New planning official takes a different track

Lazaro Aleman
ECB Publishing, Inc.

New Planning Official Shannon Metty is taking a different approach from her predecessor when it comes to her dealings with the Planning Commission.
Case in point: The application that recently came to her office for a minor site development, involving the installation of five guest cottages on a small property in Lamont. Although it was perfectly within her scope of job responsibilities to make the decision on her own, Metty sought the advice and consent of the Planning Commission.
“This is a commercial project that's acceptable for the planning official to sign off on,” Metty told the planning board on Thursday evening, Nov. 8. “But I want to defer to you as the new planner.”
As she saw it, Metty said, the project complied with the Land Development Code (LDC), especially as the developer, T&T Property Investment LLC, planned to install a commercial size septic tank.
“This property is 1.15 acres and zoned for mixed use business-residential,” Metty said. “Following the density requirements from the LDC for mixed use business-residential, this project is well within the 10 unit per acre standard.”
She added that the developer was also proposing making modifications or additions to an existing building, as well as making other possible property improvements.
“This non-residential site plan follows the guideline set in Section 5.1.2 for non-residential setbacks,” Metty wrote in a memo to planners. “This project also has 17,338 feet of impervious surface, which is well within the standards of a maximum of 25,000 square feet.”
She concluded her presentation by stating that in her opinion the project should be approved, pending receipt of compliance approval letters from the Florida Department of Health and the other appropriate state agencies.
Speaking on behalf of the developer, Toby Hebert told the planners that the idea initially had been to install six units and two large septic tanks. But the plan had been changed to five units and an office building with a commercial size septic tank, he said.
Jay Adams immediately saw a problem with the proposal.
“Are we setting a precedent that anyone who gets a Florida Department of Environmental Protection doesn't have to follow our central sewer requirement?” Adam asked.
The LDC, he said, allowed a maximum of four units per acre provided that the site had a central sewer system. And it allowed for up to eight units per acre if the site also had both central water and sewer. A commercial size septic tank, Adams underscored, did not qualify as a central sewer system.
Adams reminded his colleagues that the reason for the standard was that the county was trying to get away from septic tanks to minimize the impact on the groundwater.
He initially moved to approve the development for two units only if the developer did nothing more to the site, or up to four units if the developer tied into the Jefferson Communities Water System as Hebert indicated was the intent. And up to eight units if the developer both tied to central and sewer systems.
In the end, the planners settled on a Solomon-like decision, allowing the placement of five units on the site, provided that one of the cottages was what they called a Jack and Jill unit. Meaning that it would combine two units under one roof and the twp would share a kitchen and bathroom. Another condition was that developer show proof of tying into the central water system.
The planners approved the motion in the form of a recommendation that Metty agreed to carry out.
Metty told the planners that she intended to continue to seek their advice in future.
“I want your input,” she said.
Planning Commission Bud Wheeler welcomed the gesture.
“I appreciate that,” Wheeler said, alluding to the former planning official. “Because a lot of things that should have come to us in the past never did. That's all I'm going to say about that.”