EAST COUNTY — For more than a year, Lakewood Ranch officials have debated changing the procedures used at the gate at Balmoral Woods and Lakewood Ranch boulevards.
Similar conversations have occurred regarding the gate at Heritage Harbour’s Stoneybrook community, where officials have considered jettisoning its Envera security software system.
Now, Manatee County officials are demanding a new — previously considered — solution.
Tired of the slow pace of hyper-local government, Manatee County is ordering community gates be opened.
“All community development districts in Manatee County must open the gates to their community and can no longer use gates,” said Gary Gator, county gate-planning official. “I know there’s been all this noncommittal talk in Lakewood Ranch of making gates transponder-only and utilizing new technology. But technology costs money. So does manning gates. And the slowness displayed by local government is costing me patience.”
Gator said roads within CDDs are public anyway, so the gates provide the illusion of security. Gate attendants cannot keep anyone from entering the community.
In Lakewood Ranch, for example, Lakewood Ranch CDD 6 board members have debated making the gate at Lakewood Ranch and Balmoral Woods boulevards transponder-only as a way to save money. But, they voted in August to delay a decision on the gate’s fate until after fiscal year 2014.
Currently, the Balmoral gate has transponder-only access from 10:30 p.m. until 6:30 a.m., and a security company mans it during the day.
That will all end by April 30, when a gate-removal team, assembled by Gator and armed with universal transponders, will remove each gate using blunt force.
“Whether it’s me and our team using our muscles to remove the gates is still unclear,” Gator said. “It depends on if I can fit in a gym session that day.”
Gator said the county will encourage CDDs to convert their old gatehouses into mini community centers, used for hosting events such as bingo, charades and hide-and-seek.
The decision by the county comes after Lakewood Ranch CDD’s 2, 5 and 6 approved an inter-local agreement to share the cost of operating the main gates at Balmoral Woods and Legacy boulevards — the two primary entryways into Lakewood Ranch Golf and Country Club.
The county’s pending change, which was detailed in a memorandum and obtained through a public record’s request, does not require approval by the board of county commissioners.
The ruling applies to all gates in CDD-government communities, including at Heritage Harbour and GreyHawk Landing.
Private communities, such as Cascades and University Park, would not be forced to comply because their roadways are private.
A spokesman for the Manatee County Sheriff’s office said gates are overrated in deterring criminals and that people should continue to live peacefully.
“If someone wants to break in, they will,” the spokesperson said. “That’s just a fact of life.”
Contact Josh Siegel at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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