September 25, 2008


County may grant waivers on lot sizes

Lots smaller than the required 2.4 acres would be eligible for health department waiver

Staff Reporter

The county Health Department has proposed  granting waivers to landowners who do not meet minimum lot sizes required under the county’s sanitary code. A property owner would still need to meet septic and water setback requirements on a lot.
The state changed its regulations on setback requirements in November 2006. In February, 2007 the health department responded by enacting a minimum lot size of 2.4 acres for parcels without public water and sewer.
At that time waivers were only granted on the basis of hardship to people who owned their land prior to the new regulations taking effect.
Under the proposed change, a waiver may be granted to any landowner of lots smaller than 2.4 acres as long as the setback requirements for water and septic tanks are met.
These requirements provide for at least 100 feet between wells and septic tanks and 15 feet between wells and the property lines and room for a replacement system that also meets those requirements.
County Public Health Engineer John Helgren presented the revision at the County City Towns Villages Schools meeting Tuesday.
“It gives people some options,” Helgren said.
He said the proposed revision was put forward to town planning boards and code enforcement officers and now if the feedback from town and village officials is positive it will be put out as a public notice of a new regulation and filed with the county clerk to amend the code.
Because of a CCTVS meeting date change, only a few officials attended the meeting Tuesday.
Legislator Sandra Price (D-Harford and Virgil), the majority leader, chaired the meeting and said the information would be distributed to those who normally attend via the meeting minutes.
“We will share the information and if (the revision) seems to be working it will be left alone. If there is some sort of public outcry that it is not working we would hope the Board of Health will look at the size again,” Price said.
Legislator John Steger (R-Preble and Scott) attended the CCTVS meeting and said he is glad the county is granting waivers.
“People have concerns (about the minimum lot size),” he said. “They can address these concerns but it takes time.”
Willet Supervisor Alvin Doty was not at the meeting but said he likes the idea of the waiver for lots that are smaller than 2.4 acres.
“As long as it can meet the sewer and water specifications for the Health Department I like the idea,” he said.
He said he has had discussions with other town officials who think that 2.4 acres is still too large for a minimum lot size.
“To me, it would depend upon location and soil type to obtain the proper drainage,” Doty said. “Some of these wet grounds it takes a bigger lot to put the proper sewer system in. If you have decent drainage, you can get by with a dry well but with poor drainage you have to go with a leach field and you need more land for that.”
Homer Town Supervisor Frederick Forbes was at a meeting in early 2007 when town officials requested waivers.
“We strongly encouraged them to have something in place whereby people could have waivers if there were an acre and a half somewhere bordering state land or where there would never be any agricultural product spread,” Forbes said.
He explained that many areas of the county could border on areas other than farmland where agricultural products would not be at risk of spreading and therefore the lots would be able to meet setback requirements.
County Public Health Director Jackie Gailor said after feedback from the towns and villages the revision will be enacted by the Board of Health and then filed with the state to officially change the Cortland County sanitary code.


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