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PREVIOUS COVERAGE | Residents spar in Ranch ‘Deco-Gate’

LAKEWOOD RANCH — Alan Roth is angry about being portrayed as a rule violator in “Deco-Gate,” the recent controversy involving excessive decorative items in Lakewood Ranch front yards.

Roth, a District 1 supervisor whose wife, Jeanne, is on the Summerfield/Riverwalk Homeowners Association deed compliance committee, was caught recently by a neighbor’s clicking camera with his lawn in violation of the decorative law.

Summerfield Glen resident Joani Ellis secretly took the pictures of Roth’s excessive flower pots. She has racked up $1,600 in fines because she refuses to remove her excess items and wanted to show that the infractions are widespread and go right up to the top of Lakewood Ranch’s governance.

Ellis’ actions have created a firestorm pitting resident versus resident depending on where they stand on the three-decorative-items-per-front-yard rule.

Roth doesn’t particularly think the three-item rule is perfect, but it’s a rule and he respects it now. He feels embarrassed that he broke the rule. He said he will immediately come under compliance.

“If you don’t like the rules of any club, join another club,” Roth said Friday. “If you don’t like being an Elk, become a Moose. I agree that Lakewood Ranch is a bit more extreme than most communities. River Club is a little looser and Braden Woods a lot looser. If they are not happy here, people should move to another neighborhood.”

Ellis said Friday she loves living in Lakewood Ranch and doesn’t plan to move. She also feels her home, which has acrylic fish and seashells and two metal poodles in the front yard, is not an eyesore because she has exceeded the lawn limit by a bit.

“Mr. Roth, don’t pick on me because I don’t agree with you,” Ellis said. “If the rules were so good, why were board members and district members out of compliance with them and why can I drive around and show you 200 more homes that have more than three items?”

“Sending out notices of violation is not an answer,” Ellis added. “If it were the answer, there would not be hundreds, including board members and District 1 members, in violation of the rule. The solution is to amend the rules so homeowners can apply to the modification committee to personalize their property with more than three items. This will maintain the integrity of the neighborhood.”

Roth says Ellis doesn’t understand that there is some logic behind the three-item rule and that it wasn’t arrived at haphazardly.

Residents were advised by Lakewood Ranch developer Schroeder-Manatee Ranch that decorative items become lethal objects in a hurricane and that keeping them to a minimum is a good bet, Roth said.

“I agree that some of the rules we have seem trivial,” Roth said. “But these rules were made by residents working together. They did not come down on high.”

Roth said Ellis doesn’t have the right to choose which rules are good for her and which ones are not.

“I bet if I moved in next to her and put my old rusty truck up on blocks she would scream. And she would have every right,” Roth said. “But you see my point.”

Ellis knew what she was getting into when she moved into Lakewood Ranch, so Roth would like to know why she moved there.

“This is a tightly deed-restricted community,” Roth said. “Our streets look like parks. We’ve spent a small fortune maintaining our areas and that is what the people want.”

Roth was one of 10 Summerfield and Riverwalk residents who were caught on mega pixels by Ellis and received letters.

Because of her pictures, Roth was sent a warning letter by Town Hall. He says he now feels he is under a microscope in his own neighborhood. Ellis said she never meant to injure Roth or the others.

“I didn’t mean to put him under a microscope, but perhaps it is time to change the rules. Alan Roth has a beautiful home. I wouldn’t change it. However, he is in violation.”

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 748-0411, ext. 6686.

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