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Leaders agree: Block builder from road use

Westchase East taxing district officials say they are unlikely to support a developer's desire, over neighbors' objections, to use one of their private roads to get to his planned housing complex.

Residents of the gated Stonebridge subdivision do not want to open Bridgeton Drive to construction trucks, and then residential traffic, to access property just outside their neighborhood.

Developer Navpreet Randhawa and landowner John Bailey say there is no other way to the site where they want to build 18 homes. Bailey has an easement on Bridgeton Drive to the land and said homeowners on the one-lane private Promise Drive that approaches the site to the north would not give or sell him access.

But Community Development District supervisors contended Bailey also would have no access to his property along Bridgeton if he develops it. Their agreement states that the easement would terminate automatically if the land is subdivided for more than one home.

"If there is not an easement change submitted, then there is not access to the land, based on that agreement," supervisor Ernie Sylvester said at a meeting Tuesday night. "I personally think we're wasting a lot of people's time."

Chairman John Love said the board might be more willing to back the development if Randhawa and Bailey could reach an accord with the Stonebridge homeowners.

"We are elected by these people," he said. "We really want to do what they want."

The board's lawyer described a scenario in which the easement agreement would not end automatically, and the taxing district and homeowners would have no say. To that, Sylvester suggested that the law firm has a conflict of interest, as it represents both the district and the developer.

Randhawa told the supervisors and neighbors that he wanted to work with the Stonebridge homeowners to keep everything friendly. He said he thinks the land will be developed eventually and that road access via Bridgeton will occur.

It could happen with a small, responsible builder like himself, he said, or with a large developer who might roll through without regard for the neighbors. He offered to take steps, such as limiting construction truck traffic, as a compromise.

"If we communicate with each other, then we don't need lawyers to do the lawyering," he said.

But homeowners association president Duke Tully said his group already consulted lawyers, who advised that the association has a strong case to block use of its private road.

He also said the homeowners probably would not agree to accept new homes in their community, which was sold to them as a gated 66-home neighborhood.

"I'm sorry if we're skeptical of developers' promises," neighbor Cynde Mercer said. "We've been through this before."

Randhawa said the neighbors had "legitimate concerns."

"I'm glad we started a conversation," he said, "because now we can start finding solutions."

He is scheduled to speak to the homeowners association next week.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at (813) 269-5304 or