LAKEWOOD RANCH — A group of Lakewood Ranch residents now are taking their fight against incorporation to the public arena.
After more than two months of preparation, the newly sanctioned Friends of Lakewood Ranch club has come forward as a formal voice opposing the idea.
The group does not consider itself an anti-incorporation organization because its overall focus is on raising awareness on governance issues, however it is honing in on incorporation to start.
Members argue that the financial feasibility study by Fishkind & Associates released last week is built on “a number of unsubstantiated and unsupportable assumptions,” and should be viewed as a reason not to incorporate. Furthermore, there may be a plethora of unintended and costly consequences should Lakewood Ranch incorporate prematurely, members say.
“Each of us is against incorporation and not all for the same reasons,” said Summerfield resident Gary Berns, the group’s elected spokesperson. “Some are against incorporation, period. Some are against incorporation, now.
“The group sees the report as actually worthless, in that it does not in any way address what would happen if any single one of (Fishkind’s) assumptions are not correct,” he said.
For example, the group cites a state law requiring Florida cities to have an average density of at least 1.5 people per acre or “have extraordinary conditions requiring the establishment of a municipal corporation with less density.” However, the Fishkind study itself recognizes that Lakewood Ranch will not meet the required density until the Lakewood Ranch Stewardship District is built out — a feat that is still decades away from fruition. Group members want to know on what basis the Legislature should allow Lakewood Ranch to become a city prematurely — a question not addressed in the report, they say.
The group also questions the credibility of Hank Fishkind of Fishkind & Associates, the economist tasked with conducting the study, as well as some portions of the city charter as proposed by the Incorporation Study Committee.
“We think they are proceeding with a very basic false assumption — that the governing system is broken,” Berns said. “We don’t think the system is broken. We now have local control. If you live in CDD 1, (your issue) is going to go in front of five (elected) people who care about your area. This will not necessarily be true as a city.”
As proposed, the Lakewood Ranch Civic Action Forum’s Incorporation Study Committee has recommended the city council would comprise five members — two at-large and three area-specific members. However, all council positions would be determined by a citywide vote to create a stronger sense of community.
The Friends of Lakewood Ranch group believes such a system will be detrimental to residents for several reasons. First, the setup would take government further from the people by making it less localized. Second, it would not adequately account for the varying socio-economic levels within Lakewood Ranch and the associated expectations and costs for levels of service, Berns said.
Although Incorporation Study Committee members have said such nuances will be taken care of through the existing CDD budgeting process, members of Friends of Lakewood Ranch still have concerns that lower socio-economic areas of the Ranch will end up paying for more services than they need or desire.
Berns said the group has many other concerns and is continuing to research other potential issues. The group will hold a public forum to educate Lakewood Ranch residents about potential consequences of incorporation at a meeting at 7 p.m., June 9 at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friends of Lakewood Ranch Forum
WHEN: 7 p.m., June 9
WHERE: Lakewood Ranch Town Hall, 8175 Lakewood Ranch Blvd.
Currently 2 Responses
- Very profound Robert. I agree with everything you said except that you mentioned "They say LWR government is broken because of recent articles and too many people governing it."
The first part is accurate, the recent articles show 'why' LWR is broken, but the second part saying that it is because too many people are governing should be changed to LWR is broken because of "who" is governing LWR.
Bob Fernandez and Cynthia Wills have proven time and time again that it is 'who' is governing and managing LWR that is what it bringing it to its downfall. If a half a dozen employees can all resign saying that it is better to be unemployed than to work for those two individuals, that should begin to give a hint of where the problem lies.
If Bob Fernandez can get fired from his 3 previous jobs for doing the same thing he is being complained about doing here in LWR, that should begin to tell people something about where the problem might be hiding.
If after all those employee complaints, Bob Fernandez can still demoralize and demote one of LWR's most beloved employees Lori Basilone and then keep her from even signing other employees birthday cards, only to have Bob's boss Tom Green have to fix the situation and undermine Bob's actions, that should tell you where the problems might be stemming from.
Let's face it, it's not that too many people are governing LWR, it's "who" is governing it.
- As a resident of LWR since 2002, I have seen the growth with amazement. The increase of new homes & property values doubling, I was afraid the bubble would burst. And it did! Housing values have gone back to 2002, for sale signs weathering in the front of homes to the ones vacant from foreclose and I saw the shattering of people’s dreams.
When every city around us is cutting budgets & reporting a shortfall of cash to meet expenses, why do we think as the new kid on the block we can succeed when others have failed?
While LWR has the potential of continued growth, I believe that this is in the future & therefore incorporation should be looked at in the future. While my background is not as a famous economist, I also have not made publicized predictions that have been proven spectacularly incorrect.
They say LWR government is broken because of recent articles and too many people governing it. The truth in fact is that the restrictions that are governed by the HOA’s will remain & the neighborhoods are governed by groups of 5 who live in the area they represent & thereby are answerable to their neighbors. The city they propose will have a government of 5 people slated to govern an area that they may not even live in. The city will be sectioned into 3 districts with 1 commissioner for each district and 2 at-large commissioners. The district and at-large commissioners will be elected from the general populous, so my representation most probable will not be from my neighborhood.
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