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Brookridge bus stop battle far from over, parents vow

By MARY SPICUZZA, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published August 4, 2002

BROOKSVILLE -- Tracy Dwyer is terrified to go to work this morning.

It's not that she works in a bad neighborhood. Dwyer, 35, is a clerk at the golf shop inside the gates of Brookridge.

But as one of the leaders of a battle to get a school bus stop back inside Brookridge, Dwyer expects to be flocked by furious "anti-bus" golfers this weekend.

Tempers at Brookridge have flared since Monday, when parents learned that the community won't allow school buses to pick up kids at its clubhouse anymore. Parents are calling it the latest example of anti-child discrimination at the self-declared "55-and-over" gated community, which has more than 2,100 mobile homes.

"My mind is going to explode," Dwyer said. "I'm nervous, and I'm scared. I know some people don't want the buses. And some want to force the families out."

Dwyer said she and her mother have both gotten angry calls from residents who want to keep the buses out.

Meanwhile, board members of Brookridge Community Property Owners Inc. say they have nothing against families, but had to move the bus stop because some children vandalized the clubhouse.

Parents now say the decision may end up in court. On Friday, Dwyer and other parents met with attorney Bill Eppley, who is already representing another resident suing Brookridge over deed restrictions.

"They don't have the authority to close the roads, in my opinion," Eppley said. "The families and children have a right to use those roads. They pay for them, too."

Some parents believe there are county-owned roads inside Brookridge. But Bill Busch, the county's pavement management coordinator, said the community's roads are all private.

Eppley said the roads may be private, but all members of the community have equal rights to use them. He believes that if school buses are banned, Brookridge should also keep out buses going to casinos, cruises and vacation destinations.

He said the community seems to be discriminating against kids while favoring the over-55 crowd.

Ronald Musacchia, president of Brookridge's association, said actual school buses weren't the problem.

"We're trying to solve our problems at the clubhouse," he said. "We have a few young ladies, and some young men, causing serious damage."

Parents believe kids are easy targets, but they're not to blame for the bus stop ban.

Brookridge parents are now gathering donations to hire Eppley.

Franklin Riley, a 72-year-old father of two, said he's determined to fight Brookridge.

"I think it's a crock of c---," he said.

-- Mary Spicuzza can be reached at (800) 333-7505, ext. 6232. Her e-mail address is spicuzza@sptimes.com

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