By Paul Burdziakowski
For Hometown News
Members of the Oakbrook Homeowners Association are demanding a bridge linking their neighborhood with Willow Run be closed because of traffic and criminal activity.
The Port Orange City Council decided May 7 to delay a decision on the issue until after a comprehensive study by the Planning Department.
Residents reported a recent increase in criminal activity, which included stolen property and vandalism. There has been nighttime racing and extreme littering observed in the undeveloped areas of the community as well.
"Criminals now have the opportunity to pass through the neighborhood, observing our patterns and looking for targets," Oakbrook homeowner Lavona Bailey said. "There is now an easy escape route for thieves using this bridge."
Another issue affecting the residents has been an increase in traffic. Members of Oakbrook said they already had enough traffic from their own residents and it will only increase as Holiday Builders continues to construct houses there.
"Traffic increases every day as drivers realize they can come off Clyde Morris to get to Target, Lowes and eventually BJ's," Ms. Bailey said.
According to residents, speeding has become a major issue, as well, since the bridge has been open. There have been some close calls with pedestrians and bicyclists almost getting hit by cars.
"We cannot walk or ride our bikes safely because of speeding vehicles," Ms. Bailey said. "Installing 25 mph speed signs has not helped the situation."
Councilmen Bob Ford was sympathetic and recommended a short run of increased police enforcement in the community to curtail the speeding and criminal activity. Mr. Ford also proposed the study to find the positives and negatives for closing the bridge.
"Closed neighborhoods, without multiple accesses, are easier to deal with," Mr. Ford said. "We should keep traffic out of our neighborhoods because it causes crime and stress on the residents."
"There are some positives to having the bridge," Councilman Donald Burnette said. "Some people like the bridge because they can avoid the traffic by Horizon Elementary. Speed studies done in the community prior do not substantiate the claims being made tonight, so it may take a little while to find a solution in this matter because we need to weigh all of this."
"There is not enough information to make a decision right now," Councilman Drew Bastian said. "We have heard from both sides on this matter, and we are now looking forward to the reports from Planning Department."
In another matter, Council members upheld the decision by the Planning Commission to not accept a variance of the land development code to allow speed bumps on the private roadways within the Parkwood Mobile Home Park.
The city of Port Orange land development code prohibits speed bumps on any public or private roadway or drive. The code requirement was adopted to ensure emergency response vehicles were not delayed or damaged while responding to calls.
The managing member of Parkwood Mobile Home Park, Michael Belanich, requested the approval of a variance. According to Mr. Belanich, the speed bumps ensured the safety of the park residents.
"The safety and well-being of residents are of the upmost importance to us," Mr. Belanich said. "Even though the posted speed limit in the community is 15 mph, many people still don't obey it. I believe that speed bumps in Parkwood are traffic calming devices, not hazards."
Mr. Belanich argued police weren't issuing citations within the community, because it was a private road. He also pointed out the nearby elementary school and Seabird Island had speed bumps in place for similar reasons of safety. In addition, Mr. Belanich included a signed petition from more than 150 residents, supporting the speed bumps.
The City Council and staff were not convinced by what they heard from Mr. Belanich and made statements of their own.
The director of public safety stated that no citations were issued by police because there is no agreement between Parkwood and the Police Department on enforcement. Mr. Belanich stated he looked into it about five years ago and decided against it.
"My concern with speed bumps are that they throw off steering when you hit them at high speeds," Mr. Ford said.
"If the speed limit is 15 mph, you shouldn't even need a speed bump," Mayor Allen Green said.
"If we go the variance route in this case, then every time someone wants a variance, they will be circumventing the land development code," Mr. Burnette said.
Parkwood is one of the oldest mobile home parks in Port Orange and initially had speed bumps in place. When the original speed bumps became worn and flattened over time, Parkwood had new speed bumps put in around June 2012. This action was a violation of city's land development code and the community received a citation from city.