Years of dirt roads will soon end for residents of the Pasco Lake Estates subdivision after Pasco County Commissioners approved a paving project of just under $800,000. But it won’t be cheap as landowners in the neighborhood fork over thousands of dollars over the next 15 years to pay for the project.
That’s business as usual for anyone wanting to pave any of the more than 500 miles of dirt road in the county, said Michael Garrett, director of the county’s Public Works Department. Many of those roads were part of subdivisions, or are used only by those living in those neighborhoods. But others are part of what are described as rural neighborhoods, where dirt roads have been grandfathered into the county’s overall street plans.
“The problem is that when you have very large lots, the road becomes very expensive to build,” Garrett said. “There is not a lot of interest in getting them done.”
All but about 20 miles of the dirt roads are located in the central and eastern parts of the county, Garrett said. Neighborhood residents come to the county quite regularly asking for roads to be paved, but typically only one or two neighborhoods are done each year — and only after landowners agree to pay a special assessment.
In Pasco Lake Estates, that averages out to about $7,600 for each lot. If that cost is spread out over 15 years, the county will add interest of about $2,100.
That’s along the lines of what Bonnie Rupe and her neighbors were told a couple years back when they asked the county to pave their Zephyrhills neighborhood. Rupe and her family moved to Miller Avenue a decade ago from Wesley Chapel, and expected the dirt roads just outside of city limits would be paved in just a couple years.
“We have three vehicles, and we’re constantly washing our cars because of the dust that flies up from the road,” Rupe said. “There are a lot of people on our street here with asthma problems, and other health conditions, and I’m convinced it’s because of the dirt road.”
Several streets in Rupe’s neighborhood are dirt, including 20th Street, which borders to the west. But unlike Pasco Lake Estates, none of the roads are part of a subdivision. And many of Rupe’s neighbors would be hard-pressed to call the area “rural,” as it’s literally blocks from the strip malls of County Road 54, and a short jaunt from Florida Hospital Zephyrhills.
A vote to pave the roads throughout that particular area, where there are at least 60 lots lining less than 1.5 miles of road, failed. Not because people didn’t want paved roads, but because the $6,000 price tag to pave was just too high.
“There’s no way I could afford that right now,” Rupe said. “I don’t think a lot of us here can afford that.”
The problem, Garrett said, is there’s just no money to do it. The county is working on ways to fund current road maintenance and construction needs, and even with an expanded gas tax in coming years, that could still prove to be tricky.
Instead, costs for those wanting to convert to paved roads are passed on to the owners of lots lining those roads. A dozen owners in Pasco Lake Estates will shoulder a third of the overall cost.
One owner, Ollie Williams, would be responsible for $38,620, plus an additional $11,500 in interest if he pays over 15 years. Habitat for Humanity, which maintains four lots in the neighborhood designed to give people an interest-free shot at owning a home, will be on the hook for just under $27,000, along with $8,000 in interest.
“I feel that it’s not fair that they have to charge us,” Rupe said. “They are paving streets in the county all the time, and we pay taxes to the county. We should have paved roads as well.”