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East County Wednesday, Jun. 27, 2018 3 months ago

Gate hours into Country Club at Lakewood Ranch will change

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Country Club moves forward with safety plan to limit public access at Balmoral Woods entrance.
by: Pam Eubanks Senior Editor

Visitors to The Country Club at Lakewood Ranch soon will have more limited access to one of the two public entrances.

Beginning July 2, anyone without a transponder — essentially all visitors and most commercial vehicles — will be directed from the Balmoral Woods Boulevard entrance off Lakewood Ranch Boulevard to the public entrance off University Parkway, on Legacy Boulevard from 10:30 p.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Previously, the public could enter at Balmoral Woods from 6:30-10:30 a.m., as well. The change will cut access at Balmoral Woods during morning rush hours. It is about 3 miles between entrances.

Supervisors on the Lakewood Ranch Community Development District 6 board worry about safety at the Balmoral Woods Boulevard intersection and say the change will prevent the backup of vehicles from the gatehouse out onto Lakewood Ranch Boulevard. Such backups can obscure line-of-sight for other motorists trying to enter or exit the community.

“This board has done everything in its power for safety and to try to manage traffic the best it can,” CDD 6 Chairman Jim Rogoze said.

He also said the district’s efforts to have a traffic signal or other safety device installed at the intersection did not get traction with the county.

District officials already have posted signs about the change, and CDD 6 will have an attendant at the gatehouse for at least the first few weeks to tell motorists of the new hours.

There is no turnaround before the gatehouse at that entrance.

Supervisors on CDDs 2 and 5, which also make up The Country Club, disagree with the change. 

During a meeting June 14, they said they were disappointed with CDD 6’s decision because they feel excluded from the problem-solving process. They do not believe the change addresses safety concerns.

“They are shifting the traffic they don’t want onto Legacy,” CDD 5 member Marty Cohn said.

A gatehouse cost-sharing agreement between the three CDDs requires the Balmoral Woods Boulevard entrance to be open and staffed with a gate attendant at least 12 hours per day. The Legacy Boulevard entrance is staffed 24 hours a day.

CDD 6’s actions are legal, but CDD 2 and 5 supervisors questioned its ethics, saying the change violates the spirit of the agreement.

“I really think they’ve overstepped their bounds, and their board ought to know that,” CDD 2 member Tom Green said. “We’re paying for part of their gate and this is what they are doing.”

CDD 6 member Bob Crain said his board has discussed safety at the Balmoral Woods-Lakewood Ranch Boulevard intersection for months with the safety of all Country Club residents in mind.

“Every solution had a downside to it,” he said. “This is the best solution to improve safety.”

Lakewood Ranch Town Hall staff and CDD 6 members will monitor the situation to see if any changes are needed.

The districts have a “trusted vendor” program, through which vendors servicing homes in The Country Club can register and purchase a transponder for gate access. Town Hall Executive Director Anne Ross said only three businesses have purchased transponders, which cost $25.

Town Hall’s staff members are working to promote the transponders to vendors because it would allow them easy access through any gate into Country Club.

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