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Zephyrhills sues to force drainage

Published Aug. 28, 2005

The city late Thursday went to court in a bid to force residents of the Betmar Acres mobile home community to accept into their drainage system floodwaters pumped from the nearby Silver Oaks subdivision.

City Manager Steve Spina said the city had no choice but to file court action. He said Betmar directors refused requests to allow the pumping, and he said the flooding in Silver Oaks has forced residents from their homes and is sparking sewage concerns.

City Attorney Karla Owens filed the injunction in Circuit Court against the Betmar Acres Club, the homeowners association.

Association president Harry Taylor said Thursday he was in the process of contacting an attorney to defend the group against the suit, but he said the issues are clear.

"We're already flooded," he said. "All three of my golf courses are flooded."

Homes in Betmar aren't in standing water yet, but Taylor said residents are frustrated that Pasco County and Silver Oaks _ which is inside Zephyrhills city limits _ haven't addressed a flooding problem they've known about since the El Nino year of 1998.

Asking Betmar residents to suffer for poor planning upstream is not fair, he said.

Spina lives in Silver Oaks, but he said his house is not threatened by flooding.

He said the community also flooded last summer, after months of heavy rain. He said flooding from hurricanes Jeanne and Frances has been worse. A sewer lift station is under a foot of water, creating the threat of contaminating flood waters. Flooding also strains the city's sewer treatment plant as the flooded station pumps flood water into the plant.

Spina said one house in Silver Oaks is flooded, and 12 more are surrounded by water, which appears to be flowing in from the northwest. About 60 acres at Silver Oaks is flooded, including the golf course.

Spina said city officials attended a Betmar homeowners meeting Thursday to ask for help and were turned away.

"We were just trying to get a little relief, not just dump all our problems on them," he said.

The only recourse, he said, was to ask a judge to step in.

Betmar Acres is just downstream from a $7-million, 40-acre retention pond the county is building along Eiland Boulevard. That pond overflowed during Frances in early September, forcing residents in Betmar and other communities to evacuate.

Owens said she will ask for a hearing today.