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Should septic system be replaced by city sewer? PDF Print E-mail

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ROBERT PIERCE
• Leader & Times



A waiver of Seward County’s sanitation codes is one of the items on the agenda for tonight’s regular commission meeting.

Information in the packet indicates the item is to determine if the commission will allow a septic system to remain in use when city sewer is available within 30 feet of the property line.

The information went on to say the sewer system is less than 300 feet from the residence, and the septic system is located in a flood hazard area.

The property in question is owned by Judith Stuckey and is located at 650 E. Tucker Road, and according to a staff report from Seward County Planning and Zoning Administrator Marcie Weatherly, Stuckey is requesting a waiver of the sanitation code allowing continued use of the existing onsite septic system and not requiring connection to City of Liberal sewer services until the existing septic system fails.

“This property is in the City of Liberal and is currently zoned agricultural (under the city zoning regulations),” Weatherly said. “This property was first included in the city limits designated by Resolution No. 1918 dated 2005 and is still included in the city limits designated by Resolution No. 2257 in March 2017. The easement for the sewer line to the east of the parcel is dated March 2004.”

Weatherly went on to say county sanitation code requires connection to public sewer if it is available within 400 feet of a lot or tract. Furthermore, Liberal city ordinance prohibits maintaining septic tanks used for the disposal of wastewater within the city.

In an analysis of the request, Weatherly said Stuckey’s situation is not a unique one.

“The neighboring property to the east was also previously served by a septic system and is now connected to city sewer,” Weatherly said. “Both city and county codes require connection to public sewer services when available.”

Weatherly added granting the waiver may cause environmental impacts on the neighboring property with potential health hazards.

“This would adversely affect their ‘right of enjoyment,’” she said. 

Weatherly said Stuckey’s statement of justification for the waiver included with the application indicated only that the cost of connection creates an undue hardship.

“The owner was notified three years ago of the requirement to connect and has had ample time to plan for the expense of connection to city sewer,” Weatherly said. “The property owner does not live at this location and should be able to have enough income from this property to comply.”

Weatherly said the estimate provided showed the cost to connect to the sewer line that is located to the south of the parcel.

“There is also a sewer line on the east side of the parcel which is approximately 300 feet from the house,” she said.

Weatherly said whenever there is regulation, there is some level of necessary hardship and inconvenience shared by all of the community.

“An applicant for a waiver must show unnecessary hardship,” she said. “The hardship must be more than mere inconvenience or a preference for a more lenient standard. Cost of compliance may be a factor, but cost is not determinative. The applicant must show substantial and undue nature of that additional cost as compared to others subject to the same restriction.”

Weatherly did say the property and the septic system are located in a flood hazard area.

“The property is also served by a private water well,” she said. “This can adversely affect the public health in a flood event.”

Weatherly went on to say Kansas Department of Health and Environment regulations and local regulations do not permit septic tanks to be located in the flood hazard area due to the possible hazards.

Weatherly concluded her analysis by saying the intent of the regulations is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the community.

“Allowing a septic tank to remain in the flood hazard area when city sewer is available within 300 feet is an unnecessary risk to the health, safety and welfare of the public,” she said.

For these reasons, Weatherly said staff is recommending denial of the waiver request with a compliance deadline set for Nov. 19, 90 days from tonight’s meeting.

“A septic system in the flood hazard area is a high hazard risk to the health and safety of the public,” she said. “Public sewer is available to the property within 300 feet and the owner was notified three years ago of the requirement, providing ample time to secure the necessary funds.”

In a letter to county commissioners, Stuckey said the waiver is being requested even though her attorney said the property is grandfathered in under the county’s sanitation code.

Stuckey said no repairs or replacement have been done to the septic system, and such work would have to be done following the existing code.

“The existing septic system has been functioning properly for the entire time we have owned the property and is used exclusively for domestic wastewater,” she said. “It also operates in accordance with the original design and location.”

Stuckey said the septic system includes a concrete septic tank and lateral lines, which has not required any repairs.

“While our property line is not far from the city main sewer line, to connect to this city main sewer line would entail installing approximately 500 feet of new sewer line from the house to the city main line,” she said. “The cost of this line, according to the estimate I have gotten, would be at least $9,950 for the work outside of the house, as included in the bid, which does not include the tying of all the house septic lines into the one, which is at least four lines. This creates an undue hardship on any resident, who has a properly functioning septic system.”

While Weatherly argued Stuckey’s situation was not a unique one, Stuckey said the property, currently county property and not city property, is unique in that it was zoned agriculture when bought before Liberal started growing to the north.

“We were told approximately 15 years ago that as Liberal grew, this property would potentially be desired as commercial property,” Stuckey said. “If this property was sold for commercial property, then the buyers would have to upgrade the septic system for commercial or industrial use.”

Stuckey likewise argued the septic system has never adversely affected the rights of any adjacent property owners or residents.

“The septic system is completely on our property and has not adversely affected the public health, safety, morals, order, convenience, prosperity or general welfare of anyone including our family,” she said.

Stuckey said zoning regulations allow for property to be grandfathered in when ownership has not changed and the existing septic system, prior to new codes, is still functioning properly and has not been replaced, altered or repaired since purchasing the property.

“Laws also allow for waivers of the sanitation code due to unnecessary hardship when we ave a properly functioning septic system,” she said.

County commissioners are expected to hear from Weatherly and possibly Stuckey and decide on the waiver at tonight’s meeting which starts at 5:30 p.m. in the commission chambers in the Seward County Administration Building.

 

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The High Plains Daily Leader and Southwest Daily Times are published Sunday through Friday and reaches homes throughout the Liberal, Kansas retail trade zone. The Leader & Times is the official newspaper of Seward County, USD No. 480, USD No. 483 and the cities of Liberal and Kismet.  The Leader & Times is a member of the Liberal Chamber of Commerce, the Kansas Press Association and the Associated Press.

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