South Kentucky Avenue isn’t a major thoroughfare, but the road is essential to people trying to get to homes in several of Orange City’s manufactured-home communities, and it’s falling apart.
South Kentucky Avenue is also important to a new development in the area: Liberty Station, which will bring another 170 homes to Orange City.
Orange City agrees the road needs repair. The problem is, South Kentucky Avenue is a private road. The city doesn’t own it, and doesn’t really have the right to maintain or improve it.
Orange City is making some headway in its effort to assure that South Kentucky Avenue is maintained. Some work has already been done, and at its Jan. 24 meeting, with a 7-0 vote, the Orange City Council authorized continuing repairs to South Kentucky Avenue, at the city’s expense.
How did we get here? A company called Diland Corp. had a planned-unit development agreement for the property surrounding South Kentucky Avenue, and the agreement included a provision that Diland Corp. would maintain the road.
However, the planned development never happened, and Diland Corp. dissolved in 2009.
“There are seven successor (groups) to the 1989 PUD agreement. Eight property owners have access to [the] road that were not part of [the] PUD,” according to information presented to the Orange City Council.
Orange City Manager Dale Arrington said it was a huge challenge for the city to figure out exactly who owns the road.
South Kentucky Avenue runs for about 5,000 feet, from East Graves Avenue into the middle of the woods.
Its counterpart, North Kentucky Avenue, is publicly owned. North Kentucky runs north from Graves Avenue to County Road 472, and is a busy and important link from Orange City and Deltona to Interstate 4. It also serves as a connection between DeLand and Orange City.
Improving South Kentucky Avenue could potentially open up now-vacant land on the roadway’s south end for development, but Orange City Manager Dale Arrington said she doesn’t know of any development plans in the works for the area.
Arrington also said the city has no plans to connect South Kentucky to Rhode Island Avenue, which is planned for extension from Veterans Memorial Parkway eastward to Normandy Boulevard in Deltona, with a bridge over Interstate 4. The Rhode Island Avenue extension would bring Rhode Island near to the southern terminus of South Kentucky Avenue.
Orange City has no legal obligation or right to maintain the private road. However, Arrington said, maintenance has been nonexistent since 1989, as the private owners have not kept it up.
Problems began to be reported in 2017, city officials said. Repaving and sidewalk improvements were needed, and drainage problems needed to be addressed.
“The city didn’t have the right to work on the road,” Arrington said. “Since 1989, we were not supposed to be maintaining this roadway.”
But, in December 2019, the Orange City Council authorized city staff to obtain the necessary easements and contracts to fix two damaged areas. These repairs were completed in May 2022, and cost $48,381.10.
In June 2020, professional assistance was obtained, and the City Council awarded two contracts to help the city create a South Kentucky Avenue Special Assessment District. The professionals presented roadway-improvement options, apportionment methods and potential rate scenarios to the council in March 2021.
There were three options. The first would provide minimum improvements. The second would allow the city to repair the road to a high enough safety standard to limit the city’s liability. The third called for complete renovation.
On Jan. 24, the Orange City Council voted to proceed with the second option, which included repairs and basic safety improvements. Manager Arrington described it as the “very commonsense” option.
Colliers Engineering & Design assessed the road, focusing on the condition, serviceability of traffic and safety. The firm concluded the road has structural damage, safety issues and drainage-failure problems.
“Some will worsen over time if not addressed now,” Professional Engineer Greg Stevens told the Orange City Council Jan. 24.
The total project is currently estimated to cost $1.2 million.
The current plan is to fund the project through a loan and by collecting assessments from nearby property owners. Orange City property owners inside the assessment area will be charged based on how the city determines they benefit from the renovation.
“The other residents of Orange City shouldn’t have to foot the bill,” Mayor Gary Blair said.
Vice Mayor Bill O’Connor is determined to push forward and worry about the specifics of finances when the time comes.
“We made the decision to fix it,” O’Connor said during deliberations. “We’ve gone too far to stop.”
Council Member Alex Tiamson is willing to overlook how much the city has already paid into the project.
“I am willing to forgive what we paid into it,” Tiamson said. “I am an ambassador of every taxpayer in Orange City … the longer we sit on this, the more costs go up.”
The Orange City Council also unanimously agreed to have City Manager Arrington provide options for the city’s future contributions at a special meeting on March 21, 2023.
Another special meeting will be held on Tuesday, May 16, when property owners will be invited to voice their concerns, and a decision about assessments and direct collection will be made.
“This is where the rubber meets the road,” Arrington said.