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East County Wednesday, Jul. 24, 2019 1 year ago

Gate debate swings open in Lakewood Ranch

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CDD 5 supervisor says change in gate hours is causing safety issues.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Lakewood Ranch Community Development District supervisors said they will focus on technology as a way to solve guest access and back-up problems that sometimes exist at the main public, gated entrances into the Country Club at Lakewood Ranch.

During a workshop July 16, supervisors on CDDs 2 and 5 said they were frustrated visitors to the Country Club can no longer enter through the Balmoral Woods Boulevard entrance off Lakewood Ranch Boulevard from 6:30-10:30 a.m. The change went into effect July 2018 and has shifted traffic to the main gate at Legacy Boulevard.

The Balmoral Woods Boulevard gate is controlled by CDD 6, and it has a cost-sharing agreement for the gatehouse and roadways with CDDs 2 and 5. It is one of two public, gated entrances into the Country Club

community.

“The hours they’ve set up have caused more safety issues,” CDD 5 Supervisor Glenda Robertson said, noting she’s seen commercial vehicles backed up into Lakewood Ranch Boulevard or unable to turn around at the gate. “It’s very dangerous.”

CDD 6 supervisors, however, have said the change is working well for their residents by reducing speeding and preventing contractors from using residential streets as shortcuts to other areas within the Country Club.

CDD 2 and 5 supervisors discussed ways to improve access there and at Legacy, such as providing gate transponders to vendors or encouraging guards to let vehicles through, without stopping when lines become too long.

However, the changes would be limited to the Legacy gate. CDD 6 has its own guard instructions for the Balmoral gate, and it could have transponders programmed, so they do not work at the Balmoral gate during particular hours or at all.

CDD 2 Chairman Pete Bokach said providing transponders to vendors would also create a “slippery slope” because residents regularly request transponders for family members and have been denied.

Board members said they might not sway CDD 6 officials to change the gate hours at Balmoral but that they can focus on what they can change.

“We believe there is a technology solution,” Bokach said. “We should perhaps focus our attention on that.”

Already, Lakewood Ranch CDDs 2, 5 and 6 have collectively budgeted $300,000 in fiscal year 2020 for security at the main gatehouses at Legacy and Balmoral. CDD 2 also includes Edgewater, which has its own gated entrance on Waterview Boulevard, north of University Parkway.

Of the $300,000, about $150,000 will be used to implement some sort of security technology, likely one that uses cameras and off-site guard attendants to facilitate traffic. For example, Envera Systems, a local technology-based community security solutions company, is able to record vehicle license plates and other information, so guests already approved to enter the community are automatically recognized and allowed to enter without having to stop and speak with a gate attendant.

Steve Zielinski, financial director for the districts, said Lakewood Ranch CDDs 2, 5 and 6 plan to pilot such a technology at the gatehouse for Edgewater, which is manned 24/7 in fiscal year 2020, which starts Oct. 1. Such a system could replace a live guard at the gate, likely for two of three eight-hour daily shifts.

Zielinski said the $300,000 is the same as what the districts currently budget for gatehouse security. The allocations, however, would become shared between technology-based and human-based approaches.

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