tampabay.com

Wider road upsets some homeowners' plans

The cheapest option is to raze 34 homes on one side of the street and add two westbound lanes.

By CHANDRA BROADWATER
Published February 26, 2007


SPRING HILL - Barbara Bogner was looking forward to cutting back hours at work. Or maybe quitting all together.

In about five years, the Elgin Boulevard home the 42-year-old has shared for 19 years with her husband, Jay, would be paid off.

That would mean not as many commutes to her job in Pasco County, where her husband also works. And more time at their recently remodeled three-bedroom, two-bath beige house with green shutters.

But the couple say a county plan to widen the heavily traveled road, and take 34 homes on the north side of the street - including theirs - has quashed their dreams of early retirement.

"They aren't considering what it will cost us to live in another home," Barbara Bogner said. "Our taxes will be higher. We're not going to be able to afford a house like we have now."

During a Hernando County Commission meeting Tuesday, commissioners are expected to approve one of six options to widen Elgin Boulevard to four lanes from Mariner Boulevard east to Lauren Drive and Sand Ridge Boulevard. The proposals cost $10-million to $12-million.

As recommended by Hernando Public Works director Charles Mixson, the cheapest option is to take homes on the north side of Elgin and add two westbound lanes.

While some homeowners seemed willing to sell, others like the Bogners have said no, Mixson said. Eminent domain most likely will be used to take their property.

The county has used eminent domain for right of way needed for other projects, like Hexam, Ayers and Sunshine Grove roads. Some of those cases landed in court. This is the first time Hernando homes could be razed under eminent domain.

But Tuesday's meeting, as Barbara Bogner points out, also marks the first time affected homeowners have been invited to discuss the subject with county officials.

She and her husband first heard about the county plans in May when they received a letter. Along with it was a survey they sent back to the county, asking whether the couple would be interested in selling their home.

They didn't hear anything again until last month when they were alerted through a neighbor who found out from a newspaper article of the plans to move forward with widening the road - and take their homes.

Not long after that, they received a packet of information from a Tampa law firm specializing in eminent domain cases.

Since then, three other attorneys have contacted them about fighting the county. Real estate agents and appraisers have started calling, too.

In the meantime, the couple have put off any more home improvement plans. After installing hardwood floors and painting inside and outside, they were going to add a backyard deck.

The thing is, they love their home. The size is perfect and it's almost just the way they want it.

They could do without all the traffic - it takes forever to pull out from the driveway at all times of the day. As their neighbors agree, Elgin Boulevard has become a speedway, where drivers go much faster than the posted 35 mph limit.

When the Bogners first moved in, they were the last house on the street. A few years later, the road was lengthened and widened. Then developments started popping up all around them.

Even then, the Bogners felt it was worth it to stay. After all, the house would be all theirs soon.

With the housing market the way it is now, they know they should be able to find another place to live. State Rep. Robert Schenck, who represents District 44, has also filed a bill that would allow those who may lose their homes to eminent domain to keep a tax cap when they buy a new house.

But what worries the couple the most is wondering just how much their expenses will go up.

That's what no one is considering, Barbara Bogner said, even if the county does give them market value for their home.

"And even if they don't take the north side," she said, "who's going to want to live in front of a four-lane highway?"

Chandra Broadwater can be reached at cbroadwater@sptimes.com or (352) 848-1432.

Fast Facts:

Road options

At a cost of $70,000, Tampa Bay Engineering conducted a study to determine six design options to improve Elgin Boulevard from Mariner Boulevard east to Lauren Drive and Sand Ridge Boulevard. Impact fees and development mitigation fees will be used to purchase the 0.8-mile stretch of property where homes are currently located.

Option 1: This engineer- and county-recommended option - which is also the cheapest of the six proposals - keeps the existing road and constructs two westbound lanes to the north for $10-million. Thirty-four homes would be taken. The right of way land estimate is $5.1-million while the construction cost is an estimated $4.9-million.

Option 2: This proposal keeps the existing road and calls for the construction of two lanes to the south for a $11.2-million total. Forty-three homes would be taken. The right of way land cost is an estimated $6.5-million.

Option 3: Proposes to leave the existing frontage road and construct four lanes to the north for $10.8-million.

Option 4: Calls for keeping the existing frontage road and building four lanes to the south for $11.9-million.

Option 5: This options also keeps the existing road but proposes building four lanes to the north for $11.1-million.

Option 6: Calls for keeping the existing road and constructing four lanes to the south for $12.3-million.