In 1982, the Board of County Commissioners (BCC) approved a resolution, which provided an opportunity for interested property owners to improve their roads to County paved standards and, subsequently, maintained by the Lake County Public Works Department.
In the Special Assessment Program, Lake County pays 33 percent of the cost of paving local roads, which are smaller, 18-foot roads, and 50 percent of the cost of paving collector roads, which are 20-foot roads that have local roads extending off them.
A requirement to be considered for the program is the road needs a minimum of 50 feet of right-of-way. If right-of-way is not already dedicated to the public, interested parties should prepare a simple petition from all owners stating they are willing to dedicate a total of 50 feet of right-of-way to the County. The Right-of-Way Section will assist in the preparation of deeds and provide other needed information. If not all of the property owners agree to donate right-of-way, the project cannot continue.
After the necessary right-of-way is obtained, the Department of Public Works will prepare petitions that a designated property owner must be willing to distribute to owners on the abutting road(s). Petitions must be received from 55 percent of the property owners with 55 percent of the front footage, on the abutting road.
In 2007, the estimated cost of a special assessment project was $45 to $55 per assessed foot, depending on the length of the road, number of corner lots, assessment method, drainage problems, project location and type of construction. The cost per foot for property that is located in stormwater basins will be considerably higher due to permitting requirements by St. Johns River Water Management District. A petition will reflect an estimated cost for the specific project. Owners will be assessed per frontage foot unless they meet one of these conditions:
- Corner lots:
- If both sides of a corner lot are being improved and both roads are estimated at the same cost, add the measurement of both sides of the property along the roads and divide by two to determine the assessed footage. If each road is a different estimated cost, assess one-half of each side.
- If one side of the lot is not being improved and both sides are unmaintained roads, the side fronting on the street to be improved is assessed. However, if the other street is ever improved through a special assessment, that lot will be exempt from the current assessment.
- If the corner lot fronts on existing maintained roads, the short side of the lot will be used to figure the assessed footage.
- The measurement of the front and rear property lines divided by two will be used to figure the assessed footage.
Upon receipt of the petitions by the Public Works Department, petitions will be checked for correct ownership, notarization and witnesses, and percentage of signatures. If these requirements are in order, the project will be submitted to the BCC for a request to advertise for bids and to identify a funding source.
Upon approval from the BCC, the Public Works Department will initiate the design and bidding process. This involves engineering design, obtaining required permits, local advertisements, preparing bid specification documents, bidding the project and selecting a bidder. These tasks take about 1 to 2 years to complete. Some projects with severe drainage problems may require additional engineering time. After this is completed, an exact cost per assessed foot can be calculated for property owner’s cost involvement.
A public hearing is then scheduled before the BCC to award the bid and authorize the project. This hearing requires local advertisements and certified letters to all property owners abutting the road regarding the hearing.
Property owners who are in opposition to the project are encouraged to write a letter of objection or appear at the public hearing. Upon approval to award from the BCC, contract documents are prepared and processed, and the notice to proceed is sent to the awarded contractor. Construction commences about 60 to 90 days after the project has been awarded.
Property owners are advised at an early date of the payment procedures. After the completion of the project, the Board accepts the road(s) into the County Maintenance System. The Public Works Department then mails invoices to all owners. Owners are allowed to pay their assessment in full within 30 days, with no interest. Unpaid balances will be placed on the property owner’s tax bill as a non ad valorem assessment.
The benefits of the newly maintained road(s) through the special assessment program are rewarding. The value of the property may be increased and emergency vehicles, mail delivery, garbage trucks and other service vehicles can now travel easier through the community.
For more information about the Lake County Special Assessment Program, call 352-253-6019.