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The Villages
Sunday, December 10, 2023

We applaud the AAC for seeking resident input on the Del Mar Gate

It’s been a source of consternation for years. And it’s still not fixed. But here’s the good thing – your views and opinions are being sought and your input might just lead to the perfect solution.

In case you’re not aware of it, we’re talking about the Del Mar Gate.

It’s been a problem for quite some time, particularly when traffic is heavy.

The Del Mar Gate near Spanish Springs Town Square.

Here’s the good news. Members of the Amenity Authority Committee feel the same way, and luckily, they want to do something about it. The AAC has wrestled with the issue for a long time, but when it reared its head again at a meeting this past Wednesday, the group made a good decision and decided to ask Villagers what they’d like to see done to the gate to make it a better situation for everyone.

The gate arm was down at the Del Mar Gate in December 2016.

If you’re not familiar with the issues surrounding the Del Mar Gate, let us enlighten you a bit. It’s located near Spanish Springs Town Square and comes complete with a whole bunch of design flaws. And it’s located at a four-way stop – certainly not the ideal situation – that is within the jurisdiction of Lady Lake.

Not surprisingly, this isn’t the AAC’s first foray into the world of the Del Mar Gate. In November 2013, many residents voiced concerns over the idea of having an attendant man the gate. Many claimed it wasn’t necessary, with some saying the attendant’s role was largely to just “push a button,” which actually slowed down traffic even more. And others claimed Florida’s Friendliest Hometown wasn’t a true gated community anyway, so why spend money on attendants in the first place?

In May 2015, a Villager wrote a letter to Villages-News.com complaining about traffic after a show at The Sharon. The Village of Harmeswood resident said it took more than 20 minutes to get from TooJays in Spanish Springs Town Square to Avenida Central. He blamed the gate and the four-way stop sign. And he suggested that a police officer on site would be a great help, as would keeping the gate open.

In 2015, it also was decided that the Del Mar Gate needed a full-time attendant. But that clearly wasn’t the answer, as the number of complaints and gate strikes remained high. And to make matters worse, the gate design put the attendant in the awkward and unenviable position of not being able to see all of the approaching traffic.

Work was under way at the Del Mar Gate in 2016.

In July 2015, the group explored the idea of adding an extra lane at the gate. A representative of Kimley-Horn & Associates Inc. came to the table with four possible solutions, but before presenting them, she provided the AAC with an overview of the then-traffic situation at the gate:

  • Most of the traffic came from Spanish Springs Town Square;
  • After major events at The Sharon, traffic would back up at the gate for up to 15 minutes;
  • Backups usually were limited to a very short time;
  • Many vehicles didn’t come to a complete stop at the four-way stop;
  • When the gate was busy, traffic backed up into the intersection; and
  • Even when the gate was left open to speed up traffic flow, drivers still stopped out of habit.

Kimley-Horn’s possible solutions included:

  • Installing signage that said “Do Not Block Intersection;”
  • Staffing the gate during short periods of time at peak times;
  • Keeping the gate arm open during busy times;
  • Installing signs to facilitate traffic flow; and
  • Installing a second entry lane into the gate.

AAC members expressed an interest in installing another lane, but some in the audience were quick to point out that they believed the gate, itself, was the problem.

One Villager offered a blunt suggestion: “Take the damn thing away. It performs no purpose.” Another questioned spending a lot of money to alter the gate, saying: “Have we had any accidents? The congestion is a headache, but why not let it be?”

Meanwhile, the gate conundrum continued, with the AAC quickly dropping the expansion plan in October 2015 after finding out it could cost upwards of $111,000. Villages residents agreed that was too much to spend. And a Villages-News.com poll taken at the time showed that 47 percent of respondents indicated Community Watch was the answer, 35 percent wanted the expansion and 11 percent said to just leave the gate alone.

But that was then and this is now. And more than three years later, the Del Mar Gate is back atop the minds of AAC members.

Congestion at the Del Mar Gate has been on the AAC’s agenda many times.

But as we said earlier, this time around – after hearing options such as conducting a traffic study, redesigning the gate or leaving it unstaffed – we’re thrilled to report that the AAC wants your input on the issue. AAC member Ann Forrester suggested that “the word get out,” giving members the opportunity to hear from residents before a crucial workshop on the issue this coming Jan. 23 at the District Office.

You can email your thoughts about the Del Mar Gate directly to the elected AAC members at:
Carl Bell: carl.bell@districtgov.org
Ann Forrester: ann.forrester@districtgov.org
John Wilcox: john.wilcox@districtgov.org
Don Deakin: don.deakin@districtgov.org
Lowell Barker: lowell.barker@districtgov.org

This truly is local government at its best – your friends and neighbors serving you, the people, and asking for input. So let’s all take advantage of the invite and let our views be known. Because somewhere among the many smart people who call The Villages home, we’re betting a great solution is just waiting to be shared.

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