By PHIL ATTINGER
SEBRING — Robert Peck paid taxes for 36 years on a one-acre lot in Avon Park Estates. This year he received word he can’t build on it.
The Highlands County Property Appraisers Office reevaluated lots in the subdivision and assigned them a lessor dollar value based on the fact that people cannot legally build on half of a lot, even if that lot is an acre.
As it turns out, after the subdivision was platted, the developers split the two-acre lots to one-acre each.
They weren’t allowed to do that, not according to code, county officials told Peck at a County Commission meeting earlier this month.
Before they change it, however, county officials need to know the potential impact of doubling the number of lots in the subdivision, up to 1,000 more buildable lots.
On Tuesday, county commissioners approved an impact study by County Engineer Clinton Howerton Jr.
Avon Park Estates was platted in the 1970s and zoned for two-acre lots, County Administrator Randy Vosburg said on Sept. 5.
Vosburg said many of the half-lot parcels don’t even have direct road access, potentially causing isolation problems such as those on Mare Path in Silver Fox subdivision off State Road 66.
The split lots were never put into the county’s maps of the area, Howerton said. Meanwhile, planning for that area has been based on the number of two-acre lots in Avon Park Estates, not the number of one-acre half-lots.
Howerton said when people started applying for driveway permits on half lots, they learned a “half lot” is not allowed to have a house.
“If we can work it out, then the (property) value comes back up,” Howerton told the Highlands News-Sun on Tuesday. “If not, it won’t.”
The county could rezone the whole subdivision for one-acre lots, but first they need to find out the impact on traffic and drainage from instantly doubling the 984 lots and removing a legal hurdle to development.
Peck asked commissioners if the county made a deal with the developer at the time to split the lots.
“We’re trying to fix it,” said Commissioner Ron Handley, a contractor by trade. “You should have been told you were buying half a lot.”
“The seller should have told you,” County Attorney Joy Carmichael added. “The county is trying to assist in fixing it, but the county didn’t cause it.”
Commission Chair Jim Brooks gave his word that county staff are working on it.
The study approved Tuesday would have Kimley-Horne Associates Inc. do traffic count studies on State Road 64 for the number of homes now in Avon Park Estates, then run formulas to predict the impact with 984 homes on two-acre lots as well as 1,846 homes on one-acre lots.