Committee drafts Ranch city charter

 

Committee drafts Ranch city charter

 

Date: June 17, 2009
by: Pam McTeer | News Editor

 
 

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Members of the Civic Action Forum’s Incorporation Study Committee presented their vision for Lakewood Ranch’s governing body as well as a draft of a city charter during a forum June 15.

If Lakewood Ranch incorporates, the committee is advocating a council-manager style of government comprising five council members with one serving as mayor. Furthermore, its draft of Lakewood’s city charter delineates all aspects of running the city — from term limits and district lines to taxes and police protection.

A second forum for governance groups will be held at 5:30 p.m., June 19, at Town Hall. Information from both meetings will be used to make possible adjustments to the city charter proposal, and public forums would be held at future dates, committee member Keith Davey said.

Friday’s meeting is not open to the public.

Government
The committee is proposing a council-manager style of government in which five council members would be elected by a citywide vote. Then, those five would appoint one to serve as mayor. The council would consist of three district seats and two at-large seats, and a city manager would be appointed to handle the day-to-day operations of the city.

Committee members say the structure would ensure council members share a citywide view of the community and promote efficiency.

But some CDD supervisors and leaders of other Lakewood Ranch governance groups argue the proposed structure may leave residents without enough representation because elected leaders would not specifically represent neighborhoods.

“It’s a matter of whether you want the decisions close to you or not,” CDD 2 Supervisor Bob Stepleman said. “You’re pushing the government farther from the people.”

City Charter
The Incorporation Study Committee began the charter creation process in October 2008 and since then has reviewed more than 50 city charters to develop 45 decision points to include in Lakewood Ranch’s potential city charter.

Guiding principles for the document include achieving a strong, elected leaders and maximum flexibility for the city council to conduct business.

As currently proposed, the city charter would create a five-member council with mayor and a city manager. Council members would serve four-year staggered terms, while the mayor would serve two-year terms. Currently, there are no term limits.

The city would be broken into three districts of approximately equal populations, each with a mix of residential, commercial and agricultural lands.

“It really promotes a citywide view of all (council) members,” Davey said.

Most services, including police and emergency medical services, would be contracted out, to minimize expenses and the number of city employees.

Existing CDDs would become dependent districts of the city, meaning that CDD boundaries would remain in place and the taxes collected within each CDD, for example, would still be used for that CDD but would be handled by the city instead of a separate board of supervisors.

There would be virtually no impact to existing homeowners’ associations, Davey said.

The Civic Action Forum is still awaiting results of a feasibility study, which would determine whether incorporation would be beneficial to residents.

For more information, visit the forum’s Web site, www.lwrdv.com.

Contact Pam McTeer at pmcteer@yourobserver.com.
 

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