Their houses unwisely built in a drain-less tub, residents of Marineland Acres in the Hammock have been contending with flooded lots and streets for years. The county has been looking for a solution for almost as long. On Monday, the county administration unveiled a five-year, $8.8-million plan that would substantially—but not entirely—reduce flooding during major rain events. But to be successful, the Legislature, county coffers and possibly other agencies will have to contribute some of the money.
So will residents of Marineland Acres, who could see a new “assessment” of up to $680 a year—or more than five times the $11 monthly stormwater fee Palm Coast residents pay—added to their tax bills for the next 20 years. Those costs represent an amortized cost of construction over 20 years, with 6 percent interest built in. They also are the net cost to residents, with the county and other funding sources picking up 46 percent of the total cost. The surtax would fall to $130 a year after that, in current dollars. Undeveloped lots in the district would see an annual assessment (or a surtax) of $250 in early years, rising to $400 in subsequent years.
The plan also means that swales and inlets would be built along residential roads. Roads would be paved in the latter part of this decade to qualify for some $5.1 million in road funding and reduce silting and maintenance burdens on the drainage system, and a sizeable treatment pond would be built between Sea Colony and the Marineland Acres developments.
“There will be people who are opposed to that, but without paving, we now have to almost double, more than double, we’ll have to one-and-a-half times the assessment,” County Manager Craig Coffey said.
Coffey unveiled the plan to the Flagler County Commission in a workshop this afternoon. “My ultimate goal was to provide some flood relief, and that’s the goal that you’ve tasked me with, that’s what we’ve tasked Faith and our consultants with,” Coffey said, referring to Faith al-Khatib, the county’s chief engineer—“and that’s what we’re trying to do, is figure out how to piece together the money to make this a reality.”
At a meeting later in the evening, the county commission voted unanimously to approve creating two special taxing districts, formalizing the financial end of the plan. One of the taxing districts is for Phase 1 of the project, with a surtax of $30 a year, the second for Phase 2 and 3 of the project, with the larger surtax.
The plan rests on a “backbone” drainage system that would dump stormwater into the Intracoastal by way of a treatment pond and 60-inch pipes that would run west south and west and under State Road A1A. Sea Colony would also benefit from the plan, but whereas its drainage system currently drains south, it would be rerouted to drain north, into that same treatment pond. As engineers see it, the drainage system would reduce flooding by up to 11 inches 36 hours after a major storm.
Currently in Marineland Acres, water sits in the street and in yards, undrained, waiting to evaporate or slowly seep into the ground, because it has nowhere else to go. Residential blocks west of Central Avenue and from Oceanside Drive to the north, to Bay Drive to the south, are especially hard hit. The new system would reduce standing water considerably, and almost entirely for lots east of Central Avenue, but not completely, because some lots west of Central Avenue were built too low.
But the ambitious plan still relies on the county successfully securing millions of dollars from state or federal sources. This year, the county is requesting $2 million from the Legislature—a tall order, now that John Thrasher, who represented Flagler and had risen to commanding positions in the Senate, resigned to become president of Florida State University. Travis Hutson, the House member widely expected to win a special election in April and fill Thrasher’s seat, will likely not have the seniority or experience in the Senate to channel funds to Flagler just yet.
The county is also hoping to secure some dollars from the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Locally, Coffey said gas-tax dollars, impact fees and capital improvement dollars, plus almost $1 million from the close-out funds of a Development of Regional Impact fund, may be cobbled together to provide an offset. But it’ll be up to the commissioners to figure out how to put that money together. This year, Marineland Acres has Commission Chairman Frank Meeker, who represents the district, as its main advocate. Meeker has pledged to resolve the drainage issue on his watch. The matter has bedeviled commissioners for decades.
The commission heard a presentation from the administrator and the county consultant in what proved to be a hurried workshop Monday afternoon. The workshop had to end ahead of one of the commission’s two monthly meetings. Only one person addressed the commission during the workshop, welcoming the plan, including paving if necessary.
The commission then heard an abbreviated version of the plan during its subsequent meeting, just before voting to approve the taxing districts. No one addressed the commission. But the plan had been little advertised.
The administrator noted that the dollar figures presented today are preliminary and may be refined in coming months, should commissioners indicate that they want to proceed along the lines of the plan presented today.
“This is the solution out of the multiple options we’ve looked at,” Coffey said.
Commissioner Barbara Revels wanted to make sure that “we’re not overselling the product,” she said. “My understanding is this isn’t a total solution,” though it will make a “dramatic difference.” Coffey–and the consultants’ documents–did not contradict Revels’s conclusion.
The North Malacompra Stormwater District, created for Phase 1 of the plan (the “backbone”), is bordered to the west by North Oceanshore Boulevard, or State Road A1A, to the south by Malacompra Road, to the east by the Atlantic, and to the north by Oceanside Drive.
The larger Marineland Acres Stormwater District, which would account for Phases 2 and 3, is bordered to the west by A1A, to the south by Bay Drive, to the east by the Atlantic, and to the north by Oceanside Drive.