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LELAND — Leland’s town board voted to change its ordinance to prohibit gated communities at the Feb. 20 meeting.
The public hearing and discussion on the gated communities began in January and was continued for a month when commissioners asked for more information.
Senior planner Ashli Barefoot said the motivation behind gated communities is to exclude perceived threats and allow association only with specific groups. The problem caused is that along with the gate comes a resistance to resolving regional and municipal problems because civic engagement decreases, as does an ability to understand and relate to others. Continuing to allow gated communities could leave Leland a town of unconnected developments.
“A sense of community and civic engagement is invaluable for planning,” Barefoot said.
Planning director Robert Waring added that in their research they found people living in gated communities identify themselves by the subdivision rather than the town.
Waring said Landfall, a development in Wilmington, is a good example of a development that doesn’t identify itself with the city it is in, which Leland wants to avoid. But the more realistic way to look at gated communities is that they add roadblocks to physically connecting the town.
Leland has a street collector plan to increase road connections, Waring said, and the gated communities tend to cut off areas of the town.
Commissioner Bob Corriston said he could identify with the intent to bring connectivity throughout Leland.
“Where I lived before, you had to go six or seven miles around gated communities to go to the other side of town,” he said.
Barefoot also described problems gated communities cause for planning, which include making changes in a neighborhood more difficult, limiting the ability to provide large recreational activities and slowed response by police and emergency services.
Commissioner Pat Batleman asked what harm the town might be doing by eliminating the gated communities.
“Are we cutting off our nose to spite our face?” Mayor Brenda Bozeman asked.
Waring said the town administration’s intention is planning for the long term to make transportation more reliable.
“Based on the plans we’ve approved and the direction we’re heading, this is another stepping stone along that path,” town manager David Hollis said.
Batleman asked if they had any data on municipalities that have banned gated communities.
Barefoot said Cary and Carrboro have both banned gated communities.
“I’d venture to say Cary is doing quite well,” Barefoot said.
Hollis said town staff has not had any developers come in recently to say they want to build a gated community, so he doesn’t see the town changing its policy as detrimental to development.
But Hollis and Waring reminded commissioners if the concern arises, the staff can always come back before the board to address it.
Commissioner Jon Tait made the motion to approve prohibiting gated communities. The board approved it unanimously 4-0.
Brian Slattery is a staff writer for the Beacon. Reach him at 754-6890 or firstname.lastname@example.org.