Geauga County Commissioners recently voted to temporarily suspend enforcement of the septic system lot evaluation requirement for lots of more than 5 and fewer than 20 acres. Geauga Public Health Administrator Adam Litke said the temporary suspension will help reduce unnecessary fees for homeowners.
When a lot is to be built on, regardless of size, a lot evaluation must be conducted by Geauga Public Health.
Planning Director Linda Crombie said that the Geauga County Planning Commission voted to ask commissioners to temporarily suspend that regulation for large lots as they work through potential edits to subdivision regulations, which will take six to 12 months.
Ms. Crombie said there had been discussion among the planning commission staff, the public health department, surveyors, property owners and real estate agents about the lot evaluation requirements for large lots, considered to be between 5 and 20 acres.
“Any time someone splits property, they have to obtain a lot evaluation approval from the health department,” Ms. Crombie said. “That is to say, it’s feasible to put a septic system on this lot.”
Ms. Crombie said that the experience has been that “those are really never denied. Not to say that it couldn’t happen, but chances are slim that it would happen.”
The planning commission opted to ask commissioners to temporarily suspend the lot evaluation requirements as a courtesy, only relating to household – not commercial – sewage disposal, she said.
The reason for the relaxation of the requirements “is that there are a lot of different types of septic systems that are available to residents now, which there weren’t in the past,” Ms. Crombie said.
Lot evaluation approvals are valid for five years. Without the suspension of the requirements, residents had to spend about $1,000 to $3,000 on a lot evaluation, only to potentially have to go through that process again, she said.
Suspending the requirements does not prevent homeowners from conducting lot evaluations on their own accord.
“Buyer beware,” Ms. Crombie said. “As a purchaser of a property, you have to know what you’re buying.”
Ms. Crombie said that 5.001-acre lots are considered to be “over five acres,” while lots of 5.000 acres are “under five acres and a lot evaluation is still required. That is known as a minor subdivision.”
Commissioner Tim Lennon asked if there are any ongoing septic system lot evaluations, to which Ms. Crombie said there are “probably less than 10.”
Because this is a lessening of a requirement, homeowners may choose whether to continue the process, Ms. Crombie said. If the regulation were being made more strict, “we would be adamant that they would have to have a full application,” she said.
“If someone is already in the lot evaluation process – let’s say they hired a soil scientist and a septic designer; it’s not done yet, but let’s say they are in the process – if they plan on building within five years, they might as well just finish the process,” Ms. Crombie said.
If they do not plan on building within five years, it is up to them to choose whether to continue that process, she said.
The suspension of the requirements began with the health board. Mr. Litke said the suspension will be “good for the community” as it will “take a lot of the onus off the homeowner as far as unnecessary fees that are tacked onto something.”
“Still, buyer beware,” Mr. Litke said. “You need to do your due diligence when you buy anything, whether you’re buying a car or something else.”
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