Martin County Commissioner Sarah Heard provides highlights of August 22 BCC meeting


Martin County Commissioner Sarah Heard (Source:

On August 22,2017, the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) voted 3 to 2 to adopt Comprehensive Plan Amendment 17-10, Sanitary Sewer Element.  Smith, Ciampi, and Jenkins voted to approve.  Fielding and Heard opposed.  The amendment increases the sizes of septic tanks outside the Urban Service District and extends water and sewer lines to customers outside the Urban Service District.

Martin County has, generally, limited its septic systems to 2000 gallon per day flows, although the state standard is 10,000 gpd.  One 2000 gpd system would provide for 40 people in one residence.  This amendment increases the allowable septic size from 2000 gpd to 5000 gpd.

Bigger systems create the potential for bigger problems.  We have had stricter standards than the maximums allowed by the state in order to protect our water resources.

The new standards for large septic systems outside the USD may be waived by the majority BCC.  In order to obtain a waiver of the 2000 gpd limit, an applicant must make an application to the county and explain why a larger system is needed.  The BCC will have the ability to determine if the larger systems will protect wetlands, wellfields, drainage facilities to the maximum extent practicable.  The BCC may prescribe any appropriate maintenance conditions.

The Department of Health will determine site buildout.  They call each site an establishment.  Per state law, multiple septic systems may exist at one establishment.

There are no minimum lot sizes.

There are no objective criteria for granting a waiver.

Sanitary Sewer Services are, by Comprehensive Plan policies, prohibited outside the USD.  We have an USD in order to protect our taxpayers from costly urban sprawl.  Urban services like water and sewer are extremely expensive to provide.  So, we limit their provision to property owners inside the USD, where lot sizes are considerably smaller.  For example, in a typical urban layout, if 1000 feet of water line are run, we would gain 30 or 40 new households, increasing customers and spreading out the cost of the improvement.  Outside the USD, where lots range in size from 20 acres to thousands of acres, the extension of water and sewer lines is simply cost prohibitive.  Plus, we have always, by policy, protected our valuable bonafide agriculture.

By adopting this new amendment, the BCC majority agreed to extend sewer services outside the USD on a case by case basis.

Six new locations were selected for addition at the August 22 meeting.  They include:

  • Seven Js Industrial Subdivision, which contains 64 lots
  • The county landfill
  • The Sheriff’s shooting range, next to the landfill
  • 5 five acre lots in the Canopy Creek subdivision
  • 4 lots in a subdivision at the southernmost border of the county on SE Island Way
  • Martingale Commons, a commercial subdivision on the southeastern corner of County Road 714 and I-95.

Again, there are no objective criteria that must be met in order to receive approval to violate long-standing prohibition against extending water and/ or sewer outside the USD.

Waivers and/ or exceptions are not discouraged or prohibited by policy anywhere in the county.

Water and sewer supply plans are formulated by analyzing future land use and zoning maps.  None of these proposed new uses was analyzed because the Comp plan prohibited their extensions.  So, all of our sewer plant capacity for the future has been calculated only for USD customers.

A 2014 analysis of regional water and sewer facilities concluded that, given the need for significant investment in regional water and wastewater services with Martin County’s  Primary Urban Service District, it is logical to prohibit the extension of such services outside of the PUSD until the needs within the PUSD are fully met.  This analysis was not included as part of the required data and analysis for this amendment.

Additionally, on August 22 , the BCC voted to approve by a 4 to 1 vote the firefighters contract for fiscal year 2018 through 2020.  Heard dissented.

Staff estimates that the new contract will cost an additional $1.2 million in salaries in the first year and an additional $1.7 in the second year.

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