Environmental & Natural Resources

Environement & Natural Resources October Update

Natural Resources Update 10/20/18

Waterfront Setbacks and Buffers – What Happens Next?

Following is information from our County Growth Management Director Mark Green, P.E., in response to our discussion with him at the Citrus County Council Government Affairs Committee Meeting on July 23, 2018. The topic was the outcome of the recent ordinance application OA-18-02 at the BOCC meeting on June 12, 2018. We requested the information to clear up some of the confusion regarding waterfront setbacks and buffers. It delineates the county’s position.

The Item on the Agenda was: T.1. 5:01 PM Public Hearing: OA-18-02 Land Development Division – Multiple Sections – Waterfront Setbacks and Small/Large Non-Residential Additional Design standards. After public input and BOCC discussion, a motion was made and passed to bring the setbacks and the retrofit back at a later date and approve the rest of the ordinance as presented. Ordinance Number 2018-A09 was adopted unanimously. See Minutes Packet for 6/12/18 BOCC Meeting. Strike-through draft ordinance: pages 846-873. Planning and Development Commission Meeting minutes of their 5/3/18 meeting on OA-18-02 is in Minutes Packet for 6/12/18 BOCC meeting, pages 837-845.

http://citruscountyfl.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=12&ID=1789&Inline=True


When the draft of the rewritten Chapter 6 of the Land Development Code (in progress) is ready, the Citrus County Council would like a copy from the County to share with its members, other environmental groups, and others. Ordinance on Waterfront Setbacks with Inspections is listed on the 10/9/18 BOCC Agenda Item F. Outstanding Commission Items, as No. 10, with anticipated completion date of 11/13/18 on the 10/9/18 BOCC Agenda.

http://citruscountyfl.iqm2.com/Citizens/FileOpen.aspx?Type=1&ID=1821&Inline=True

Watch for this information in November.


LAND DEVELOPMENT CODE

https://www.citrusbocc.com/plandev/landdev/ldc/ldc.htm

Information from Citrus County Growth Management Director requested at Citrus County Council Government Affairs meeting 7/23/18

June 12, 2018 BOCC meeting OA-18-02 results

Summary: The current land development code has 4 chapters that have some relation to setback and water quality.  These include chapters 2, 3, 6, and 10. The ordinance proposed attempted to “clean-up” the code by separating the “setback” requirements into chapter 2 under section 2300, Building Setback Requirements and moving Section 3501, Surface Water Protection Standards into Chapter 6, section 6320 Stormwater Drainage System Design Requirements.  The intent was to keep the normal planning items with planning sections of the code (Chapter 2) and the engineering items within the engineering section of the code (Chapter 6).

The areas that the ordinance addressed specifically included; waterfront setbacks, buffers, and replacement structures.

 

Additional Information from Citrus County Growth Management Director:

Chapter 6 of the Land Development Code is focused on stormwater and is primarily an engineering document.  As such, Public Works is currently rewriting this chapter with hopes to have complete sometime in November.  This draft may go back to the BOCC as an informational item.  The consultant engineers that use this chapter for requirements for submissions will want to review in depth prior to the Planning Commission and BOCC formal meetings.  As such, once the draft is complete to include the water quality items it will be sent out to various firms and groups for input.  More than likely this process could take 3+ months so I would anticipate sometime next spring that an actual ordinance for the changes would occur.

Unless the changes are different from the Comprehensive Plan, it would require two hearings, one at the PDC and then the BOCC.  These will be noticed well ahead of time.

 

Important Information on proposed changes to waterfront setbacks, buffers, and stormwater treatment: Our Citrus County Growth Management Director has written a Memo, re: OA-18-02 Stormwater Summary, in question-and-answer format explaining the County’s position on waterfront setbacks, buffers, and stormwater treatment:



June 12, 2018 BOCC meeting OA-18-02 results

Summary: The current land development code has 4 chapters that have some relation to setback and water quality.  These include chapters 2, 3, 6, and 10. The ordinance proposed attempted to “clean-up” the code by separating the “setback” requirements into chapter 2 under section 2300, Building Setback Requirements and moving Section 3501, Surface Water Protection Standards into Chapter 6, section 6320 Stormwater Drainage System Design Requirements.  The intent was to keep the normal planning items with planning sections of the code (Chapter 2) and the engineering items within the engineering section of the code (Chapter 6).

The areas that the ordinance addressed specifically included; waterfront setbacks, buffers, and replacement structures.  Within the body of this memorandum, I will attempt to clarify each area by a question and answer format.

Discussion:

Question:  What prompted Citrus County to look at changing the current standards relating to setbacks?

Answer:  When I came onboard as the Director of Growth Management one of my initial tasks was to perform a complete review of the Land Development Code.  In order to be successful I felt it important to meet with each of the Commissioners to gain an understanding of the issues. These issues were part of a workshop held on July 11, 2017 and included the “Top Ten” issues discussed during those meetings.  Because of the variety of topics, I was directed to conduct a series of workshops to review the specific code sections as well as develop recommended changes. 3 of the Top 10 related to water; specifically stormwater, waterfront and property setbacks, and impervious surface ratios.  This series of workshops concluded with a wrap-up on May 8, 2018.

Question: Is Citrus County proposing to change water quality standards?

Answer: Maybe increasing water quality standards.  The current water quality standards apply to our Coastal/Lakes regions for new vacant parcels.  These standards are 0.5 inches of rainfall over the developed area and increase to 0.75 inches of rainfall over the developed area for those parcels that drain into an outstanding Florida waterbody such as a spring.  These standards currently do not apply to redevelopment of parcels however; the BOCC has provided direction to include redevelopment in the future ordinance draft.

Question: Are Buffers and Setbacks the same thing?

Answer:  Not really.  These terms have been used interchangeably and I believe this has added to some of the confusion.  Buffers are typically required to protect more sensitive areas such as wetlands and springs. Their primary purpose is to ensure that the biological and wildlife species habitat remains protected however these systems do provide some filtration and absorption of runoff.  Our current code, section 3501, requires that wetlands have a minimum 15’ buffer and springs have a minimum 100’ buffer. The proposed ordinance deleted this section and placed an updated standard in section 6320 that matched the Southwest Florida Water Management District (SWFWMD) buffer requirements.  These standards increase the wetland buffer to 25’ but also reduced the spring buffer to the same 25’. It is understandable that these are the same since it is often hard to determine exact locations of springs. The jurisdictional wetland line however is easier to validate and a practice that environmental firms and the District perform routinely.  Since it can be confusing to the homeowner when different local and state standards exist we recommended that SWFWMD’s standard be adopted to avoid any confusion.

For the second part of the question, the purpose of setbacks is aesthetics and primarily used within the built environment, i.e where houses and lots already exist or are planned.  Setbacks are more typical in neighborhood settings found in subdivisions and are used to define the “fit and feel” of a community. This is done by requiring separation distances or “setbacks” for homes from adjacent roads, neighbors, and waterfronts.

Question:  Is Citrus County proposing to change waterfront setbacks from 50’ to 15’?

Answer: Two part, Part One: No, unless certain conditions are met.  The current code requires a waterfront setback of 50’ that can be reduced to 35’ if a berm and swale are included.  The proposed ordinance established the setback at 35’ unless certain conditions are met which will be explained. Since section 6 of the code requires water quality treatment regardless of the setback distance, the majority of waterfront plans include a berm and swale.  This constructed swale is placed between the home and waterbody and allows a setback of 35’. Given this reality, the majority of the new waterfront homes are actually setback at 35’ vice the 50’. The proposed ordinance deleted the berm and swale requirement, established the setback line at 35’, and allowed the Land Division Director flexibility given certain situations.

Answer Part Two:  There are conditions the homeowner must meet to build up to 15’ from the water.  Currently if a homeowner wants to construct closer to the waterbody than the code allows, they must submit a variance request to the Planning and Development Commission (PDC).  Shown during the November 30, 2017 LDC workshop the total number of variance requests from 2014 to 2017 was 106 of which 50% or 53 were for waterfront setbacks. 80% of these variances were approved by the PDC.  The primary reason for the variance request and corresponding approval was that the neighborhood the new home was proposed had other homes closer to the waterfront than the 35’. Since the variance process requires PDC member time as well as significant staff effort we included in the proposed ordinance a process for the Land Development Division (LDD) Director to approve decreased setbacks administratively.  This administrative approval requires two “tests”. Test 1 looked at the adjacent neighbors setbacks from the waterfront. Test 2 looked at the 4 closest and similar uses, i.e. 4 houses in the neighborhood and calculated an average setback. Here is an example.

A new house is proposed in an existing neighborhood along the water.  The neighbor on the right side has a waterfront setback of 26’ and the neighbor on the left side has a waterfront setback of 16’.  Test 1 would allow the furthest of the neighbors setbacks so the new home can build 26’ from the water pending the results of Test 2.

Test 2 looks at the 4 closest homes waterfront setbacks.  2 of these are the neighbors at 26’ and 16’. The next 2 closest are 34’ and 32’.  The average of the 4 closest is (26+16+34+32)/4 or 27’.

The results from test 1 and test 2 are compared and again the furthest result is the one administratively allowed.  In this example the LDD Director could approve a 27’ setback.

The last item on the proposed ordinance for setbacks was to allow ancillary ground level structures to be setback 15’ from the waterfront.  Since setbacks are for aesthetics, those items that do not block the views of adjacent neighbors would be allowed as described.

Question:  Explain how water quality or runoff treatment is related to setbacks.

Answer:  I believe I have stated many times that setbacks and water quality are not the same.  The basis for this statement is primarily driven by two well accepted strategies on treating stormwater runoff generated from the impervious surfaces of homes such as roofs, driveways, and decks.  The two strategies are:

1)  Treat stormwater as close to its’ source as possible.  So for roof runoff it would be more desirable to catch and treat the runoff as it leaves the downspout or eave.

2)  Treat stormwater as far away from the waterbody as possible.  By capturing and treating runoff as far away as possible you ensure a longer flowpath for the runoff prior to discharge into the waterbody.  This flowpath length provides additional time for the runoff to soak into the ground as well as filter through grass and landscape.

The proposed ordinance deleted the berm and swale primarily to allow creative design and methods on capturing and treating stormwater runoff.  There are many other techniques that can be constructed at the source as well as part of the landscape for the home that once installed are more likely to be maintained by the owner.  Maintenance of constructed stormwater management features was a great concern for both the BOCC and the public. Another concern of using the berm and swale is it concentrates all the polluted runoff in a single location.  By concentrating all the runoff into a single location, it has been determined that this can provide a higher nutrient load and is sometimes characterized as a “point source” into the aquifer or adjacent water body.

Question:  Do you believe water quality science is changing?

Answer:  I believe that technology to address water quality concerns continues to evolve.  While Superintendent of Water Pollution Control, City of Topeka managing the wastewater and stormwater utilities we had several innovative projects to improve the wastewater discharge and stormwater runoff.  One example was a new ultraviolet disinfection unit at the main plant that replaced chlorination – both safer and higher level treatment. We implemented “biofilters” for odor control replacing chemical additions; piping has changed from clay, asphalt, to pvc and fiberglass.  During my tenure in Topeka, I founded a partnership known as “Green Topeka” that used natural systems to treat stormwater runoff. Some main players in the partnership included the USDA National Agroforestry Center, Kansas State University, Kansas Forest Service, Kansas Water Office, and Kansas Department of Health and Environment.  Some signature projects included a bioretention cell system in downtown on Jackson Street adjacent to the Capital, 3-cell wetland system to capture runoff prior to discharge into the Kansas River, and a stream buffers ordinance to minimize impacts of new developments as farmland converted. Other technologies that continue which should have positive outcomes for Florida include desalination water plants, treatment of wastewater to drinking water standards, pipe to pipe, and the recent onsite waste disposal system enhancements.  Majority of these science based technology changes followed regulations such as 1972 Clean Water Act for “point sources” and 1987 Section 319 Clean Water Act for “non-point sources, i.e stormwater”. As water is a finite resource, I anticipate science and technology will continue to change to address both quantity and quality of water resources.



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