Gate agreement in limbo at Lakewood Ranch

kmoschella@bradenton.comMarch 19, 2014 

Vehicles wait to pass through the Balmoral Gate off Lakewood Ranch Boulevard back in December.JAMES A. JONES JR./Bradenton Herald

LAKEWOOD RANCH -- If Tuesday's joint meeting of community development districts 2, 5 and 6 is any indication, the long and drawn-out attempt to form an interlocal agreement to share the costs of operating the Balmoral and Legacy gates could come to a bitter end.

The agreement, which has gone through numerous discussions and revisions by district supervisors since last November, will likely not be approved by all three boards at regular district board meetings Thursday at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall.

The longer the districts table a vote every month, the chance of seeing any cost adjustments in the 2015 fiscal budget grows dim.

CDD 6 now exclusively bears the cost of the Balmoral Woods Boulevard gate, and CDDs 2 and 5 share the cost of the Legacy Boulevard gate.

The new agreement, which would take effect in October, would save more than $100 for each Distrct 6 resident.

Balmoral and Legacy gates are manned by security guards, and three other gates within those areas are routinely checked by security.

District 6 residents have complained about being left out of the discussion without

a chance to meet publicly as a group to absorb the details of the agreement and voice concerns. About 350 residents have signed written and online petitions asking the District 6 Board to table the vote indefinitely.

District 6 Supervisor James Hill called the postponement a dilemna. He asked for an informal straw vote at Tuesday's joint meeting, which proved inconclusive.

"We are sometimes called to speak for the residents. Some of us honestly feel it's right for the Ranch but wrong for the community," Hill said.

Bob Burstein, District 6 chairman and a vocal proponent of the interlocal agreement, said the year got off to a horrendous start because he was subjected to an offensive campaign by a small minority of of ill-informed homeowners.

"My ethics, truthfulness and honesty have been questioned and I refuse to accept it. I take my oath seriously," a visbily shaken Burnstein said. He said it left him no choice but to resign as chairman but he will remain on the board.

"I won't give up my fight. I won't give in to pressure and threats from the opposition because it would be a violation of my oath," Burstein said.

Burstein said "mob rule" was controlling the fate of the agreement.

District 2 Supervisor Tom Green said he was worried the boards were not acting in the best interest of the entire community.

Silverwood resident Tom Willson said the issue also involves giving up control of traffic at Balmoral Gate, which is the entrance to District 6 on Balmoral Woods Boulevard. He said residents are concerned about the heavy truck traffic on the boulevard and the narrow two-lane entrance and exit at Balmoral Gate. They also fear traffic might be diverted from districts 2 and 5 as University Parkway congestion continues to grow from commercial development and the soon-to-be-open Mall at University Town Center.

"We want to see this problem addressed and we don't want any additional traffic moved from districts 2 and 5, which could be the case if we relinquish control," Willson said.

He also noted it could be two years before anything can be done to improve the traffic in the Balmoral Woods area if the agreement is approved.

Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter, can be reached at 941-745-1010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.

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