BRYCE ON PINELLAS COUNTY
As Pinellas residents, we are fairly cognizant of the importance of managing water, be it from the Gulf, our aquifer, reclaimed, or from the skies. Storm water is of particular concern to us as we often experience torrential downpours or the occasional hurricane. Over the years we have developed rules and regulations to control flooding, such as the need for retention ponds and finding ways to dispose of excess water to the Gulf. This has greatly reduced flash flooding in Pinellas, but not all of our county was developed according to the rules, particularly older sections where flash flooding is still a serious threat to many communities.
The management of storm water falls under the jurisdiction of the Pinellas County Public Works, specifically the department of Engineering & Environmental Services (E&ES). In addition to drainage, they are also concerned with the improvement of water quality through the reduction of pollutants to downstream receiving waters. The clean up of our lakes and ponds are driven in accordance with EPA regulations which can be a costly proposition.
I recently met with County Commissioner Susan Latvala who is not only concerned about controlling flooding, but how we are to pay for it. According to Latvala, a Surface Water Assessment is going into effect October 1st which taxpayers will find in their Real Estate taxes and based on their impervious surface square footage. According to the County’s website, impervious surface refers to a “hard surface that does not absorb water, like parking lots and buildings. Impervious areas increase the amount of storm water runoff, which is the cause of much of our flooding and pollution problems.”
The County Commissioners anticipate this will generate $16.2 Million in FY14 to pay for storm water management and cleaning up our lakes and ponds (with a little bit coming from “Pennies for Pinellas”).
To calculate the square footage, the county will make use of records from the Property Appraiser’s Office, along with aerial photography. However, homeowners may question how their assessment is calculated and request an adjustment if they believe it is incorrect. To do so, they must submit requests by October 10th.
Applicants will be considered on a case-by-case basis and, according to the county’s instructions, “The applicant will need to demonstrate any unique features on their property to reduce the storm water impact to the County’s system either with a licensed engineer, or provide as-built plans, surveys or other supporting documentation.” Depending on how much the homeowner is assessed, it may very well be worthwhile to do so.
The “Pinellas County Surface Water Utility Adjustments and Credits Policies and Procedures Manual,” which explains how to apply for an adjustment.
Taxpayers may not be happy with the bump in their taxes, but as Latvala points out, “This is something we should have done forty years ago as flooding and water quality is a very serious problem in our county.”
Personally, I remember the building codes back in the 1980′s when we constructed our first office. This resulted in retention ponds on our property which saved us on more than one occasion. As a past president of a homeowners association in Palm Harbor, I am also very familiar with how flood waters are to be removed, involving some rather clever Civil Engineering. It is no small task, but I greatly appreciate the need for it.
In the 28 years I’ve lived here, there has been a lot of progress made in managing storm water. The fact remains though, we still have a way to go until we get all of Pinellas under control.
Keep the Faith!
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Copyright © 2013 by Tim Bryce. All rights reserved.