Patched but still unclaimed, little road getting lots of scrutiny

Published on: September 29, 2011


SUN CITY CENTER — With the potholes deep enough to topple a golf cart now patched along little Sun City Center Plaza road, adjacent property owners are taking a long look at long term solutions.

They, along with their patrons, workers and suppliers, daily must use the two-block long pavement leading to the Sun City Center Plaza from S.R. 674 because it is the only vehicle access. The road gets heavy traffic and has to accommodate particularly heavy trucks delivering both loads of goods to retail stores and loads of mail to the post office. Its condition impacts all of them.

While recognizing the importance of the little road, though, several property owners question whether its problems legally are theirs to make right.

That position puts them at odds with the county administration whose legal department stated earlier this year that easements provided decades back by a long-gone developer establish the property owners’ responsibility for the road maintenance.

The net result is a short road that is absolutely necessary, aging under constant use and predictably will require some intensive care in the future, yet is hampered in terms of upkeep due to uncertain ownership. A recent estimate of costs to repair and resurface the roadway if there are no serious underlying problems was $40,000.

Stan Whitcomb, a local office park developer who owns the two-story office building immediately south of the community’s post office, said this week he is looking into dedicating the little road to the county in order to clear up the ownership question. Whitcomb is one of a half dozen property owners along the road. Others with ownership interests include the U.S. Postal Service, the SCC Chamber of Commerce, Dr. Peter Jacobson, Robyn and Tom Payant.

Whitcomb emphasized that precedent for turning the road over to the county is just across the state road that also is Sun City Center Boulevard. Trinity Lakes Blvd., running south into the Sun Towers retirement facilities and on the same alignment as the Sun City Center Plaza road, was turned over to Hillsborough County about eight years ago in a simple transaction, he said. “I’ve asked my engineer to meet with a representative of the county’s road department” to determine how a similar dedication of the northern piece of the road can be made, he added.

In addition, Whitcomb is not convinced the easements made to the various property owners and issued in the 1980s by SunMark, one in a series of developers, are legally valid. Examination of the easement documents shows they differ in pertinent details, he said, suggesting that not every one of the properties abutting the road could carry any obligation for its maintenance.

Jacobson, an internist and cardiologist with long established practices in Brandon and SCC, also disputes the legal standing of the easements, questioning both the process by which the easement apparently related to his property was conveyed and content of the document itself. The one he has reviewed, he said, was made to a previous owner of the single-story building north of the SCC chamber offices where his office as well as those of tenants’ now are located, and without any indication of that owner’s knowledge or acceptance.

The chamber’s board of directors has doubts about the easements, too, said Dana Dittmar, executive director. Their easement document has been turned over to an attorney for examination and research, she added.

Meanwhile, the little road has been made more safely passable with filling and resurfacing of the potholes that threatened suspension systems of larger vehicles and stability of the many golf carts using the street. The patching was done free of charge by a Manatee County-based company which provides its services to Hillsborough County and was coordinated by Ken Hagan, an at-large commissioner representing the SCC area.

Dittmar said she expects the patch job, which is weathering the current rainy season, to stand up for three to four years. “It looks like a road that’s been patched”, she noted, “but the triage has stabilized the patient. Now it needs a cure.” The group agrees the optimal ownership “cure” is Hillsborough County, she indicated.
Whitcomb said he hoped to soon update the property owner group on prospects for placing the little road under the county’s umbrella

Copyright 2011 Melody Jameson