DADE CITY — To alleviate flooding problems at the Dade Oaks public housing complex, the Pasco County Housing Authority is considering tearing down the complex and rebuilding. It might also start from scratch at a new location.
A third option is fixing up the existing complex. But that would cost an estimated $1.6 million and wouldn't fix the flooding concerns. The 69-unit complex sits at the bottom of a drainage basin in north Dade City.
"That is going to be a much more difficult option than tearing it down and building that site up," said David Lambert, chairman of the housing authority's board of directors.
Said executive director Dianne Morris: "That doesn't help us with the water issue."
This year's heavy summer rains, including Tropical Storm Debby, didn't just flood many areas in west Pasco. They also saturated the ground near the Withlacoochee River basin, with the river reaching flood stage several times. After each threat of rain, housing authority workers loaded up sandbags to protect the Dade Oaks units from overflowing retention ponds.
Most of the flooding was in the parking areas and the internal streets, making it tough for residents to get in and out of the complex. Morris said the water rose right up to the front door of several units. It got inside two apartments, but residents were able to sop up the water with towels.
Both Morris and Lambert said the flooding doesn't occur during every summer rainy season. Morris said she believes the last major flooding was in 2006 or 2007.
Dade Oaks received a failing inspection this May from the federal department of Housing and Urban Development, prompting officials to recommend a substantial rehabilitation of the complex. Officials will be out again this month. "We're working to ensure that we pass," Lambert said.
Last week, the housing authority released a "request for qualifications" to encourage developers to share plans and possible financing strategies to redevelop the site. Proposals are due Oct. 22 to give the agency time to apply for federal tax credits that might be available to pay for the project.
But the housing authority is also asking the city and the county about available rural parcels to start over with a new complex. "We're still looking at all of the options," Lambert said. "This is the first horse out of the gate, so to speak."
One redevelopment idea is to build a complex with parking on the first floor and living quarters above.
"I'm afraid the regulatory agencies may not permit that," Morris said, adding she would have more information about redevelopment and land buying costs in the coming months.
Housing authority officials are exploring their options while Dade City is planning to improve its stormwater system. Such a plan might help the flooding problems. But that plan wouldn't be implemented for several years and the city doesn't yet have a dedicated funding source for the improvements.
"It would be great if the city would revise their stormwater plans and we wouldn't have flooding at this complex," Lambert said. "But who knows what they're going to do."
Lee Logan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (727) 869-6236.