LAKEWOOD RANCH — Despite Manatee County’s lift on once-a-week watering restrictions, Lakewood Ranch residents will have to keep with their existing watering schedule, at least for now.
Residents who water twice a week, if caught, will be fined by their homeowners associations.
Lakewood Ranch Town Hall staff already has encouraged Lakewood Ranch’s water provider, Braden River Utilities, to develop a semiweekly schedule for residents. Because the provider holds a permit with the Southwest Water Management District that is separate from the county, it will have to apply for a variance to make the change.
Lakewood Ranch Community Manager Bob Fernandez said he wants to make sure residents are given the option to water twice a week, particularly to avoid frustrations from residents who suffer lawn damage because of an inability to water their yards enough.
“You want to offer the option to irrigate during the dry season for the landscape to survive,” added Director of Operations Ryan Heise.
In the past, Lakewood Ranch has had a semiweekly watering schedule — but only during the dry season.
There are concerns that adopting a semiweekly schedule could affect water pressure in some Lakewood Ranch neighborhoods and encourage unnecessary watering, particularly in the rainy season.
Rex Jensen, president of BRU’s parent company, Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, said BRU is exploring the use of reclaimed water as a way to assist residents and has no current plans to move toward a semiweekly watering schedule.
“Why would you do that in the rainy season?” he said. “To me, seeking twice-a-week watering now is just paper shuffling.”
Additionally, IDA supervisors learned last week that the IDA was being double-billed for water usage at Kent Lake.
Concern about billing at the lake had been brought up by the IDA’s irrigation consultant Azad Shah as he conducted his analysis on Lakewood Ranch’s irrigation system. After working with Braden River Utilities, it was determined there was an inadvertent error in billing. It has been corrected.
The correction likely will result in a $10,000 to $12,000 savings monthly.
Supervisor Jean Stewart said she is hopeful the savings, which will be retroactive for at least several months, will pay for a significant amount of the irrigation study.
The IDA launched its own study of Lakewood Ranch’s irrigation system last year to address longstanding water pressure problems and other irrigation issues.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].
IN OTHER NEWS
• Audits conducted of the Lakewood Ranch community development district financials came back clean. Supervisors hailed Financial Director Steve Zielinski and his team for their hard work and marked improvement in financial reporting.
Because of those improvements, Zielinski said he has been able to secure reduced fees for auditing services over the next three years. For next year, the districts combined will pay $43,500, a nearly 15% drop in price. Audits for the 2012 fiscal year, will be lower than the districts were charged in 2007, he said.
• Supervisors approved a conservation maintenance program, which will result in the removal of exotic plants in conservation areas directly adjacent to private parcels in Summerfield. The program also deals with a development of regional impact agreement to maintain a gopher tortoise preserve, Operations Director Ryan Heise said. Total cost is not to exceed $20,000.
A second phase of the program, which will affect residents of Riverwalk, will occur next year.
• Supervisors approved placing more lampposts at the entrance of Riverwalk Ridge next fiscal year.
• Supervisors directed Town Hall staff to look into ways to ensure residents who reserve district park pavilions can enforce their reservation. Supervisor Alan Roth brought up the issue after learning one family’s birthday party was ruined because other park-goers would not honor the family’s reservation.
“Our parks are open to anybody, but the pavilions are clearly marked they can be reserved,” Roth said. “If we can’t honor the reservation system, it certainly diminishes the value of the amenity.”
• Supervisors moved forward with the option to add Lake Uihlein to its lake maintenance contract. A vote likely will be taken on the issue at the board’s August meeting.
• Supervisors conceptually approved a new lake blank planting policy that will allow homeowners to plant certain native plants along the lake banks abutting their properties. Planting native vegetation on the lake banks will reduce fertilizer runoff and grass clippings in lakes, and ultimately help improve water quality.
A final planting pallet still must be developed, but likely will be similar to plantings behind Lakewood Ranch Town Hall on Lake Uihlein.
• Heise reported the re-paving of part of Legacy Boulevard is slated to begin July 26.
• Supervisors approved the reduction of personnel hours at the Legacy guardhouse from 208 to 178 hours a week. A guardhouse supervisor now will be onsite only during peak traffic times to assist the guard, rather than throughout the day.
• The district’s landscape contractor Mainscapes failed its second monthly inspection in a row. Supervisors may begin looking for a replacement contractor if necessary.
• Allegiance Security will be making some changes to its patrol duties. It will begin requesting identification from suspicious persons and calling local law enforcement if IDs are denied. Personnel also will begin alerting residents who have left their garage doors open and begin using spotlights on the ground while patrolling neighborhoods.
• The district’s landscape contractor Garden Leaders will begin mowing some additional buffer areas along the district’s trail system.
• Supervisors conceptually approved a lake bank planting policy (same as in CDD 2) as well as a reduction in personnel hours at the Legacy guardhouse (see CDD 2).
• Supervisors approved Town Hall’s first formal public records policy.
• Supervisors decided to try mailing out the community newsletter for one quarter. Cost is about $2,000.