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Somerset subdivision deal hits a wall

A bundle of red bricks has been sitting by a partly built wall on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard for weeks. It could sit there much longer.

The Tampa Palms taxing district and the builder of the Somerset subdivision cannot agree on who should pay to build the wall around Somerset.

The board says Nouvelle Maison owes it about $35,000. Maison president Craig Brown said in an interview he never agreed to pay the taxing district.

"Everything was oral," Brown said.

The Tampa Palms board voted last week to finish the wall, but without any signs, landscaping, lights or sprinklers. It also voted to seek a special tax on Nouvelle Maison for the money it says the builder owes. The Tampa Palms board already has spent about $30,000 on the wall, money generated from the sale of bonds that are paid off by residents.

Brown said he will fight a tax for his land only. "Nothing seems fair from the very start."

More than a year ago, Brown asked the taxing district to build a wall. The board routinely helps developers put in walls, landscaping and entrance signs.

Nouvelle Maison and the board agreed to split the costs, with the taxing district paying about $70,000 and the builder, $30,000, according to board member Joseph Caetano, who was chairman at the time.

"That's a known fact," Caetano said. "He knows that. Craig Brown is waffling."

Brown disputes that.

"We were trying to get proof of the 70-30 (split) and it never was really written," he said.

The board paid other developers 100 percent of the cost of walls, Brown said. "At one time, it was 100 percent. This is the only one that is 70-30."

Brown said that he has spent $20,000 for design, planning and some construction of the wall, but that the board refuses to count the money toward payment.

The board pays its engineer for time spent at meetings, he noted. But it will not count billable hours Brown himself spends on the project, he said. "They won't reimburse me," Brown said.

Caetano doubted that Nouvelle Maison has spent any money on the wall. "This $20,000 or $30,000 has been a mystery," he said.

Both sides agree that the board and Nouvelle Maison never signed a contract outlining a payment plan. But board manager John Daugirda said Brown agreed to pay the board by supplying design plans, taking steps to build the wall, and by Brown's attendance at board meetings.

Harrison, the board chairman, said he invited Brown to this week's meeting to explain the company's position. The board also sent Brown an invoice to pay in 20 days. Brown never responded.

Brown said board members dragged him to meetings and wasted his time and money.

"I have two kids in diapers," he said. "I have gone out twice (in a year), and it costs us $10 for a babysitter."

Times librarian John Martin contributed to this report. If you have story ideas about New Tampa, call David Karp at 226-3474.