ITID Gives Preliminary Estimate For Santa Rosa Groves Rehab

The Indian Trail Improvement District held a workshop attended by about 75 residents of Santa Rosa Groves on Tuesday, Jan. 8 to discuss the rural neighborhood’s possible activation as an ITID unit to address drainage and road problems there.

Santa Rosa Groves is made up of 99 lots ranging from five acres to 20 acres. The area, west of The Acreage and north of White Fences, has a long history of flooding problems. Its roads and swales have deteriorated, and the canals are overgrown.

Several residents had questions about ITID activation, and others were critical about possible assessments that would have to be paid to bring the area back in shape. Even spread over 20 years, it could cost residents thousands of dollars a year, particularly for the larger lots.

Currently, the Santa Rosa Groves homeowners’ association has not collected assessments to maintain the area, and a water pump intended to drain the community was stolen several years ago.

Area representatives met with ITID officials in August after a big deluge last spring left some Santa Rosa residents up to their waist in stormwater.

“The purpose of this meeting is to re-convene, since a lot of things have happened since the first meeting,” ITID President Betty Argue said.

ITID staff did a rough estimate of the anticipated cost of rehabilitating the unit, although the district cannot do a thorough study of Santa Rosa Groves without assessing it for costs.

“There have been historical drainage issues going back 20 years,” Argue said. “It’s well documented with the county. It’s documented with Indian Trail. There have been discussions and attempts over the years regarding activation, although in the past, the support wasn’t really there to activate — neither on Indian Trail’s part or Santa Rosa Groves’ part.”

Argue said she heard from residents that they cannot drive on their roads.

“It’s sugar sand, and unless you have a four-wheel-drive vehicle, you can’t get through,” she said. “During the wet season, the roads are mucky and underwater many times. It causes damage to your vehicle. I heard from residents that there is damage to crops and property. All of these things affect your quality of life.”

Argue said the other issue is that property values are affected due to the drainage and road issues. She explained that ITID was created as a drainage district for all land within its boundaries, provided that residents ask to be activated and pay assessments for its services.

“You are within our boundaries,” Argue said. “Not all of the units are activated. It was always intended that Indian Trail would be the drainage district to provide drainage of the land within its boundaries.”

Argue said that ITID had collected some preliminary information, including the South Florida Water Management District’s permit for drainage in Santa Rosa Groves, the survey and easements, and had held meetings with attorneys for Simone Riccobono, owner of Santa Rosa Groves LLC, about possible activation.

“We would be able to get what we need, provided we get a 50 percent plus one agreement of the residents, but I understand you want to know how much it is going to cost,” Argue said.

She explained that the initial cost would include replacing the water pump and rehabilitating drainage swales and overgrown canals. “The cost of restoring all of that in order to make your permit work, in addition to the roads, is far more expensive than taking on a developed unit,” she said.

Argue stressed that ITID cannot do a complete engineering study because Santa Rosa Groves does not currently pay assessments.

“We’re limited to basically administrative staff, and what we’re allowed to do under the statutes, and that is to have these discussions with you about activation,” she said.

Attorney Terry Lewis, representing the Santa Rosa Groves homeowners’ association, said the unit is in terrible shape physically.

“The central question that I was asked was, ‘What are the options?’” Lewis said. “I think [to] rehab the system, you really only have one option, and that is to ask Indian Trail to activate the unit.”

Lewis reiterated that an effective water control system consists of swales, ditches, canals, pumps and roads where all landowners have access, and the key to successful drainage is to bring all those elements back to the condition they were originally permitted for by South Florida Water Management District, and ITID is the best entity to accomplish that.

Lewis said a survey underway of all 99 lots of Santa Rosa Groves landowners had received 30 positive responses so far favoring activation. He added that the SFWMD permit is very old, and some parts of it might need updating.

“If you were a private entity or individual, you could receive a permit from the water management district,” Lewis said. “That’s not possible now. The water management district will insist on a public entity to take over management of the maintenance of the facilities.”

ITID Manager Rob Robinson said the overall cost of rehabilitating the unit, based on preliminary figures, totals $1,016,180.

A bond issue of $1 million, with a $75,000 financing fee, would place an assessment of $223.78 per acre, per year for a 10-year loan, or $141.03 per acre, per year for a 20-year loan.

“As you all know, it’s quite overgrown,” Robinson said. “It’s going to be tedious work to go in there, because we’ve got power lines that run down pretty much every other [canal]. We can’t spend a lot of time on this, but we are definitely trying to help you all out with this situation.”

Robinson said that if the residents decide to move forward, a complete engineering estimate could be higher than what he had put together.