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Bookertown residents fear Seminole County plans could flood historic community

Residents of Bookertown, a historic Black community first settled more than 150 years ago in northwest Seminole, are concerned about a county plan to build two new stormwater retention ponds, and enlarge an existing one, adjacent to their neighborhood as part of a roadway improvement project.

They say the new ponds will effectively surround their small neighborhood with water and could lead to flooding if a large storm moves through the region.

The new retention ponds, planned for the north end of Bookertown, will collect stormwater from Orange Boulevard after the roadway is widened with new bike lanes, medians and sidewalks in 2026.

The new ponds will sit on county-owned land. One will be constructed on a vacant 4-acre parcel at the southwest side of Orange Boulevard and Halsey Avenue. The other one will be dug on a half-acre of county land at the southwest corner of Orange and Dunbar Avenue. The existing retention pond on the east side of Dunbar will be redesigned and enlarged, according to plans.

Dino Lucarelli, chief design engineer for Seminole, said the ponds are needed to collect stormwater runoff from the wider roadway.

“It will be a tremendous improvement for the area when it’s completed,” he said. “When you do widening improvements, it becomes necessary to build stormwater ponds. The water has to go somewhere.”

In support of building the new stormwater facilities near Bookertown, county officials said there are few vacant parcels suitable for building retention ponds along Orange.

“You look at putting the ponds at the low areas, because water goes to the lowest spots,” Lucarelli said. “And there is not an abundance of available parcels.”