to be. He cited examples of owners who wanted their houses higher, so they brought in extra truckloads of dirt and raised it to improve the view, which impacted the whole subdivision. What they were proposing was before the slab was poured, that there was an inspection on that slab to make sure that it complied with the finish floor elevation and to make sure the foundation was where it needed to be. Also, he noted that there should be a final grading inspection prior to issuing a Certificate of Occupancy (CO), and they needed to make sure all the stormwater control measures were in place throughout the whole process. He stated that to make this happen for the NPDES requirements, they would need a minimum of one supervisor/reviewer and two field personnel to inspect every subdivision under construction to make sure that it complied with all the NPDES requirements. Also, for the construction inspections, they thought that four to five people to conduct a minimum of two inspections for each new structure were needed. He opined that these changes were not out of the ordinary and already done by some other areas, but were just different for our County.
Commr. Renick commented that she thought there should be some serious “belt tightening” with funding, but she did not think it should be with staff. She opined that the County did need to put on some extra staff in some of these areas where they were deficient currently and address some of those issues. She related that Clermont went to slab inspections four years ago, because they were having problems with that.
Commr. Cadwell asked that if they moved forward with this today, would they come back with an opinion on whether it should be contracted or in-house.
Mr. Welstead stated that was correct, and that their intent that day was to get direction on whether to proceed down that path or not. He commented that, in any case, they needed to deal with the NPDES issues.
Commr. Stivender commented that the County had a substantial building department with inspectors who went to school to get qualified to do certain things. She opined that with construction slowdowns, it could be monetarily sensible to retrain them to do some of this.
Mr. Welstead commented that could be something to look into and that they wanted to bring back a program that they think would satisfy all their needs.
Commr. Cadwell clarified that they were looking for direction in two areas, the two programs in front of them and the ordinance in regard to the illicit discharges.
On a motion by Commr. Stivender, seconded by Commr. Renick and carried unanimously, by a vote of 5-0, the Board moved to direct staff to move forward with their recommendations to look into creating a stormwater monitoring, inspection, and enforcement program and an Illicit Discharge Ordinance.
PRESENTATION - LOBBYING ACTIVITIES ORDINANCE
Mr. Sandy Minkoff, County Attorney, reported that about one-third of Florida counties had local lobbying and registration ordinances, and that he had provided the Board with examples of some of them in the back up materials. He stated that if the Board was interested in going forward with this, there were a couple of decisions that he needed some direction on, specifically whether the ordinance would state that lobbyists would have to register to speak to every County employee, to the Commissioners or to Commissioners and key employees, so he needed some direction on how extensive they wanted to do it. He explained that the only other real difference in the ordinances that were in the back up was that some of them require an annual filing by a lobbyist, showing monies that they spent for the purposes of lobbying. He noted that it was different than the state requirement to show how much money they charged for lobbying, but these were just expenditures that they made essentially for lobbying, which could be gifts that were made or whatever it might be.
Commr. Cadwell clarified that the Board needed to decide whether to leave the policy the way they had it or if they wanted to go to the next step.
Commr. Renick stated that there could be a sign up sheet for a person being paid to come in to talk to a Commissioner to sign in and state what they were planning on talking about, and it would not have to be responsibility of staff to keep track of it. She commented that any member of the public could check this notebook, which would put on the radar that one of those issues was coming up. She did not think it would have to be too complicated.
Mr. Minkoff clarified that the definition of a lobbyist only applied to people that were paid to represent someone else, either on a contract basis like a lawyer or an employee of a company whose job it was to lobby. He commented that a general citizen that was coming in to see a Commissioner that was not getting paid would not be subject to this type of ordinance. He also noted that if the Board wanted to do the registration and the notification only, then they would not have to include the expenditure report. He asked the Board if they wanted this to extend beyond the Commission to County employees or department heads.
Mr. Barnett Schwartzman, Procurement Services Director, commented that they should be very careful about this, because there were sales representatives for companies who just went about their normal course of business, but he was concerned more than anything else about someone who was actually a third-party being paid to exert influence to make decisions. If someone was representing their own product and services, he would not want to make that normal course of business difficult.
Mr. Minkoff explained that usually they would exempt employees of a company, unless their principal job was public relations or lobbying.
Commr. Cadwell asked Mr. Minkoff how they would notify people so that they did not inadvertently break the law.
Mr. Minkoff stated that if the Board implemented this, they would come up with some kind of signage and standardization throughout the County so that it all looked the same. He mentioned that some of the other counties featured it pretty well on their web site and that we would have to do some notification as well.
Commr. Cadwell suggested that they started out with the ordinance covering the Commissioners and then see how that worked, and that they could readdress the issue later if there was a problem. He asked Mr. Minkoff what would happen if the lobbyists did not sign in.
Mr. Minkoff responded that the ordinances usually had escalating levels of penalties for noncompliance ranging from a warning in the beginning, to prohibition of future lobbying and possibly fines. He also specified that if a lobbyist was banned for lobbying for failing to comply and then did it again, it would become a second degree misdemeanor. He noted that most of the ordinances required the lobbyists to send in an annual registration form stating that they intended to lobby and containing a list of clients.
Commr. Renick commented that the public wanted to know who was talking to the Commissioners and about what.
Mr. Minkoff clarified that the Commissioners wanted a sign in sheet, for it to apply to Commissioners only, and with escalating punishments for noncompliance.
PRESENTATION – HEAVY INDUSTRY CODE ISSUES
Ms. Carol Stricklin, Growth Management Director, addressed the Board regarding some of the Code complaints they were getting related to heavy industrial uses and reported that over the last year or so, they had been experiencing increased volume of those complaints due to a number of factors. She specified that one of those factors was urbanization resulting in residents moving near industrial uses, such as when residential develops next to what used to be an isolated concrete facility, which causes incompatibility. She also thought other factors were that people’s expectations had changed as to what they were willing to tolerate in terms of impacts and that people were becoming more aware that these issues could be reported to Code Enforcement.
She related that they were proposing to look at that problem in two ways. She commented that existing facilities that have been there for a number of years were built at a time when the County’s Codes were different, and they were trying to deal with the impacts of those uses in terms of noise, dust, odor, and vibrations through Code Enforcement with the proper tools. She explained that they currently referred the air quality and dust complaints to the DEP, and they had a good relationship with them and communicated with them frequently, but they would like to look at whether they could also be addressing those impacts through the County’s local regulations. Noises and vibrations were also an area where she noted that they were receiving a significant number of complaints and had not been successful in all cases in addressing those complaints to the satisfaction of the complainants. She requested direction from the Board to go ahead and look at how to deal with those specific impacts of industrial uses from existing businesses.
Commr. Cadwell commented that there were a few businesses such as Dura-Stress that were there long before anything else was, and he thought they should try to separate those out to some extent or at least make sure they thought about them during this process when they looked into new rules and regulations.
Ms. Stricklin commented that was the direction that they were seeking from the Board, because Dura-Stress was one of the businesses for which they had received a number of complaints, and they were trying to respond to those through Code Enforcement.
Commr. Cadwell noted that in the past when they had gotten complaints out there, they would contact Dura-Stress and talk to them, and they would try to rectify it. He pointed out that they did not deal with it through any particular rule the County had, but just trying to get them to be a better neighbor.
Ms. Stricklin stated that Code Enforcement did try to rectify the situation, but when it came to a situation where a business was having these impacts and was not willing to voluntarily comply, she wanted to know whether the County wanted to look at its regulations and enforcement mechanisms, and that was the direction they were seeking.
Commr. Renick commented that even though they were planning to do all the LDR’s and code changes together at one time, that this was one of those things that they needed to deal with as quickly as possible to avoid a situation like the one that occurred with Prestige. She opined that even a business that was out in the middle of nowhere should have some regulations in place to deal with noise and dust, and that maybe the County did not pay attention to it when there was no one near them to harm, but that they would need to look closely at businesses that had been established for a long time to make sure they were following whatever rules were in place now.
Commr. Stivender commented that those businesses were following the rules when they went in 40 or 50 years ago, but that things had changed.
On a motion by Commr. Renick, seconded by Commr. Stewart and carried unanimously, by a vote of 5-0, the Board moved to direct staff to look again into an ordinance covering heavy industrial uses.
Ms. Cindy Hall, County Manager, stated that the impact fee coordinator that had been with the County for a number of years had left for another job, and that the County was actively looking for a replacement for the person, but that they were changing the function and relocating that to the Growth Management Department, since they worked more heavily with Growth Management. She explained that in the meantime as they went through changes with the impact fees, they had a team set up which included her office, the Budget office, the County Attorney’s Office, and Growth Management.
There being no further business to be brought to the attention of the Board, the meeting was adjourned at 12:25 p.m.
WELTON CADWELL, CHAIRMAN
JAMES C. WATKINS, CLERK