Commissioners seek review of drainage rules

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Relief couldn’t come soon enough for one homeowner

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  • Rain often results in a back yard flooded ankle-deep on Raymond Hines’ property in the Amelia Walk subdivision, making the area unusable. RAYMOND HINES/NEWS-LEADER
    Rain often results in a back yard flooded ankle-deep on Raymond Hines’ property in the Amelia Walk subdivision, making the area unusable. RAYMOND HINES/NEWS-LEADER
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At a special meeting of the Nassau County Board of County Commissioners held earlier this month, Commissioner Pat Edwards spoke about his concern for the way the county reviews and handles drainage. Edwards said he’s had ongoing conversations with County Engineer Robert Companion, County Attorney Michael Mullin, and County Manager Taco Pope about the issue.

“Right now the subdivisions … meet a St. Johns (River Water Management District) code, which does not in my opinion – and I’ve got some agreement – that it does not take into its plan,” Edwards said at the Oct. 14 meeting. “Take Clements Road (in Nassauville), for example. What happens to the developments around those areas that have been built years ago at standard land levels before we had to start raising them? I believe we have to review our drainage standards and the ordinance providing that and see if we can’t come up with a way to envision what is going to happen in the future.

“My concern is that this is going to happen throughout the county and these areas are raised and the water where it used to meander through the pine flats (now) comes out at a great speed and a large quantity. The wetlands were not built by God to do that. They are normally handling that drainage as it slowly meanders, and now, we are getting more and more of it.”

Edwards called on Companion to comment.

“What we generally do right now – the way the code is set up – is you look at pre-development where the rain falls. Where does it go and what is the flow level? So, that is called ‘pre’ and then we look at ‘post,’” Companion explained. “When the rain falls again at the site, does the rain go to the same place or does it discharge near to the same outfall, which would be a wetland or some other system, and is that flow relatively the same? The issue is you get into (is) the duration.

“What I think we should do, based on our conversations – I’ve been thinking about this – is looking into our ordinance to make it a little bit more robust. After it gets to that discharge, that wetlands system, what is the condition of that wetland system and what is its ability to handle that additional flow? So, a little more focus on what happens after it leaves the site is, I think, the way to go. So, we are addressing the issue for future residents and for the people who are here and have been here many years. I’d be happy, if it’s the board’s will, to look at the ways we could make our ordinance a little more robust.”

Board Chairman Danny Leeper agreed with Edwards.

“Not only do we have it countywide … for the (city of Fernandina Beach) annexation(s), more and more properties … when they approve plans, the drainage is draining into county facilities not necessarily designed for that flow. We are seeing it right now on Citrona (Drive). It is causing our system to collapse because – whether we were consulted or not, I don’t know. We also need to look at what the city does somehow. Are we involved in their planning as well (and) how it drains into our facilities? I think it is countywide.”

Edwards then called on Pope to share his thoughts on how to deal with the issue.

Saying there’s not an easy, quick fix to the issue, the county manager said it would take about a year to complete “based upon the current work program for the year and the complexity of the undertaking.” Pope said there should be a “two-pronged approach” based on analysis and review, which might result in recommendations not to build on certain sites in certain cases.

Edwards made a motion “to review the drain standards and allow our engineering department and growth management to look at that and come up with ideas on a plan to reinvent it.” The motion passed unanimously.

Raymond Hines has experienced chronic drainage issues at 85146 Majestic Walk Blvd. in the Amelia Walk subdivision located off Amelia Concourse. Hines said in an email he has “sent many emails and made calls to AV Homes, now Taylor Morrison, to try and resolve” the problems. “Also, several other homes in this new subdivision are having the same problem,” he added.

Hines told the News-Leader he was “glad” commissioners are exploring the issue.

“In early 2019, my neighbors and I went to a meeting of the county commissioners because AV Homes was on the agenda,” Hines said. “Seven of us spoke about our situation. We were told the issue would be on the agenda the following week, and when we went back, we were told that there was a final decision and it was not going to be discussed any further. We then stormed out of the meeting.

“As far as the drainage issue, this has been going on since we moved into our home four years ago. Once it rains hard, you cannot use the backyard due to the water standing up to your ankles. We cannot cut the grass … it floods onto the patio, into the lanai and it breaches the berm in the back of the house where the wooded area is.”

Hines added, “Two of my immediate neighbors experience this problem, and there are numerous other residents in the subdivision who experience this as well. We would like to see this flooding issue resolved.”