City may look to acquire some private roads

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By Jenna McKenna

The last item on Tuesday's City Commission agenda was, as Mayor Heath Davis pointed out, technically a CRA matter - paving of roads. What the commission needed to decide, however, was how to proceed with the planned paving of several segments of private road that intersect and impact city-owned and maintained property.

Commissioner Pat O'Neal was immediately against it, saying it was unreasonable for the city to commit to paving roads that the owners had undertaken to build on their own.

Commissioner Gene Hodges agreed, saying he believed it was against the law to use municipal resources to improve private property.

Commissioner Scott Dennison differed, noting that the CRA and city are contributing to the restoration of the Lutterloh Building, a privately-owned structure held by the Cedar Key Historical Society.

"What's the difference?" he asked.

Dennison pressed on, noting that several roads had severe stormwater runoff issues that were negatively impacting shellfish beds - an unacceptable occurrence in a city invested in aquaculture and water quality.

Davis reframed the issue, saying that "paving private roads isn't the right way to look at it," rather, thinking of it as infrastructure maintenance and a way to seek the deeds to the roads.

He also pointed out that the city has a duty to help with the provision of emergency services, and some roads, such as East Point Road, are not only nearly inaccessible to first responders, they could cause damage to city-owned emergency vehicles.

"If we could get the deeds, we could maintain those roads and keep the limbs trimmed so our firefighters could get down there quickly and safely," he said.

Commissioner Sue Colson backed up Dennison, observing that as a shell-rock road, East Point had worse runoff issues than a paved road would.

CRA director Greg Lang said it should not take long to speak with engineers to see how to efficiently integrate the paving of the private roads with the rest of the road project. Hodges requested the city attorney be brought into the consultation to figure out the legal impact and procedure of trying to get deeds to the roads, and Lang agreed.