LAKEWOOD RANCH -- A petition signed by more than 360 residents and strong opposition at Thursday's District 6 Board meeting failed to prevent passage of a controversial interlocal agreement between community development districts 2, 5, and 6 for sharing the operation and expenses of the Balmoral and Legacy Gates in Lakewood Ranch.
All three boards at the meetings at Lakewood Ranch Town Hall voted to approve the agreement with the exception of District 5 Supervisor Thomas Leavey, who voted against it, preferring to wait to vote until a public hearing could be held.
Most District 6 residents who live in the western portion of the Country Club community were in favor of holding a public hearing to express their concerns and offer alternatives.
Before passing the two-year agreement, which survived numerous revisions over several months and takes effect in October, the Balmoral Gate at the intersection of Balmoral Woods Boulevard and Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, was paid for primarily by District 6 residents and serves as their primary public access. The gate has manned security, as does the Legacy Gate, whose entrance off University Parkway and Legacy Boulevard
is used primarily by district 2 and 5 residents.
Acknowledging everyone uses Balmoral Gate from time to time, the supervisors said they felt it was only fair to pay their portion of the gate upkeep, which will result in a $55,000 annual savings for District 6, amounting to about $125 per resident.
Some District 6 residents say they are less concerned with cost and more concerned about increasing traffic near the Legacy Gate due to commercial and retail congestion along the University Parkway corridor.
The audience shouted for the resignations of CDD 6 supervisors following their vote. Greystone resident Gary Booher denounced the board for its lack of communication with homeowners.
"They're just not doing what public officials are meant to do," Booher said. "They don't represent us well."
Silverwood resident Tom Willson said he intends to follow up with Manatee County to discuss traffic restrictions because he feels safety is being compromised at Balmoral Gate with increased truck traffic on a narrow, two-lane boulevard.
In a March 16 email to all three district supervisors, Willson added: "If you won't act, then the residents will."
Willson called the $55,000 savings to District 6 a "payoff" by the other two districts in exchange for control of Balmoral Gate.
When the disturbed residents left the board meeting, District 6 Supervisor Jane Bruyer said she "has never seen so many people unhappy about saving money."
Bob Burstein, who resigned as CDD 6 chairman earlier in the week after he said threats were made against him and other district supervisors in a resident e-mail. said he was still feeling threatened and asked district attorney Andrew Cohen for guidance.
CDD 6 Treasurer Douglas Ferry acknowledged there were no new ideas to discuss and the district needs to move forward.
"We are just trying to do what is best for the community," Ferry said.
Kathryn Moschella, Lakewood Ranch reporter, can be reached at 941-745-1010. Follow her on Twitter @MoschellaHerald.