Lakewood Ranch Herald

Preserve at Tara supervisors to take a 'big picture' look at the landscaping

EAST MANATEE -- Landscaping in the Preserve at Tara has been an irritant among homeowners since residents took over control of Tara Community Development District 1 in 2005.

Tuesday, a resident submitted a petition to the district board with 178 names complaining about the quality of landscaping. Coincidentally, later in the meeting, district supervisors set two workshops to take a comprehensive look at landscape issues and plot a course forward.

Darby Connor, a candidate for Tara CDD seat 3 who is opposing incumbent Daniel D. Powers, presented the petition, claiming that in the eight months since landscape contractors were changed, the quality of maintenance has declined.

While the district board saved money with the new landscape contract, it now takes five days a week of "disruption and various stages of incompletion to finish what was basically done in one day" by the prior company, Connor said.

Later in the meeting, supervisor Beth Bond received board approval to put together two workshops on the "big picture" of landscape maintenance at The Preserve.

"We need to go out and look at the property and do it right," Bond said.

It will take a significant effort to craft a landscape program with which everyone can live, Bond said.

The board approved setting workshops for 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Dec. 1 and Jan. 20 at the Tara Community Center, 7340 Tara Preserve Lane.

After the meeting, District Chair John Schmidt said that landscape maintenance is such a big issue because it consumes well over 35 percent of the district's budget.

"We have a lot of wooded preserve areas. The dilemma is that we have control over some, and others we don't," Schmidt said.

A second issue this year was heavier-than-usual rains that led to rapid growth of grass, combined with saturating the ground, making it difficult to do the mowing without putting ruts in lawn areas, he said.

Not all areas in The Preserve are the responsibility of the district. Others at Tara who have mowing responsibility include residents, a landscape association, and condos, Schmidt said.

Before the first landscape meeting in December is the Nov. 4 countywide election. Only seat 3 is being contested. Incumbents Beth Bond and Joseph Mojica will be returned without opposition for another term.

James A. Jones Jr., East Manatee reporter, can be contacted at 941-745-7053 or on Twitter @jajones1.