Author Topic: Septic Tank Phase Out Program  (Read 4933 times)

Jax_Developer

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Septic Tank Phase Out Program
« on: July 19, 2023, 10:03:09 AM »
I'd really like to bring awareness to the Septic Tank Phase Out Program (I apologize in advance if this has been categorized incorrectly). What started as a promise in 2016, has turned into an extremely complex and hard to follow program that has some of the lowest transparency across the city.

Here's a small background (starting in 2016):

- The promise was remade (mainly) to the Northside Communities to finally bring in sewer service
- A few years go by as they conduct cost & feasibility studies - A list of 35 neighborhoods needing septic phase out are identified
- The year is now 2020, and there seems to be a plan, backing, and some funding to begin the first three neighborhoods (Biltmore, Beverly & Christobel)
- There was of course a shortage in the funds granted to the first 3 neighborhoods, that difference "supposedly" got filled in by state and city funds (to my understanding)
- City Council then passed a bill funding an additional $100M, into what many people thought was the "next" area in 2021.. Riverview.. as claimed by JEA prior on several occasions & studies
- Then I see Jim Piggott's article stating the "next" neighborhoods for the phase out are: Ortega River, Emerson, and St. Nicholas

What is frustrating about the entire situation is the lack of transparency or planning. Project Outreach has answered questions when I have emailed them, but at this point there has been almost 0 consistency with the responses I have gotten. We are halfway through 2023 and the project funds approved in 2021 are starting to look like they have vanished into cost overruns of the first three neighborhoods. If Jim is correct in that those neighborhoods are next, the northside just got swindled again. Those three areas are much smaller, and very easily done with $100M, or let's say even $70M. They are some of the smaller septic hubs in Jacksonville.

The reasoning for this (I think) is the dramatic timeline shifting occurring in Riverview for the Septic Tank Phase Out. When I called in late summer 2021 (after the news of the extra funding had settled) I asked when Riverview would get going for community approval. That date was summer 2022 "at the latest." Well that came & go.. So I emailed them this time in Q1 of this year. This time they mentioned funding issues, because the project was so large. They gave me a community outreach date of June 2023. Well, now we are almost in August, and there has been 0 news of anything happening in Riverview. I'm almost scared to reach out again and see what they say.

Does anyone have insight into this program? What is going on? To me, it seems like the money isn't there. Seemingly a good amount of it has somewhat vanished? I know septic removal is expensive, but we are talking about $100M or more. Now with Donna giving another $17.5M, I wonder what that is going towards? Shouldn't there be transparency on which neighborhood pool it is going toward, instead of it all being in a collective pool? Or how far we are away? Are they rerouting funds from Riverview to these nicer areas?

Everyone here talks about Jacksonville needing more affordable housing.. I just have to wonder how much the lack of proper water & sewer service is holding that up. I have been waiting on land to get both services now for years, and the prospect of them completing that connection in under 5 years is completely out the window given their timelines (6+ years to complete). It seems we will be in the year 2050 before the city is really off of Septic Systems in our urban areas. That is absurd if you ask me.

jaxlongtimer

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Re: Septic Tank Phase Out Program
« Reply #1 on: July 19, 2023, 12:34:20 PM »
^ I can't add much to what you have posted.  The only note I can come up with is my observation that septic tanks leaching into or near waterways and low lying areas seem to rise to the top of priorities vs. ones not doing so.  Maybe such efforts get additional funding from the Feds or State as a result, helping to fund them sooner.

You might inquire if this is a factor in which areas get done when.

fsu813

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Re: Septic Tank Phase Out Program
« Reply #2 on: July 19, 2023, 02:23:07 PM »
I was in a thorough presentation about this subject a couple weeks ago, conducted by JEA.

My take aways:

Much of the funding to remove septic tanks in the 3 neighborhoods already underway was a one off. There is no confirmed funding source that covers on-going septic tank removal.

They have a matrix which determines the priority of neighborhoods to address. It's public. It's transparent. They do give a lot of weight (relatively speaking) to pre-consolidation neighborhoods.

At the current pace, it'll take something like 30 years to complete.

Keep in mind, not all septic tanks are scheduled for removal, and new septic tanks are being installed in areas now. It's just neighborhoods with failing septic tanks (as identified by Dept of Health testing) which are planned to address. Of course, over the decades, that list will change, and the priority of the neighborhoods will change, depending on testing and other variables in the matrix.

I forget which neighborhoods they said were next in line, but the one's Piggott cited sound credible.

Jax_Developer

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Re: Septic Tank Phase Out Program
« Reply #3 on: July 19, 2023, 04:04:36 PM »
For what it’s worth, Riverview has been that next in line neighborhood since the inception of the planning around prioritizing neighborhoods. In fact, it is the only other neighborhood listed on the JEA page, besides those that are active.

Riverview is/has:
- the (EDIT: second) largest septic neighborhood in Jacksonville’s urban area
- the most homes without city water
- the second most, I believe, failed tanks
- the most coastline of any neighborhood being constructed on

That’s maybe why seeing his list was concerning. Riverview is the obvious next in-line, per several years of planning. From my optics, it seems that has changed as of recently. I’ll have to email to figure that out. I’ll update the thread after I get a response. Still, their website hasn’t been updated once in over 9 months for this program.

One thing to note, $100M was passed that was “supposed” to be outside the original 3 neighborhoods in 2021.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2023, 02:03:52 PM by Jax_Developer »

marcuscnelson

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Re: Septic Tank Phase Out Program
« Reply #4 on: July 19, 2023, 05:03:24 PM »
Keep in mind, not all septic tanks are scheduled for removal, and new septic tanks are being installed in areas now. It's just neighborhoods with failing septic tanks (as identified by Dept of Health testing) which are planned to address. Of course, over the decades, that list will change, and the priority of the neighborhoods will change, depending on testing and other variables in the matrix.

I continue to think it's absolutely insane that we're building brand new housing developments with septic tanks. For us as a city to allow these developments to create massive long-term liabilities for taxpayers that we're already aware of is just ludicrous.
So, to the young people fighting in this movement for change, here is my charge: march in the streets, protest, run for school committee or city council or the state legislature. And win. - Ed Markey

simms3

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Re: Septic Tank Phase Out Program
« Reply #5 on: July 20, 2023, 09:58:35 AM »
^^^Well here are some economic realities:

- Developer often has to pay to bring sewer/water lines thousands of feet.  In some occasions, miles.  Very very expensive and sometimes cost prohibitive to the point where it kills some housing developments outright.

- Houses need to be built to support population and job growth, and in "growth" areas, such as the westside/northwest Jax where city services haven't been extended in some directions as of yet, the houses can only be built to sell for upper $200s into upper $300s, maybe stretching into lower $400s, or they simply won't sell.

- Land owners need to and are lowering their pricing expectations, but they aren't going to literally give away their land


So unfortunately to meet housing production needs, sales price limitations, combined with the lack of services, sometimes on RARE occasion a community is built with septic or something like OnSyte distributed waste.

I am working on one deal right now that fits this equation, but it is not in Duval County.  I am working on another deal on the westside and previously worked on another deal on the westside where the developer is extending water/sewer lines.  In one case over 2 miles, in another case nearly a mile.


At the end of the day, septic isn't terrible.  I grew up with septic, in Ortega of all places.  Septic is still prevalent in relatively higher income areas as well, and isn't limited to poor minorities on the northside.

The difference is in maintenance.  I suppose it is more challenging for a working class person to properly maintain a septic system, especially one that may not have been installed correctly.  Heck, most mobile homes are on essentially self-installed septics and they are not fun to clean up when buying a former mobile home site, but they often work really well for those residents.

Means has a lot to do with this, I'm not denying it.  But one can look at how people take care of their houses and immediate neighborhoods and draw conclusions as to how they may or may not take care of septic.  For those on septic, with means AND deciding to properly maintain their personal possessions/homes, many I've talked to actually prefer a septic system to the city's system, for a host of reasons.  All this to say that septic in and of itself isn't a terrible thing.
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jaxlongtimer

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Re: Septic Tank Phase Out Program
« Reply #6 on: July 20, 2023, 12:14:41 PM »
^ A couple of points to note:

(1) There are some high growth communities who refuse to cut corners on development and will (a) insist on hooking up to a sewer system, costs be damned, (b) put a moratorium on new construction until utilities can be properly extended, or (c) just deny approval of a development until urban sprawl has reached the area.  Allowing developers to use septic also encourages urban sprawl, leading to less density in developed areas, a supposed priority of housing advocates.

(2) There was time when developments of a certain size were supposed to build a sewage treatment plant dedicated to the development if centralized utilities where not then available.  JEA has actually bought up many of these "private" utilities over the years in a consolidation and efficiency mode.  Wonder if that requirement still exist.

The issue for some homeowners regarding maintenance, is, like having to shell out for a roof or replacing a/c, many people don't save for a "rainy day."  They spend their income as they make it even though they have enough income to put some aside for savings for "emergencies."  Not buying that many homeowners (albeit not all!), can't handle paying for maintenance if they would just put aside a few dollars regularly into a home maintenance fund.  I think, too, some homeowners don't take septic systems seriously until sewage is backing up into the house  ;D.
« Last Edit: July 20, 2023, 12:18:04 PM by jaxlongtimer »

Jax_Developer

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Re: Septic Tank Phase Out Program
« Reply #7 on: July 20, 2023, 02:09:21 PM »
My take is.. you have to have water/sewer in the urban area of a city. It is just necessary.. cost, health, space.. Septic has it's role and that role is in rural areas. I think it's fine for most of Saint Johns to be on septic.. if they are on large acreage lots. When an urban area lacks water/sewer, you are reducing density drastically & increasing the cost for utility connection considerably. It's counterproductive to a base standard that needs to exist in our "city" to create affordable & dense housing. These principles hinder development all over the Northside & Arlington.

marcuscnelson

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Re: Septic Tank Phase Out Program
« Reply #8 on: July 20, 2023, 07:27:03 PM »
My take is.. you have to have water/sewer in the urban area of a city. It is just necessary.. cost, health, space.. Septic has it's role and that role is in rural areas. I think it's fine for most of Saint Johns to be on septic.. if they are on large acreage lots. When an urban area lacks water/sewer, you are reducing density drastically & increasing the cost for utility connection considerably. It's counterproductive to a base standard that needs to exist in our "city" to create affordable & dense housing. These principles hinder development all over the Northside & Arlington.

Mostly agreed. Most of St. Johns is either (sub) urbanized or planned to be, in which case one might as well focus on getting sewer there. I worry a lot about the long term ramifications of St. Johns largely opposing any useful density (no, 4-story gated/one-entrance apartment complexes down the street from a strip mall you can only really access by car is not useful density) and the active refusal to both hold developers accountable in building good communities that integrate into the overall region or build public infrastructure (including transit) that supports building up any centralized areas. Eventually everything will be "built out" with nothing but sprawling, useless suburb and then once the money moves on to the next new suburb (whether that's Clay or Nassau or even Brevard once their new toll roads are built) it will all simply implode, without the (somewhat) broader support Arlington or Baymeadows or areas like it has had in Duval.

To get back on topic, and agree somewhat with jaxlongtimer, we are committing a blatant policy failure by not providing for a development pattern that doesn't mean people who can't afford a half million dollar house are stuck with sewer systems they can't maintain on the outskirts of town. You can't look at the urban core and tell me that the only way to meet regional lower-cost housing demand is to find virgin land beyond the beltway, that's ridiculous. We are choosing to continue a regime that means people can only get pushed further and further out of town, and for the sake of both people who live here and people who will live here we ought to change that.
So, to the young people fighting in this movement for change, here is my charge: march in the streets, protest, run for school committee or city council or the state legislature. And win. - Ed Markey

simms3

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Re: Septic Tank Phase Out Program
« Reply #9 on: July 21, 2023, 08:53:01 AM »
^ A couple of points to note:

(2) There was time when developments of a certain size were supposed to build a sewage treatment plant dedicated to the development if centralized utilities where not then available.  JEA has actually bought up many of these "private" utilities over the years in a consolidation and efficiency mode.  Wonder if that requirement still exist.

The issue for some homeowners regarding maintenance, is, like having to shell out for a roof or replacing a/c, many people don't save for a "rainy day."  They spend their income as they make it even though they have enough income to put some aside for savings for "emergencies."  Not buying that many homeowners (albeit not all!), can't handle paying for maintenance if they would just put aside a few dollars regularly into a home maintenance fund.  I think, too, some homeowners don't take septic systems seriously until sewage is backing up into the house  ;D.

On #2 this is still the case on more than rare occasion.  Called "package plants".  But to give you an idea of how anti-growth suburban counties in northeast FL have gotten, I have a client who is prohibited from building a package plant on his land, nor can anyone else.  The county lobbied the state at some point, there was a battle, and the state itself settled with that stipulation.  It's perfectly developable land.

On the last points - this is my beef.  I get and agree with everyone's sentiments that city services need to be provided in the urbanized areas, for a host of reasons.  Some of the septic phaseout and at least the PR surrounding it has been based on things that just bug me.

Generally speaking I don't want to pay for other people who aren't caring for their own things or really lifting their own weight.  But for the sake of future urban core development and developing our city, I am all for it.

Now watch the residents in these neighborhoods come out against development and redevelopment when it comes to their neighborhood in 20 years.  That's what everyone in Jax does - they form historic preservation groups and other similar groups to basically block new development and keep things the way they area.
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simms3

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Re: Septic Tank Phase Out Program
« Reply #10 on: July 21, 2023, 09:13:23 AM »
My take is.. you have to have water/sewer in the urban area of a city. It is just necessary.. cost, health, space.. Septic has it's role and that role is in rural areas. I think it's fine for most of Saint Johns to be on septic.. if they are on large acreage lots. When an urban area lacks water/sewer, you are reducing density drastically & increasing the cost for utility connection considerably. It's counterproductive to a base standard that needs to exist in our "city" to create affordable & dense housing. These principles hinder development all over the Northside & Arlington.

Mostly agreed. Most of St. Johns is either (sub) urbanized or planned to be, in which case one might as well focus on getting sewer there. I worry a lot about the long term ramifications of St. Johns largely opposing any useful density (no, 4-story gated/one-entrance apartment complexes down the street from a strip mall you can only really access by car is not useful density) and the active refusal to both hold developers accountable in building good communities that integrate into the overall region or build public infrastructure (including transit) that supports building up any centralized areas. Eventually everything will be "built out" with nothing but sprawling, useless suburb and then once the money moves on to the next new suburb (whether that's Clay or Nassau or even Brevard once their new toll roads are built) it will all simply implode, without the (somewhat) broader support Arlington or Baymeadows or areas like it has had in Duval.

To get back on topic, and agree somewhat with jaxlongtimer, we are committing a blatant policy failure by not providing for a development pattern that doesn't mean people who can't afford a half million dollar house are stuck with sewer systems they can't maintain on the outskirts of town. You can't look at the urban core and tell me that the only way to meet regional lower-cost housing demand is to find virgin land beyond the beltway, that's ridiculous. We are choosing to continue a regime that means people can only get pushed further and further out of town, and for the sake of both people who live here and people who will live here we ought to change that.

Multiple things here - try building density in our city's urban cores.  It can and is being done, but it ain't easy and in some cases it is practically impossible.  There are tons of infill opportunities in Riverside and Avondale.  Now you go up against the overlay and local residents who have been brainwashed by RAP.

I agree, we should be densifying, but our local *residents* don't want that.  I know of too many legal battles against buildings AND businesses/restaurants, and not even just in RAP but throughout that area.  NIMBYism in Jax is about as on power blast as I've ever seen it and I lived in CA and worked a large deal in the Back Bay of Boston (in fact the company I worked for owned about 25% of Newberry St).  So those are my points of reference.


On the suburban stuff, we ALL want a better connectivity and better development pattern.  Can't really blame the developers for lack of infrastructure (take BTI who bought some acreage off Greenland Rd/210 - they got extorted by the county for $70M+ in off-site infrastructure improvements, despite also paying impact fees that aren't cheap on the lots, and despite the fact that SJC is sitting on up to $180M in impact fees now that they simply haven't spent let alone bonded).  That deal by itself has actually worked to really cool that market because it makes it hard to pencil things now - so housing production might slow, demand won't, and prices will go up (which is really what the residents there want for their own sake, despite the Nocatee residents' fake outrage at clearcutting trees).

On the development patters itself - take the new St. Johns County wastewater plant site off 207 - narrow strip of land.  Narrow 143 acre site, and they are really proud to say that 80 acres will be preserved forest (but looking at the aerial it's clearly just where the wetlands are but the PR of "preserving" forest is what makes people happy, but it's also what destroys the development patterns and makes everything disjointed).  This is how every parcel or assemblage works - there are "strings of wetlands" and even little isolated "dots" of wetlands that have to be avoided.  Only a certain amount of acreage can ever be "impacted" and at a pretty penny, so what results is little isolated cul de sacs with narrow lots and no road connectivity, and instead of people being able to just have their own yard, the swamp behind your house becomes the public "yard" with a few trails strewn in.  This is what the environmentalists running things like the St. Johns River Water Management District want.

https://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2023/07/21/new-wastewater-plant-in-st-johns-on-track.html

Open that link up and you can see what I'm referring to.  If that weren't going to be a wastewater, it would be a narrow strip of homes on the eastern edge, "preserving" the western half (and the developers just like SJC would brag about preserving the land, but it would be a long winding cul de sac as a result).


The BEST illustration of how land development patterns have been regulated over time is to follow Duval County housing on the westside - look at an aerial from Avondale, Ortega, etc over to 295, then look at between 295 and the First Coast Expressway.  3 different styles of development pattern as zoning and environmental regulations have changed over time.
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Jax_Developer

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Re: Septic Tank Phase Out Program
« Reply #11 on: August 26, 2023, 10:16:14 AM »
Per JEA, the Riverview portion of the Septic Tank Phase Out Program is not fully funded. They are still working with the COJ to fund the program. Here's why this program is hiding some fishy detail.

1). (1/29/2021) JEA underfunded from the original 3 neighborhoods being remediated (https://www.jaxdailyrecord.com/news/2021/jan/29/jea-ceo-septic-tank-phase-out-plan-underfunded/)

2). (2/17/2021) Riverview is clearly the next neighborhood, if I could find the original study, I would attach it here. (https://www.jacksonville.com/story/news/local/2021/02/17/northwest-jacksonville-top-list-neighborhoods-septic-tank-removal/6750876002/)

3). (4/28/2021) The state includes more funding to close the funding gap on the original three neighborhoods. (https://www.news4jax.com/news/local/2021/04/28/jacksonvilles-6m-request-for-septic-tank-phase-out-funds-makes-state-budget/)

4). (5/29/2021) COJ passes gas rate hike, allotting $100M to the Septic Tank Phase Our Program, which is intended to fund projects outside the 3 original neighborhoods. Riverview was anticipated to cost $92M. (https://www.jacksonville.com/story/news/2021/05/29/jacksonville-gas-tax-hike-frees-up-100-million-septic-tank-phaseout/5207383001/)

There has been essentially no news since that May, 2021 article.. until recently.

5). (7/18/2023) COJ approves another $17.5M to the Septic Tank Phase Out Program (https://www.news4jax.com/news/local/2023/07/18/jacksonville-to-give-more-money-for-septic-tank-phase-out-program/)

--

So, let's take the program as a whole. Let's simply say it started in 2016. Those original neighborhoods are still not done, in 2023. The very next neighborhood, on their list, hasn't even been touched and is more than 4 years away. Yes, more than 4 years away from construction really starting. So over the course of a decade+, JEA will have successfully removed 1,715 septic tanks. The equates to one tank, for every 2 days on average. Just think about that. How many employees are full-time on this single item?

Not only the time delay, what about the money? So we had a $6M deficiency with the first round of tanks (which the state paid for), but $100M has seemingly done absolutely nothing since 2021. Not to mention, these funds came from a controversial increased gas tax... and now another $17.5M, so almost $120M of funding without a single lick of progress since mid year 2021.

I know that we like to highlight the U2C as a dumpster fire, but is this worse? These were infrastructure promises made decades ago.. and they are still being cut short. If JEA does start construction around 2026-2027, then this $100M will have "sat" doing nothing for more than 5 years... LOL. Not to mention, where is that $117.5M actually going? Clearly not Riverview. I would have thought the $17.5M given recently  was maybe for a cost increase, but nope.

Jax_Developer

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Re: Septic Tank Phase Out Program
« Reply #12 on: November 09, 2023, 07:17:20 AM »
11/7/23 - COJ Finance Committee appropriated $750,000 to the Christobel Septic Phase Out Program.

https://www.jea.com/christobel

"We expect the project to be placed out for bid in December 2023/January 2024. We anticipate construction in the neighborhood will begin in the Summer of 2025, and last approximately 2-years. Please note that these timelines are highly subject to change."

What's the $750k for you might ask? Surveys, and diligence reports. Again, $117.5M in funds outside of the first three neighborhoods have been allocated as far back as 5/2021. Now in 11/2023, we have an approved survey/DD scope & timeline. Oh, and by the time they start.. they will have been allocated those funds for more than 4 years.

Absurd really. This is one of the biggest negatives for this City claiming to be a tech hub & all else. This city will never rid itself of urban septic systems, a very 20th century issue for virtually every other city we compete with.
« Last Edit: November 09, 2023, 07:19:01 AM by Jax_Developer »

Jax_Developer

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Re: Septic Tank Phase Out Program
« Reply #13 on: April 23, 2024, 07:00:09 PM »
https://www.bizjournals.com/jacksonville/news/2024/04/23/jea-announces-consultants-for-evaluation.html?cx_testId=40&cx_testVariant=cx_28&cx_artPos=1#cxrecs_s

No surprise. Hundreds of millions of committed funds & nearly a decade without much of a difference. We got one neighborhood done. The plan got blown up in 2021 and there hasn't been a plan (publicly made) since.