NAPLES — Connecting will be mandatory.
But Naples City Council on Wednesday decided not all new customers will have to connect to the city’s irrigation water system.
Naples City Council voted 5-2 to make connection to the city’s irrigation water system mandatory for new construction and substantially remodeled homes. The policy change will not affect those people who purchase an existing home.
Councilwoman Teresa Heitmann and Councilman Gary Price cast the dissenting votes.
The decision to exclude new homeowners from the policy came after council members expressed concerns about a clause in the policy. That clause states that “water and sewer services shall not be provided to a structure” until the property owner hooks up to the irrigation water system.
“When someone buys a house they expect to move in and turn on the water,” Councilwoman Dee Sulick said.
That wouldn’t happen, Sulick said, until the house was hooked up to the system. City Manager Bill Moss said the city would likely be flexible if new homeowners said they were unaware of the new policy.
“If someone comes in and didn’t know about the policy ... then we’ll say this is a requirement, but how long do you think you’ll need (to hook up)?” Moss asked. “There are a lot of things that aren’t in the ordinance that we do to try and accommodate customers. (But) there has to be a fallback (plan) in case they don’t hook up.”
That still didn’t sit well with council members, who said this policy was forcing homeowners to enforce the city’s policies.
Councilman Bill Willkomm said excluding deed transfers from the revised policy would then put the onus on the building department to ensure homes are hooked up to the irrigation water system.
“If we remove the transfer portion, then we don’t have to worry about your concerns,” he said.
The decision to make connection to the system mandatory reflects a need to increase participation in the water system.
The city, in its integrated water resources plan, has set a goal of reducing water consumption by 26 percent. That goal can’t be met unless more people begin hooking up to the system, said Utilities Director Bob Middleton.
There were 124 residential connections in the Port Royal and Gordon Drive area — where the bulk of the system is located — as of October. That’s less than 20 percent of the possible connections in the area, Middleton said in a memo to council earlier last month.
Moss said Wednesday this policy change will have a limited impact on current customers.
The policy change will go into effect later this month after second, and final, approval from Naples City Council.
Connect with Naples reporter Jenna Buzzacco-Foerster at www.naplesnews.com/staff/jenna_buzzacco