Just in time for the beginning of the 2018-19 school year, the Silverlakes HOA board has arranged to have 8 new “NO STANDING OR STOPPING” signs posted at the community’s entrance.

Both the Lee County School District and Gateway Charter Schools have bus stops on Griffin Drive immediately outside Silverlakes. If you’re familiar with Griffin Drive, you know that it’s a logical location for a bus stop.

The new signs seem to indicate that the board members will no longer allow the community’s parents to drive their children to the bus stop and wait for them to get on the bus.

Parents of school-aged children blasted the HOA on social media last night, imploring them to remove the signs both to make it safer for children and because they say the signs are visibly displeasing.

Deb T. wrote: “I’ve lived in Silverlakes for 14 years. When did our neighborhood become so unfriendly? I leave my home around 6:00 am when many of the school buses are out picking up kids. Every morning there would be one or two cars at most in our front gate area watching (protecting) their kids while waiting for the bus. No big deal. I could always drive around them. Seriously no big deal. We had a BEAUTIFUL entrance. Who on earth decided we needed not 1, not 2, not 3, but 8 freaking signs at the entrance to our now NON-welcoming neighborhood that say No standing or parking anytime? Whomever decided this – you may as well dynamite the fountains out because, in my humble opinion, you have ruined our entrance. What a shame. Are we that unfriendly in Silverlakes? Now parents can’t watch their kids get on the buses safely? Really?????”

Liz M. said: “I agree I also live in Silverlakes and think it is very disturbing to see those signs- does the community prefer children to wait ALONE??? sad🙁The signs also make the community look CHEAP!”

Linda D. stated: “If it was my child , I would wait with my child and ignore the signs . Maybe whomever has issues should move to a retirement community ..”

There were plenty of other comments along the same lines, but you get the idea. The signs were not a popular addition to the communty.

One man suggested moving the bus stop to the Silverlakes club house. While I believe A&S Transportation (serving the charter schools) will enter communities under some circumstances, I believe the LCSD prefers to avoid it whenever possible. It seems unlikely they’d agree to send their buses inside Silverlakes, but I suppose it can’t hurt to ask them.

The issue for the HOA board is likely that when parents park their cars to wait for the bus, combined with children standing around waiting, it slows down the flow of vehicle traffic exiting the neighborhood. People trying to get to work can have between 5 to 30 seconds added on to their morning drive as they must be cautious while navigating the parked cars.

On the other hand, the families who have school children waiting for the bus welcome those parents who are able to wait at the bus stop. Having extra adults there means extra safety and security for all children at the Silverlakes stop.

Regardless of where people stand on the safety issue, I think everyone can agree the signs do alter the look and feel of the Silverlakes entrance – and not in a good way.

Whether the HOA board will listen to the concerns of the Silverlakes parents and remove the signs remains to be seen. But the fact the signs were put there in the first place shows that the HOA board is tone deaf to the concerns of most families who live in the community.

What we have here is a classic case of an HOA board comprising of empty-nesters simply showing a lack of awareness as to the issues of the majority of the residents they serve.

It happens all over Gateway, all over Florida, and probably all over the world.

Rarely, though, do HOA boards make a decision that intentionally endangers their own community’s children. And make no mistake, the board members knew exactly why they were installing the signs, and what the effects of their decision would be.

There’s two things at play here: First is that the HOA board members have long forgotten what it was like to raise children. Second is that (like anyone) the board members converse with those whom they have the most in common with, so that means the people getting in the board members’ ears are other empty nesters. So it’s only natural that the feedback they get is one-sided, and so the board thinks they’re acting in the best interests of the whole community, when in fact they’re simply responding to what they’re being told in their own social circles.

I lived there for 2 years. I was one of the dads at the bus stop. So I’ve seen the angry looks and the scowls on the faces of the people exiting the community. For whatever reason, some of them genuinely have no patience for the fact there’s a bus stop right at the Silverlakes entrance. But there’s really no other place to put it.

The larger lesson is that these boards need representation beyond retirees.

Someone in each community who is actively raising children needs to step up and run for your HOA board. And the rest of you need to vote for him or her.

Time after time, the HOA boards in Gateway make stunning decisions. And only after the decision is implemented and the results are noticed do people get involved.

No offense, but it’s your own fault.

Only 1/3 of HOA votes are usually even cast. A community can get ANYONE they want on an HOA board – all they have to do is use their votes. It takes just a minute to fill out your proxy, but for some reason, most of you cannot be bothered.

Then all of a sudden some crazy thing happens in your community and you’re wondering how.

The answer is that not enough sensible people run for HOA boards, and even when they do, the people they’re counting on to vote for them don’t come through.

So the answer is simple: get good candidates to run, then fill out your proxies and vote for them.

Editor of the Gateway Sun and owner of restaurant delivery service Florida Food Runner.

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