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Condition of private road might raise roadblock

The owners of Medical Drive may close the road to public traffic because their request to have the county take responsibility for the street has been rejected.

By TIM GRANT

© St. Petersburg Times, published April 27, 2001


CARROLLWOOD -- Medical Drive is a nice shortcut for motorists who want to avoid traffic on N Dale Mabry Highway while traveling to and from Handy Road.

What they may not know is that Medical Drive is a private street owned by members of a condominium association that runs the Commons office complex on Medical Drive.

Over the years, all that cut-through traffic has taken its toll on the road, prompting the owners to ask Hillsborough County to make repairs and assume responsibility for all future maintenance.

"If this road is being used as a public road, all we want is for the county to accept it as a public road," said Larry Weaver, president of the Commons Condominium Association.

But that does not seem likely to happen.

County construction manager Gary Pailthorpe said that although in this case the road does serve a public use, it was not built to county standards. He has seen this scenario time and again.

"A lot of times a developer builds a cheap road and when they move out, there are 92 homes that want it to be maintained by the county," Pailthorpe said. "Most private roads don't have the degree of testing on the base and sub-base that we require."

According to Weaver, the 18 owners would have to come up with about $30,000 to upgrade Medical Drive to county standards, which means repairing all the potholes and patchwork along the 623-foot road. Some trees are growing too close to the pavement and tree roots have upheaved one concrete gutter.

Once these repairs are made, the county will do an inspection. If the work is approved, the Planning & Growth Management department would recommend to County Commissioners that Medical Drive be accepted for maintenance.

But again, all of this depends on how soon the Commons will make the repairs. And since the owners say they cannot afford to, the proposal is at a deadlock.

It has been three years since the Commons asked county officials to assume responsibility for the road. Weaver said unless the county agrees to maintain it, the owners may soon decide to block public access.

"We can't be liable for every Tom, Dick and Harry who comes through here because all of them are not doing business at the Commons," Weaver said. "We are going to have to turn it into a private road by chaining it off, blocking it and prohibiting public traffic.

"If the county will not accept it as a private road, we as small business owners can't afford to maintain it and if we can't maintain it, we'll have to re-establish our rights and make it a private road."

Matters are further complicated because the ownership of one portion of Medical Drive is in dispute.

The Commons is owned by its 18 tenants, which include doctors, lawyers, psychologists and insurance agents. They bought the office complex about three years ago from the original developer, Wood Dixson Properties.

At the time of the sale, the portion of Medical Drive between the Commons and the Northside apartment complex was deeded to the Commons Condominium Association. However, the portion between the Commons and the Grand Plaza shopping center was supposed to be given to the county.

Weaver said his group learned recently that the developer did not deed that portion of the road to the county, and the Commons did not agree to buy it. Because of that uncertainty, Weaver said that no one is claiming ownership of that part of Medical Drive.

- To reach Tim Grant call 226-3471.

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