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Owner's wall plan upsets neighbors

When Gary Boesch bought 8 acres along Lake Tarpon three years ago, nearby residents said they were relieved the auctioned property had not landed in the hands of a developer.

Now those same neighbors are at odds with Boesch, who plans to build an upscale, walled-in subdivision on the land.

Boesch was out of town and could not be reached for comment this week. But county documents indicate that homes in the Estates of Lake Tarpon will sell for between $500,000 and $1-million.

Homeowners along Mildred Drive just south of the planned development say Boesch's expensive plans ultimately could hurt their property values and the character of their neighborhood.

A wall around the subdivision would prevent residents along Mildred Drive from upgrading their narrow road, creating a safety and convenience problem, opponents say.

"We can't complain about the development. It's their property," said 15-year resident Dana Hurak. "But when they're not concerned with the effects on anybody that surrounds them, that's disturbing."

Boesch's partner in the project, Chuck Wright, said they have tried to hammer out a compromise with residents, only to have those neighbors criticize the project before the county's Board of Adjustment.

"It isn't that we're not willing to negotiate," Wright said. "We tried to before a number of times. Then they went up in front of the board and the truth didn't come out."

Wright would not comment further about the project.

Boesch, owner of Ameri-Life & Health Services Inc. in Countryside, bought the property for nearly $1.4-million in 1995, outbidding 20 people who were interested in the land.

Residents say Boesch told them he planned to tear down the two-bedroom home on the property and build a new home. But last summer, Boesch and Wright approached the county about building the subdivision.

At the time, Boesch envisioned a gated community with 15 lots separated from Mildred Drive by a 6-foot brick wall. The entrance to The Estates of Lake Tarpon would be on Lake Tarpon Drive.

County officials originally told Boesch he needed to build the wall 20 feet north of Mildred Drive. He applied for a variance that would have allowed him to build it 10 feet from the road, but the county's Board of Adjustment, after hearing from residents, denied the request in July.

"If this is what we have to live with, a builder coming into our area, we didn't want him being granted any favors," said Tim DeBord, who lives on Mildred Drive.

The rural-residential zoning of Boesch's land requires that the lots face a public road, but Boesch wanted the subdivision's cul-de-sac to be private and gated. The Board of Adjustment, again faced with letters and testimony from residents, denied that request in September.

But the project's engineers found a loophole in the county's codes that would permit the wall.

An existing house on the property has a Lake Tarpon Drive address, making Mildred Drive the side street, said Paul Cassel, director of the county's Development Review Services Department. County codes allow homeowners to build a wall between their homes and a side street, Cassel said.

Boesch can still tear down that home to build his new subdivision as long as he gets the permit for the wall first, Cassel said. In addition, the wall is allowed to be along the property line, instead of 10 or 20 feet away from Mildred Drive.

"We don't have any option but to give them a permit if they request it," Cassel said.

That wall will block the view of Lake Tarpon that some Mildred Drive residents have had for more than 20 years. But, more important, it will prevent residents from widening their narrow road, they say.

Mildred Drive was built in the 1950s before the county set standards for its roads, Cassel said. The road is about 17 feet wide with an additional 13 feet of right of way along the sides.

Standard roads are 24 feet wide with an additional 26 feet of right of way.

Residents say they thought that if the property to the north was ever developed, that a developer would have to improve Mildred Drive. But because the Estates of Lake Tarpon will not open onto Mildred Drive, Boesch is not required to widen that road.

"I think the issue is not the loss of the view, but it's going to be the awkwardness of accessing their driveways and the awkwardness of going to and from their homes," said Kevin Griffith, who also lives on Mildred Drive. "Once that wall's up, we have no option. We're stuck with that road forever."

Right now, two cars cannot travel side-by-side on Mildred Drive. A car going one way has to pull off to the side to let a car going the other way pass. That will be impossible with a wall on the edge of the road, residents say.

They also worry the wall will make it more difficult for them to back out of their driveways, especially with boat trailers or campers.

They say they are willing to make a deal with Boesch: They will stop fighting his plans for a private, gated road if he will move the wall at least 10 feet from Mildred Drive so they can improve the road.

Wright, Boesch's partner, said some aspects of the project are on hold for now, although he said the delay does not have anything to do with opposition from the neighbors.

"We don't mind the property being developed. We just think because it abuts a county street, there should be a standard right of way down this street," said DeBord. "Once this wall is built, it's going to be that way forever."