Find a neighborly solution to Lakewood Ranch security gate

May 21, 2013 

Oftentimes, people purchase homes in a gated community for the security that "drawbridges" provide. Our castles should be afforded the greatest protection available in modern times.

Gate houses with guards up the ante considerably. The Country Club West neighborhood in Lakewood Ranch is now wrestling with that high cost, deciding residents should no longer be saddled with personnel expenditures -- a reasonable determination.

The Community Development District 6 leadership, which serves the neighborhood and controls the gate house, also cites increased safety and reduced traffic as positives for closing the gate to non-resident traffic, scheduled for January.

Those are all legitimate concerns -- good reasons all for restricting access to the neighborhood. Only County Club West residents who purchase transponders that open the gates would be granted access. Not even visiting family and friends would be able to pass through the gate.

The impact, though, reaches beyond the boundaries of Country Club West. Other subdivisions -- namely Edgewater and Country Club, CDD districts 2 and 5 respectively -- border District 6.

Those residents frequent that Balmoral avenue onto Lakewood Ranch Boulevard out of this bustling spread of residences.

Should they be cut off from timely egress, forced to drive east to Lorraine Road and then north or south toward their destinations, burning fuel and losing time? One resident estimated the drive at an extra 18 miles to enter through the Legacy subdivision gate house, which remains staffed by guards.

We only ask that District 6 supervisors consider being the best of neighbors and find an alternative solution to complete gate closure to non-County Club West residents -- and delivery trucks, lawn service vehicles and other workers whose livelihoods depend on those residents.

There are several options on the table. One is a very reasonable cost-sharing plan whereby the cost of gate operations is on a proportional basis per household in each of the three CDD's. The idea per district doesn't seem as fair.

But last week Silverwood resident Tom Willison pitched an alternative that appears to be an outstanding solution that addresses most concerns. In this day and age of creative technological advances, Willison proposed a system that allows residents to permit temporary Balmoral gate access though a short-term access code sent to visitors and others via the Internet and cell phone. The gate code would expire rapidly.

No guards would be necessary, so that expense would be eliminated. Only approved vehicles would be allowed entry. Security would be maintained to a certain degree.

Lakewood Ranch is a highly desirable development with nine villages home to everything from townhomes to estates spread across 17,500 acres. The master-planned community's website boasts this statement: "... where families become neighbors, neighbors become family and everyone enjoys a sense of community."

District 6 leaders are wrestling a tough issue. We hope for a neighborly resolution.

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