Tuesday, February 21, 2012

On the issue of subdivision gates

The following comment was included verbatim in the last neighborhood newsletter:

"I have asked several neighbors what their thoughts were about our neighborhood adding gated access for a one-time assessment fee.  I would feel much safer, and I think it would go a long way towards property value retention as well.   Is there a way to petition interest?  Those asked were all for it."

This is where I invite folks from the blogosphere to comment if they have specialized knowledge regarding this issue.  When I try to search for applicable regulations on the internet, what I get is too much legal detail and not enough 30,000-foot view (as some of the screengrabs below will illustrate), so the statements below might not be correct or complete. 

That being said, from the information I have been able to assemble, subdivision gates appear to be a non-starter for Centerpointe.  There's no use petitioning to see if there's support because even if 100% of residents express a preference for them, we lack the legal basis to install them even if by some miracle we could collectively afford the cost. 

Centerpointe's streets were originally platted (and remain) as public rights-of-way.   As such, it would seem that they cannot be impeded or restricted without major legal action which would probably involve vacating them AS public rights-of-way and getting them declared as private property instead.  After that point, our little POA (rather than the City of League City) would then be responsible for maintaining both the streets and the gates in perpetuity, with the streets being to a standard of quality equal to or better than similar public rights-of-way.  

(Not only that, if you start researching what it takes to administratively and functionally maintain gates, your hair might fall out from the enormity of it.) 

An anecdotal report seems to support the private property basis described above.  We have some friends in the well-known Sugar Creek subdivision in Sugar Land.   If you look at the entrance to Sugar Creek, you can see a curious thing:
What's wrong with this picture?!
Why would you have a shack in a location such as this?
So you can simply watch as cars zoom by?
Screengrab from the Googlemaps little highway man.
There's a rather fancy entrance shack upon which a lot of money was obviously spent, but no corresponding gates are present.  Rumor has it that gates WERE installed at one time, but were removed because someone sued the subdivision for barricading a public right-of-way.  It's not legal to do that, and so the gates had to be removed.

I haven't been able to verify for certain that this did, in fact, happen, but if I look at the anecdotal references on the internet, they unilaterally support this notion that only private streets can be gated. 

For instance, the City of Colleyville's municipal code discusses gating regulations at length, and while that content is strictly applicable only to that city, is is undoubtedly consistent with state law precedents.
Note the immediate distinction between public and private streets.
URL here
Similarly, guidance for subdivisions platted in County-controlled areas also makes reference to the issue of private property.  For example:
Excerpted from Hunt County, Texas subdivision guidance.
URL here
Well, heck, that's all well and fine, but what does League City itself say?!

League City's Code of Ordinances is maintained on the Municode platform.  Again, it's a lot of detail and less of the 30,000-foot view, but these passages are instructive:

Again we see the public-private distinction,
and Centerpointe's streets are public.
There is a large passage detailing the technical standards that apply to gates, but again, the emphasis is on the streets being private, not public.
URL here
So there you have what appear to be the facts of this matter: legally we couldn't install gates even if we wanted to.  But if a sufficient number of residents express a desire to investigate this issue further, by all means, get together and approach City Council in order to feel them out on the likelihood of the City's approving a request to vacate our streets, and by all means, derive some supportable estimates of the corresponding costs, and I'll publish them here for initial contemplation. 

UPDATE 2:12 pm:
Here are a few comments from the property management company on the subject of gates:
  • Initial costs of up to $50,000 to install gates can be expected (not sure if that's per-entrance or per the three entrances).
  • From that point forward, homeowners must pay the subdivision's electrical bills (streetlights) and all repairs to lights and streets (resulting in a signficant increase in annual property assessments). 
  • Telephone lines would also have to be added to each gate and paid for monthly.
  • Monthly maintenance on gates is expected to be $500 - $8,000 (they are very subject to damage from motorists) - again, these costs would be added to everyone's assessments. 
  • Would require insurance policy rate increase - another monthly expense.
  • Remote control devices are $20 - $35 apiece, paid for by homeowners. 
  • Police would no longer patrol the subdivision or respond to calls regarding offenses such as automobile speeding, because the streets would be private property.
That last one kinda clinches it for me.  At this time I cannot foresee any net benefit to discontinuing police patrols in here.


  1. wow. I can't express how happy I am to see that this issue is essentially a non-starter. I saw the desire for gates in the last newsletter and was absolutely stunned that other home owners would want these things. nothing but a headache.
    btw - thanks for running this blog - it's always been entertaining and I've learned a lot from the info you've posted.

  2. It seems as if the City has planned the extension of Centerpointe across Hwy 3 to connect to Beaumont Ave. to create a collector. So, if gates were to be installed, they'de have to be done at each side road off of Centerpointe. This would move this discussion into the rhelm of fantasy, where it belongs.


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