Turf, irrigation, buffers get top priority in Lakewood Ranch beautification plan for next decade

dgraham@bradenton.comMarch 5, 2013 

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- Beautification in Florida takes strategy and intent, so that's exactly what four Lakewood Ranch Community Development Districts intend to do with their 10-year landscape plan by James Pankonin with Kimley-Horn and Associates. The $100,000 plan is slated for approval at the upcoming March 21 meetings.

The draft plan was reviewed in workshops in February. Districts 1, 2, 4 and 5 now have a comprehensive outlook for what's ahead in need and potential when it comes to keeping the neighborhoods looking good with healthy turf, irrigation, upgraded berms and buffers, and refurbished high visibility traffic areas over the next decade.

While the plan addresses areas of current need, district leaders will decide what improvements and replacements take first priority over time, according to June Stroup, District One chairwoman.

"Its not so much what will be accomplished as the fact that we'll have some continuity in what we're doing. In previous years we've always been on crisis management, replacing, not thinking, Now we can be taking

care to keep things looking good, which is very important to the homeowners," she said.

The beautification plan tells the boards how to do that, Stroup said. However, districts aren't required to follow the plan exactly should circumstances change significantly.

"It's a living breathing document that will be updated. It's a really good start in the planning process," said Eva Rey, Lakewood Ranch Community Development Districts executive director.

"This idea really started in District 1, who is oldest and has aging plant material. The board really wanted to see a more formalized approach to that plan and actually budgeted for landscape dollars to help them come up with a plan. They simply approached all the other areas to see if they wanted to participate," Rey said.

The cost for the plan was $26,615 for each of the four that participated, totalling just over $100,000. District 6 was going through a leadership transition so it did not participate. District 3 has been dissolved.

"Tom Merrell IDA Landscape Manger helped tremendously in developing the plan, and each District Board deserves credit for their vision as it relates to maintaining the communities' most visible asset," said Ryan Heise, director of operations for the

Lakewood Ranch Inter-District Authority.

"This is a draft document, and is not complete or accurate as it relates to dollar amounts," Heise said, referring to improvements suggested in the plan. "Any reference to budget implications or future expenditures for the Districts at this time would not be accurate. What the plan does reflect is what items (categories) were considered in establishing a long-term landscape maintenance and improvement plan."

In the plant matrix considered by the plan, the plant varieties they are suggesting takes into account shade, solidity of the water being used, whether the plant attracts wildlife or butterflies, a comparison chart of information and the reasons it was chosen for a particular area, Rey said. The plan also encourages Florida friendly plants.

Homeowner restrictions within the Districts limit what plants are allowed in Lakewood Ranch, but members of the Garden Club have obtained permission to grow a variety of horticulture on a lot about 20-by-30 feet near Town Hall.

"Everything is native plants in our garden. It started about six years ago," said president Judy VanDuzer. Mostly they grow shrubs, trees, wildflowers and grasses, many of which are edible to butterflies. There are no herbs, vegetables or any plants grown to be edible by humans.

VanDuzer said she plans to get actively involved in the beautification planning process.

Dee Graham, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7027, or tweet @DeeGrahamBH.

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