Dear Concerned Woodlands Neighbors,
We are in favor of improving safety and security, but we do not think that spending $150,000+ of our money on a second security gate is a reasonable solution. The Board has had two lengthy opportunities to present the pro-gate case. We hope that you will read and evaluate our counterpoints and we welcome your feedback.
- Degradation of Natural Common Area Beauty: The Board has admitted installation of the new gate will require roads to be widened, trees to be taken down, and alteration of what is now the most breathtaking part of our community – our beautiful tree canopy entranceway. This is clearly and expressly forbidden by our Covenants without the approval of 90% of our homeowners. Many of us bought homes in this subdivision because the Woodlands represents “elegant living in a natural setting” (from the Woodlands Brochure). We believe that the combination of the current gate, speed bumps, flashing speed signs, stop signs and a second security gate will severely impact the natural beauty of our neighborhood and negatively affect home values. We encourage you to read the link to our Covenants which explicitly protect our common areas. It is this Recorded Amendment The Woodlands II Declaration AMENDMENT DECLARATION OF MAlNENANCE COVENANTS & RESTRICTIONS OF BENT TREE VILLAGE SUBDIVISION UNIT 3 RECORDED MAY 23, 2002 that the Board’s attorney is proposing to modify to degrade our beauty. Specifically, Article IV, “Space and Easements. In connection with the Woodlands II and Woodland Lakes development, certain land areas referred to as “common areas”, may be designated by the Association as open space. The open space so designated shall remain free from structural encroachment or physical alteration, and in so far as possible, remain unaltered in its natural state.”
and Article VI.31, “Open Space. All areas set aside as open space for the development are to remain in their natural and undisturbed state, except for the planting of native vegetation, or removal, repair or replacement of damaged trees or other growth, all of which must be done at the direction of the Association. Notwithstanding anything to the contrary herein, a vote of not Jess than 90% of the members in the Association shall be required to amend this restriction.”
- ExaggeratedNew Gate Security Benefits: The Board claims the new gate will increase security and prevent unwanted entrants. Please view the attached recent video of one of Envera’s systems in action. Note the Envera logo on the podium, the unattractive railroad crossing type gate arm, cars entering exactly as they do here now, by tailgating right behind another car, and the lack of any ID required to enter. http://wpcsrq.com/envera-gate/ The Envera gate system being recommended by the Board has been the subject of other residential communities’ complaints (see Osprey Oaks HOA meeting report http://wpcsrq.com/osprey-oaks/ and other poor reviews Google Reviews
- Overstated Crime Statistics:Records from the Sheriff’s Office do not show that crime is on the rise in our subdivision http://wpcsrq.com/police-reports/. In fact, we have extremely low serious crime and vandalism rates. The Board’s crime map did not concentrate on our community or even the contiguous ones, but rather a higher crime area 2 miles north of our subdivision. We believe that neither the Waverley ($500,000+) new homes community nor the Luxury Springs apartments on Cattlemen will necessarily result in an appreciable increase in “undesirables” or crime for us.
- QuestionableBreak-ins Cited: There were four home break-ins cited by the Board in the last year, one reported to the police and three not. In the reported incident, the burglar likely entered by following another car. He would have been able to enter the same way with the proposed new gate technology. In the other three incidents, the Board indicated the homeowners refused to file police reports. A logical presumption for not reporting such an incident is the perpetrators were relatives or friends of the victimized residents and the homeowners did not want to get them into trouble. The proposed gate would not have stopped any of these alleged incidents.
- Gates Do Not Necessarily Make Communities Safer:A USF study calls into question the belief that gates make communities safer. Please review this detailed study USF Study: The Walls Are Closing In: Comparing Property Crime Victimization Risk In Gated And Non-Gated Communities.
- Speculative Home Value Impact: There is no way to accurately predict property values will rise if we build a second security gate. In fact, it is just as likely that a prospective buyer will be scared off by the presence of two sets of security gates, bone-jarring speed bumps and unsightly flashing speed signs. It would be reasonable for many people to think that Woodlands II has serious issues and that our beloved community is to be avoided.
- “Woodlands is a Community with a Gate, not a Gated Community”: We agree and a second gate won’t fix it! We have approximately 55 acres of common area and many access points which makes it impractical to have a secure perimeter; the definition of a gated community. Further, we may have several “prescriptive easements” which, if blocked, could invite additional lawsuits.
- Misinformation regarding Other Communities Security: Amberlea was cited as an example of a Gated community, but they have a secured wall perimeter we cannot reasonably achieve. Additionally, Stoneybrook and Turtle Rock (Envera gated communities) have more reported issues than Woodlands II. Harbor Acres and Cherokee Park, both ungated, have had no recent crime.
- False linkage of Second Gate to Bent Tree 2 Lawsuit Resolution: Our pending lawsuit with Bent Tree 2 can be settled by agreeing to make no modifications to the Proctor Road gate. This settlement does not require us to build a second gate. This was confirmed by President Jim Miller at the January meeting.
- ExcessiveSurplus of Cash Issue: Just because there has been an excessive accumulation of funds does not mean that this gate is free. This fund was the result of a savings achieved about seven years ago when we replaced the manned gate with the current unmanned one. The Board at the time promised that once the upfront costs of the gate were recouped (about 24 months), the savings would either result in lower HOA fees or a rebate back to homeowners.
- What are the True Costs: Where is the $15,000 detailed engineering proposal? Estimate gate cost $150,000+/-, plus 1st year of monitoring $24,000+/-. plus attorneys fees $3,500+ = $177,500. This is before: Permitting (Swiftmud?), unforeseen expenses, and annual repairs needed especially to the easily broken mechanical arm and the well documented maintenance issues associated with two sets of large swinging gates. We have only been given estimates. No concrete itemized bids have been provided. We clearly believe our dues will have to go up.
- Non-Performance of Due Diligence: The Board has not presented reliable evidence of bids or costs for the project. According to Florida Sunshine Law, Article 720.3055, “all contracts for the provision of services….that exceeds 10 percent of the total annual budget of the association…must obtain competitive bids.” A Cost Benefit analysis cannot be done without this. It is unreasonable to ask homeowners to approve a project without detailed information.
- Alternative Solution: At the January Board meeting the security representative confirmed that Woodlands II can determine who is driving into our community by installing unobtrusive high quality security cameras in the entry island on Weeping Willow Blvd. As the next positive step, we can install cameras without the proposed gate and realize a substantial cost savings, The money saved can be used to upgrade our community common areas which clearly would have a positive impact on property values. We believe this is a more effective, less destructive and reasonable way to improve security. In addition, the Police and objective Security experts recommend that each homeowner lock their cars and doors, arm their security systems and look out for their neighbors.
Our Board has said a vote will be taken. They have not specified whether the vote is to amend the Covenant protecting our common areas, or on the gate itself or both. We urge you to evaluate both sides, and when the votes are called, vote NO on both issues.
Finally, if possible, please reply to this email whether you are in favor or against the gate. We would like to provide this feedback to the Board.
The Woodlands Preservation Committee (WPC)
Dedicated to Preserving the Natural Beauty of our Community