(ran East, South, Beach editions)
Condo owners voted to annex their property into Seminole. Now they're wrangling over who will fix the roads.
When residents of Seminole on the Green condominiums voted in favor of being annexed by Seminole, they were counting on their votes to rid them of road maintenance bills.
But when members of the 84-unit complex pressed city officials after the June annexation, the city balked.
"If we accept those private roadways, we'll have to accept all other private roadways in other condominium complexes," said Mitch Bobowski, the city's general services director. "We're not in the position to take over everyone's private roadway."
Manny DeBono, president of one of the complex's four associations, said he and other residents feel betrayed.
He said city leaders, specifically Bobowski, led them to believe the city would take over the streets.
"There is a lot of repair work that we absorb, and we were anxious to get rid of that," DeBono said.
DeBono estimated that the complex spends about $1,000 a year to maintain its four roads.
The cost is shared equally by all condominium owners.
Bobowski said neither he nor anyone else promised the city would take over the roads.
"It's just unfortunate that they misunderstood," he said.
Bobowski said that before an annexation vote, city officials tell prospective residents the city will take over their roads, as long as they are government-owned.
"If they have private roadways constructed for their specific condominium development, we will not accept them because they do not meet certain codes," he said.
Bobowski said that as a courtesy to condominium owners, a mere fraction of the entire Seminole Lakes Country Club community that was annexed, the city hired Tampa Bay Engineering to examine the roadways.
Their job was to determine if the roads could be converted to government roads.
"We don't just arbitrarily say, "No, we can't do it,' " Bobowski said in explaining why the study was commissioned.
The firm found that the roads failed state and city standards. "Based on this, we do not recommend that these roadways be taken by the city."
The company cited an inadequate intersection, no traffic control devices and a lack of sidewalks as key deficiencies in the complex.
Stop or yield signs and striping could help manage traffic, but no sidewalks could lead to potential lawsuits, the firm said.
Al Gidrow, also an association president, said the city should fix what it can and grandfather in the rest of the potential problems, such as the setbacks.
"That's our point," he said. "There's no way we can move the units back from the road."
Gidrow said it is only fair that the city assume maintenance of the roads because the condominiums are within city limits and the owners pay taxes to Seminole.