County drainage rules don't extend far enough
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 2, 2002
The Miller family has mixed feelings about having its name affixed to a county ordinance. At least the one governing stormwater drainage.
In April 1998, Pasco County commissioners approved a plan intended to make builders more accountable for drainage work. At the time, some commissioners referred to it as the Miller ordinance after Cindy and Steve Miller of the River Crossing subdivision in west Pasco.
Unusually heavy rains in 1997 exposed improper grading at the then-10-year-old home the Millers had purchased that fall. It took 40 truckloads of fill dirt, new grading and civil litigation against the previous owner to correct the inadequate drainage that brought thigh-high water into their back yard.
At the time, Cindy Miller said she was appreciative of the county's efforts, but she wasn't enamored with the ordinance. Her thoughts haven't changed much
"The fight was worth it for us, because our problem is totally corrected, but the county has not done as much as it should," Miller said last week.
Her description is proving to be accurate. The ordinance is weak.
At a recent County Commission meeting, Pat Mulieri voiced concern about flooding problems in central Pasco neighborhoods off Collier Parkway and off County Line Road. The suspected cause is improper grading of individual lots.
The 1998 county rules stopped short of hiring county inspectors to ensure builders grade property in accordance with lot-by-lot drainage plans submitted by developers. Instead, builders submit an independent grading surveys and an affidavit that the grading meets the developer's previously filed drainage requirements. Punitive action can include county revocation of a builder's license if the information proves false.
Obviously, this paper check isn't working if improper grading continues. The next step, said County Administrator John Gallagher, is hiring the inspectors.
"We shouldn't have to expend more county funds," protested Mulieri.
The commission doesn't have to. If the county has to confirm the accuracy of additional work in the building process, then the cost should be passed through. A limited building fee increase to finance hiring inspectors to verify accurate grading is not unreasonable. It protects consumers, property values and the county tax base.
In 1998, the county backed away from the idea of hiring those inspectors after the Building Industry Association of Pasco County protested the expense. But some of the other arguments they offered were plain subterfuge. For instance, builders suggested the county should avoid inspection responsibility or else face liability exposure from homeowners. Their own exposure was of no apparent concern.
The county shouldn't accept such malarkey again. If old problems continue to cause new flooding, then the county should take on that inspection responsibility.
Taking the word of builders shouldn't leave people all wet.
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