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Build a wall, but at a cost: Orange County to unveil proposals to replace damaged fence

CONWAY, Fla. — A growing effort to replace a vandalized, off-the-books fence between a suburban neighborhood and several apartment complexes with a fortified brick wall is about to hit a hurdle of its own.

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The story behind the tear-down of the fence was as complicated as it was absurd. 40 years ago, an Orange County commissioner tired of people driving down his road ordered the construction of the fence to sever Surrey Drive and East Kaley Avenue from Watauga Avenue.

The chain-link fence was built on Orlando property, but technically belonged to the county, even though few at the county knew about its existence. It was supposed to have a pedestrian access opening, but that had been closed up.

In February, Delila Smalley, tired of watching kids in the neighborhood climb over the fence, took matters into her own hands for the third time and tore the fence down with a sledgehammer. Deputies, unsure of which government owned the fence, allowed her to do it.

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The vandalism further divided the neighborhood. Residents of the apartment complexes, as well as Smalley, were happy to have a unified and walkable community.

Other property owners were horrified, complaining about stray dogs, strangers walking down the road, trash and increased traffic. They said they felt less secure with increased access to their community.

The county tried to place some temporary barriers to prevent cars from going through the new intersections, but the effort instantly failed as they were vandalized a few days after being placed there.

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In a presentation scheduled for June 14, county staff will propose four permanent solutions for neighbors to consider.

The first possibility would open up the road completely, but this isn’t viewed as acceptable to the homeowners and isn’t seriously being considered.

The second option would have the county construct a new chain-link fence without a pedestrian opening, but this would go against county regulations, a draft of the presentation noted.

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The third option would have the county construct a new chain-link fence with a pedestrian opening, which is Smalley and the apartment tenants’ preferred solution.

The fourth option – favored by many next to the fence – would have a solid brick wall constructed to permanently block the street to both cars and people. However, county staff said they won’t pay for it.

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Instead, the neighborhood will have to form an HOA, petition for a right-of-way abandonment and then pay for the wall itself, a process that could take years and cost as much as $100,000, a county staff member said.

“The initial thought will be to get the brick wall, but I think -- if I’m not really speaking for our neighbors, but if I was -- they’d go the opposite and just put the fence back up,” Rob Karras said. “The kids are already jumping the fence. They’re going to find a way to get over whether they walk through a jump.”

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