PACE — Santa Rosa engineering staff on Monday brought recommendations to relieve flooding issues to the County Commission. 

In a rare move, commissioners bypassed moving a decision to Thursday and instead decided to move forward in August with multiple items to work on reducing Pace flooding.

Those include:

Moving forward with one of the engineering department’s recommended projects, constructing retention ponds to address flooding at the Tiburon East and West neighborhoods
Examining the land development code relating to private business’ retention ponds
Starting a maintenance program to clean up ditches and other work
And moving forward with an impact fee study

June 2017 was the wettest June on record in Santa Rosa, according to county authorities. At the end of the month, the County Commission directed engineering staff to research how it could mitigate flooding issues.

The Tiburon project would see the best return on investment, Commissioner Sam Parker believes.

“The most homes affected will probably be the idea of constructing a large project north of Tiburon,” Parker said. “It will not only help the Tiburon area, but also those on East Fowler Drive, and also attenuate water before it gets to the Floridatown area.”

The Tiburon area is in a 537-acre basin, according to documentation from the engineering department, with minimal storm water design since the 1960s. The department estimates the cost to construct enough stormwater ponds to meet 100-year flood standards at $3.1 million.

Commission Chairman Rob Williamson asked county attorney Roy Andrews to see what authority the county has over private businesses maintaining their stormwater retention ponds. One audience member advised the county to adhere to the results once Andrews finds them.

“Once you have those land development codes in place, stick by them,” Wallis Mahute said. “Giving variance after variance on the land development code is creating problems.”

Commissioner Don Salter was concerned with how long it could take to get started with any major projects considering how long it can take to secure funding. He suggested a maintenance program to bring the current ditches and ponds to top-performing status.

“I’d like for (County Public Works Director Steven Furman) to tell us what it would take in District One to clear up those ditches and any other maintenance issues to make an impact now,” Salter said.

Williamson suggested investigating returning to charging impact fees as a means of funding stormwater mitigation projects. However, the state mandates the county conduct an impact fee study before implementing them again.

The state allows too many tax exemptions to make raising the millage rate viable, according to Williamson.

“Because so many folks get exemptions, everybody doesn’t pay a millage increase,” Williamson said. “Continued unfunded mandates and the willingness by the state to give exemptions results in less ad valorem tax revenue, which forces us to look at other alternative funding sources.”