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Watauga Commissioners Approve Changes to Gated Community Ordinance

By Ron Fitzwater

Feb. 22, 2012. BOONE — The Watauga County Board of Commissioners held a public hearing Tuesday, Feb. 21, for the purpose of hearing comment on proposed modifications to the county gated community ordinance before them.

The ordinance was enacted pursuant to the general police powers granted to the county by general statutes §153A-121, §153A-352 and Section 503 of the 2009 NC State Fire Prevention Code.

The purpose of the ordinance is to establish rules and standards for the installation of electronic access gates for gated communities, to provide an expedient entrance and exit for firefighting equipment, law enforcement personnel and other emergency service vehicles.

Specific requirements under the new ordinance include: that all streets in the gated community must be private streets, that gate(s) shall have entrances and exits with no less than 20 feet of unobstructed width and that all gates shall be maintained in working order and inspected as needed. If separated by a median, post, sign or any other obstruction, each entrance and exit lane must have a minimum of 12 feet of unobstructed width and be at least 40 measured feet from the property right-of-way to the adjacent public right-of-way so that large emergency vehicles do not block traffic on the public right-of-way.

One vital, prerequisite for new or rebuilt gates requires that they be electric and have the ability to be controlled by a radio transceiver for public safety and authorized user entrance. In communities of four or more homes the gates are to be equipped with a fail-open device in the event of a power failure, unless fitted with a battery or generator back-up. The device will auto-close the gate(s) when power is restored. All gates shall be equipped with a manual override feature so as to permit opening during power failures or other emergency, if no back-up power source is attached.

In addition, an approved dual key lock box containing cards, keys, pass codes and operating instructions shall be provided at each entrance gate; Gates shall be designed so that when fully opened they do not obstruct the path of travel for vehicles or pedestrians, whether emergency and non-emergency; Gates shall remain fully open during an emergency event, when activated by responding agency, until reset. A ‘Hold Open’ code must be included in the design and function of the gate so that when multiple emergency vehicles are responding, they do not have to wait for the gates to cycle open and closed.

Gates existing prior to the adoption of this ordinance shall not be affected, provided they are maintained and in working order. If such gates are replaced or modified, they shall conform to the same requirements as newly constructed gates. The ordinance does not affect cattle gates, or any gate not associated with a residential community.

New and newly reconstructed gates must comply with the updated ordinance and civil penalties shall be imposed in the amount of $200.00 per day for any gate found to be in violation. The fines will continue to accrue until the violation has been remedied. Each day’s continuing violation of this ordinance is a separate and distinct offense. In addition to the civil penalty, or in the alternative, the ordinance may be enforced by injunction and order of abatement in the General Court of Justice.

He amended ordinance was unanimously approved by the board with the stipulation that some minor text changes that do not change the objective of the ordinance be made. Subsequent to the text corrections, the ordinance will go into immediate effect.

The Watauga County Board of Commissioners meets the first and third Tuesday of each month at 8 am and 5 pm respectively on the first floor of the county administration building. Meetings are open to the public.