In a 3-2 vote on Monday, Nov. 30, the Westlake City Council agreed that the Seminole Improvement District (SID) be the responsible stormwater utility once a development application has been signed off on by the town.
The council spent two hours, after a joint meeting several months ago with the SID board, discussing who the responsible party would be if an error were found after a land development application was approved by the city.
The SID board and developer Minto have contended that SID should be responsible for stormwater approvals to the extent of refusing to share information with city staff, including the city’s attorney and engineer.
City Attorney Pam Booker said she and the city engineer recently raised a question on the legality of approval for a stormwater retention area that was to receive drainage from another property owner, and SID Attorney Michael Diffenderfer responded that the city should not comment on the issue.
“Why not?” Booker asked. “That’s our role. Before these applications are brought forward to the city council to make a judgement or decision, you have your staff to review it. A problem about flooding in the future falls on the taxpaying residents through SID.”
Booker said the city’s responsibility is part of a system of checks and balances for the public so that unforeseen problems don’t become a cost burden to correct in the future. She added that it has been discussed that SID will become the city’s water utility in the future, but she is concerned about what happens now.
“What we’re dealing with right now is whose responsibility it is to put it in the ground and do it correctly,” she said. “That’s the city’s responsibility. What is SID’s? Yes, they review it. Yes, they give us a letter saying we have the capacity. We can serve this project once it’s built and complete, but that’s the city’s responsibility to issue that land development permit. That is not SID’s responsibility or authority.”
SID Attorney Seth Behn said that the City of Westlake was created to be an efficient form of government free of obstacles such as a duplication of services that could slow down development.
“SID is the one that has the water management permit, and SID has a water control plan,” Behn said, adding that he felt that the purpose of the evening’s meeting was to better define the relationship between SID and the city. “Everyone is getting an understanding of how the law and how your charter was set up, how those roles are applied and how everybody will work together to make things happen.”
Behn asserted that SID is responsible for stormwater permitting in the city.
“Once we determine that their plans meet regulations, we give them a permit, then they construct that system,” he said. “We review that construction. When they are done, we go out and make sure it is built to the plans they submitted to us.”
It was his opinion that the city should not re-review stormwater permits.
“They cannot require a separate permit, and they cannot tell SID how to operate a stormwater system,” Behn said.
Booker disagreed, explaining that the city has authority provided by its charter to regulate land development, and that SID has no authority over land development under its enabling act from the state legislature.
After more discussion, Vice Mayor Katrina Long-Robinson made a motion that the Seminole Improvement District be the responsible stormwater utility once an application has been approved by the town, which carried 3-2 with Mayor Roger Manning and Councilman Patric Paul opposed.