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Don't spread dredging cost

By Randy G. Sheets
Published October 19, 2007


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photo
[James Branaman | Special to the Times]
About 50 people turned out for a "Pluck the Muck" rally held on Bayside Drive in Tampa to try to raise attention to their concern over area canals that have filled with "muck".

Note: The following guest column is in response to the Oct. 5 story, "Both sides of dredging issue meet under one roof." To read that story, go to www.hillsborough.tampabay.com.

I strongly oppose the idea that all waterfront property owners should pay for the dredging and maintenance of specific canals, just because we have the water in common.

I have lived in South Tampa my entire life, and my wife and I purchased our current home on W San Rafael Street in October 1998. We have lived on four canals in South Tampa, including the Euclid canal, Treasure canal, center Melrose canal and now the San Rafael canal (north side of street). We chose our current home primarily because the water is usable 100 percent of the time, despite some sediment build-up at the mouth of the canal and along the seawalls.

I am an avid fisherman who is in and out of the South Tampa canals routinely, so I am very familiar with the depth issues some waterfront homeowners deal with. I am also a member of the appraisal institute (MAI), and I have owned and operated a commercial real estate appraisal firm in Tampa since 1993 so I am very familiar with property values and the issues that affect them. Creating value has been a major marketing strategy used by the proponents of the proposed dredging program.

There are significant premiums to be on certain canals. For example, a home on the north side of San Rafael Street would be dramatically more expensive than the same home on the south side of the street, solely because of the superior canal. Further, homes on the north side of the street are rarely available for sale, while four homes are currently listed for sale (some for more than a year) on the south side of the street. It is not right to mandate that homeowners on the north side of the street, who have already paid the significant premium to be there, pay for canal improvements on the south side of the street, and thus increase their property values. If the property owners on the south side of the street feel that improvements to their canal would improve their values, let them pay for their own improvements.

Many of the more vocal proponents and leaders of this movement purchased homes on sub-par canals within the past few years, knowing full well the limitations of these canals. Their motivations are obvious. Rather than presume the substantial costs of dredging these canals on all waterfront homeowners, they should make their own improvements. My wife and I opted for a smaller home on a usable canal, and we do not appreciate those who recently purchased much larger homes on inferior water asking us to improve their canals.

Finally, I am adamantly opposed to the creation of a "Special Assessment Area." The "Canal Dredging Update" indicates that the estimated rate will be $600 per year for 20 years, but there are no guarantees that it will not be significantly more. Once the government has the district and the opportunity to tax, it will.

Like many other owners along our canal, I hope the city will give us the opportunity to "opt out" of the large-scale program. We prefer to have some control over the costs and when and what parts of our canal are dredged.

Randy G. Sheets is a homeowner in the Sunset Park neighborhood.

[Last modified October 18, 2007, 06:41:14]


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