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Absentee owners block paving

Published Oct. 12, 2005

Here's a switch: A group of property owners is angry because Pasco County commissioners won't impose higher taxes on them.

People living in the Moon Lake Estates subdivision are sick of dust clouds and potholes. Many want their roads paved, and they're willing, even eager, to have the county charge them for the job.

But in the case of three roads, Midvale, Havana and Orbit avenues, residents could not get a majority of property owners to support paying for the paving. So on Tuesday, county commissioners voted 3-2 against imposing paving assessments on the property owners, many of whom don't live there.

"I'm not going to force an assessment on anybody. . . . There's too many roads out there that people want done," Commission Chairman Mike Wells said. He and Commissioners Ann Hildebrand, and Sylvia Young agreed not to impose an assessment on an area where the majority of property owners don't support it.

Pasco County's paving assessment program enables the county to pave private dirt roads without all taxpayers bearing the cost. The county will do the work, so long as at least 51 percent of the road's property owners agree to pay the cost through tax assessments.

The problem in Moon Lakes Estates is that so many property owners don't live there. Why should they want to pay hundreds of dollars for asphalt that benefits a property they rarely see? Many of them bought lots for a few hundred dollars decades ago and have little experience with living in a neighborhood with unpaved roads.

"They're paying $28 a year for taxes. They don't care," said Bud Wells, a Moon Lake resident who has spearheaded the paving efforts.

Ruth Johnson of Clear Lake Drive is one of numerous Moon Lake residents who has paid more than $1,500 per lot to have her roads paved. She wishes her nearby neighbors would do the same.

"We can't go for a walk. If a car comes through, you're eating dust for 15 minutes," she said.

Commissioners decided Tuesday not to consider the Midvale Avenue paving assessment because only 19 percent of property owners agreed to it. On Havana Avenue, nearly 27 percent agree, while 50 percent of the Orbit Avenue owners supported it.

But supporters of the paving assessment feel the county should note in particular how the actual residents feel about it, not absentee owners. If just residents were counted, paving assessments would have 71 percent support on Orbit, and 50 percent on Havana.

"There's no question this will set a policy precedent," county engineer Gerald Carrigan said of that figuring.

Several times, commissioners have agreed to impose paving assessments without support from a majority of property owners. But on Tuesday, commissioners said they would reconsider the roads in Moon Lakes, if supporters could get more signatures.

"You're not going to get a majority, because the majority are out of state or out of country," Commissioner Bonnie Zimmer said.