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Dade City rejects watering rules

The City Commission refuses tighter controls for a second time, but Swiftmud makes it a symbolic gesture.

By CHASE SQUIRES

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 26, 2000


DADE CITY -- For the second time this spring, the Dade City Commission on Tuesday considered tightening water restrictions. And for the second time, the commission decided against new limits.

But the commission's decision will remain symbolic, as the Southwest Florida Water Management District announced a water shortage emergency late Tuesday that supersedes municipal rules.

Despite the commission's decision to allow residents of Dade City to water lawns two times a week, the water management district, commonly referred to as Swiftmud, will limit watering to once a week, identical to rules already in place in unincorporated Pasco County and many area cities, including Zephyrhills.

Outgoing Commissioner Gregg Lynch, serving at his last meeting Tuesday, asked commissioners to reconsider their vote of March 28, when Commissioners Scott Black, Eunice Penix and Bill Dennis voted against reducing watering days.

Lynch and Mayor Charles McIntosh had both supported new watering limits at that meeting but were outvoted 3-2.

Citing confusion that could be caused by new restrictions, Black again on Tuesday argued against reducing watering days and said the city needed to educate residents and enforce existing restrictions.

"I think the attitude of the City Commission filters down to the staff and the city as a whole. ... I think we made a big mistake," Lynch said.

Under the city's rules, Lynch was not allowed to make a new motion Tuesday, since he was on the losing end of the debate last time. None of the three who voted against enacting stiffer regulations stepped up to make a new motion.

But the will of the majority became moot with Swiftmud's surprise announcement.

"Hydrologic conditions districtwide have continued to deteriorate. The National Drought Mitigation Center indicates the entire district is in a drought," the emergency notice reads.

According to Swiftmud, lake levels throughout the area are below their normal yearly lows, levels traditionally not reached until June. Seventy-five key lakes in the district are below drought year lows, and 15 of 29 key groundwater monitoring wells are at or below record low levels for the month of April, with six at all-time lows.

The emergency rules limit lawn watering to one day per week throughout the district, in incorporated cities and the unincorporated county land. Residents with even addresses may water on Tuesdays, and odd-numbered addresses may water on Sundays. Watering is allowed between midnight and 10 a.m. and from 4 p.m. to midnight.

In other business Tuesday:

Commissioners unanimously scrapped new regulations of travel trailers and trailer parks proposed by the city's staff. The new rules would have restricted what owners could add to trailers parked long-term at recreational vehicle parks.

Commissioners found the rules would unfairly limit local businesses, while parks in the county and other cities could operate with fewer restrictions.

And commissioners said goodbye to McIntosh, serving at his last full meeting as mayor. He did not run for re-election this year and hands over the gavel next month to a new commission, which will select its own mayor.

"I enjoyed it," said the 81-year-old mayor. "I consider it truly a privilege to have served this city."

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