Brick streets come at a hefty price for Clearwater neighborhood

Article Courtesy of The Tampa Bay Times

By Tracy McManus

Published January 18, 2016


CLEARWATER — It could turn out to be the most expensive home improvement Patricia Slaughter never wanted.

After the City Council passed a policy in September detailing how neighborhoods can petition the city to install brick streets on the homeowners' dime, the affluent Harbor Oaks subdivision was the first to go for it.

City engineers evaluated the homes and sent each resident cost estimates based on square footage of paved street near each property.

After residents saw their preliminary estimates, the roughly 100-home neighborhood with 166 property owners voted 66.9 percent in favor of the renovations — the new city policy requires at least 65 percent approval.

If the project advances, that could leave some homeowners, including Slaughter, obligated to pay their share of the brick installation in the neighborhood even though they didn't want it in the first place.

Slaughter's share? A cool $26,630.

"Yeah, $26,000 is a lot of money for a brick street," said Slaughter, who voted against the assessment. "I didn't see the sense in it."

Allan Dadetto, Harbor Oaks Homeowners Association member and beautification chairman, said a committee of residents is working to secure historic preservation grants that could help pay the homeowners' expenses, but that process is not complete.

The preliminary cost estimates done by city engineers vary greatly depending on the homes' road frontage — one resident is slated to pay as little as $4,903, another $16,868, and the highest assessment comes in at $65,481, according to data provided by the city.

Next week, the council will vote to put out bids for engineering firms, which will provide actual construction costs. According to the city brick streets policy passed in September, if the final cost estimate is 10 percent more than the preliminary, residents must vote again in order to move forward.

City Council member Doreen Hock-DiPolito, who lives in Harbor Oaks and is estimated to pay $21,523 for the bricks in front of her home, said the project will benefit not just her neighborhood but the city as a whole.

"This is not just about Harbor Oaks," she said. "The increase in the value of the homes and increase in value to the city is unbelievable."

With its location just south of downtown near Morton Plant Hospital, Hock-DiPolito said the Harbor Oaks brick streets project will also complement the upcoming Coachman Park and Bluff revitalization plans and surrounding property values.

And Dadetto said the purpose is more than just an attempt to get a classy, historic feel for the 1913-era community — the bumps of the bricks act as a traffic calming measure while the environment benefits from water seeping between the cracks back into the ground.

"The main thing for this was beautification, traffic calming, which was a No. 1 concern, and to have something historically fitting for the neighborhood," he said.

Hock-DiPolito acknowledged the city's preliminary estimates seemed "a little high" and said it would make more sense to assess homes based on property value rather than the road frontage.

The $9.5 million, 30,000-square-foot Century Oaks mansion at 802 Druid Road (with tennis courts and a hydraulic car lift) could pay $26,346 for its share of the brick streets, according to the city's preliminary estimates.

That is $284 less than what Slaughter will pay for the bricks in front of the 5,000-square-foot, $677,000 home she has lived in for 36 years.