Southwest Ranches, Florida
|This article needs additional citations for verification. (January 2010)|
Southwest Ranches, located on the eastern edge of the Florida Everglades, 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Fort Lauderdale, is Broward County's 30th incorporated place, having incorporated in the year 2000 to avoid annexation by the city of Pembroke Pines and to preserve its semi-rural lifestyle. Because the area has many horse ranches and is located in the southwestern part of Broward County, residents chose "Southwest Ranches" over many other potential town names. The population as of the 2010 census was 7,345. The town includes the 2000 U.S. Census census-designated places of Country Estates, Green Meadow, Ivanhoe Estates, Rolling Oaks, and Sunshine Ranches. Other areas recently added to the town include Landmark Ranch Estates and Sterling Ranch Estates.
To support its rural-equestrian lifestyle, the town has designated and developed dozens of miles of greenways (multi-use trails).
The area is primarily residential, with most lots of 1 acre (0.40 ha) or more. There are some small farms and equestrian ranches. The town has laws that keep homes from being built on lots of less than 1 acre. They also generally stop streetlights and sidewalks from being built, in order to conserve and keep the town rural. The town's unofficial motto is "The pavement stops here!"
From the time of its founding until 2012 the town conducted its business from modular office on the South Broward Drainage District headquarters property. In 2012, the town, under the leadership of Vice Mayor Doug McKay purchased a former church to create Southwest Ranches' first permanent town hall.
The town contracts with the Broward County Sheriff's Office to provide police. The Town of Davie provides fire and EMS services.
Government and infrastructure
The Florida Department of Corrections operates the Region IV Correctional Facility Office on the grounds of Broward Correctional Institution in the former Country Estates CDP and in Southwest Ranches. The Broward prison formerly housed the female death row. In February 2003 the female death row moved to the Lowell Annex.
Southwest Ranches’ charter defines the governing body as a council with five members: a mayor and four council members. The mayor is elected at-large from the electorate of the town, and the council members are also elected at-large but represent districts in which they must reside. The mayoral role is largely ceremonial with no more power than any council member.
Other charter positions serving Southwest Ranches include the Town Administrator, Financial Administrator and Town Clerk.
The town's present mayor and council are:
- Mayor Jeff Nelson (2008–16)
- Vice Mayor Steve Breitkreuz (2006–14)
- Doug McKay (2008–16)
- Freddy Fisikelli (2000–04, 2008–2016)
- Gary Jablonski (2010–14)
Town Administrator - Andy Berns 2012–present
The town's first council was:
- Mayor Mecca Fink
- Vice Mayor Johnny Dollar
- Forrest Blanton
- Freddy Fisikelli
- Astor Knight
Southwest Ranches History
In the fall of 1996 Pembroke Pines introduced a proposed bill to the Broward County Legislative Delegation to annex into that city all the unincorporated area between Griffin Road to the north, Sheridan Street to the South, Flamingo Road to the east and SR 25 to the west.
Hundreds of citizens from that unincorporated area, known as the Southwest Ranches, packed the Delegation hearing in November 1996 held at Pembroke Pines City Hall to protest this attempted takeover and to call for the right to form their own city. As a result of this grassroots effort, the State Legislature passed a bill in the 1997 session calling for a vote of the citizens of Southwest Ranches in March 2000. At that time, voters would have three choices. They could vote to annex into either Pembroke Pines or Davie or vote to become a new city.
Southwest Ranches Homeowners Association was an umbrella group composed of individual homeowners associations in the Southwest Ranches area. Anyone belonging to an individual homeowners association was also automatically a member of Southwest Ranches Homeowners Association, with full voting rights. In the summer of 1997, SWRHA members agreed to actively promote incorporation of a new city for the area and formed Southwest Ranches Homeowners Association Political Committee to explore this option. A feasibility committee was appointed to determine if a new city would be viable. They would have to know if revenues would be adequate to cover the costs of running a city. Dr. Milan Dluhy of Florida International University was contacted and asked to complete a formal feasibility study. Dr. Dluhy had produced many such studies for groups which subsequently became successful cities. The feasibility committee also contacted Moyer and Associates, the company which provides contract services to Weston.
The feasibility committee determined that a contract city would be the best option. Contracting would allow the city access to experienced professionals without having to hire these individuals on a full-time basis. This would save taxpayers money and avoid many costly capital expenses. Moyer and Associates provided the feasibility committee and Dr. Dluhy with financial information on which to base estimates of both income and expenses. The committee also considered the figures provided by the PMG study. PMG is the company which was hired by Broward County to conduct a study comparing the costs of Pembroke Pines and Davie to the costs of being incorporated into a new city.
On July 3, 1999, the Southwest Ranches Homeowners Association sponsored a parade and picnic to declare the area's independence. Speakers at the event included then Senator Howard Forman, Representative Debbie Wasserman-Schultz, County Commissioner Lori Parrish, Sheriff Ken Jenne, and Weston's Mayor Harry Rosen. The event was a huge success!
The bill passed by the Legislature in 1997 authorized the vote in 2000 to determine if residents wanted to annex or form their own city. If the vote was for a new city, a charter was to be drawn up and an election forming the city held in 2001. Leaders realized, however, that if a charter could be drawn up sooner, it could be approved in 2000 and the city formed a year earlier, which would be financially beneficial to the residents. A charter committee was formed to draw up a charter. The committee met almost weekly during July, 1999 and August, 1999, and formulated a new charter, using the Weston charter as a boilerplate.
A contest was held to name the Town, and 122 different names were submitted. A vote was held on October 12, 1999 to select one of the top five names, and Southwest Ranches won. Southwest Ranches Homeowners Association members voted to move forward and request a local bill to allow incorporation in 2000 instead of 2001, and the bill was approved by the Legislature. On March 14, 2000, residents voted overwhelmingly to form a new Town rather than be annexed.
The most contentious issue during charter committee meetings was whether or not to have districts. The majority of members felt that Council Members should be elected at-large; that is, any qualified candidate could run for a seat, no matter where that individual lived. Some felt that candidates should only be able to run if they lived in one of four districts. When the election to approve the charter was held on June 6, 2000, the issue was put to a vote; and the majority of voters selected districts. Council Members were elected on July 25, 2000, and the Town was officially in business.
Parks and trail system
To support its rural-equestrian lifestyle, the town has designated and developed dozens of miles of greenways, multi-use trails. On most days, people can be seen riding horses, bicycles or walking the trails that thread throughout the town. Since incorporation, the town has also acquire seven open-space parks within its borders. These are Trailside Park, Sunshine Ranches Equestrian Park, Southwest Meadows Sanctuary, Southwest Meadows Sanctuary/Calusa Corners, Rolling Oaks Passive Park. Country Estates Fishing Hole and Frontier Trails. To date only Sunshine Ranches Equestrian Park has been developed.  Sunshine Ranches Equestrian Park includes a schooling ring, a show ring and the Equestrian Oasis, which is an artful installation primarily used to provide drinking water for horses. 
- River Alexander, Actor
- Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, Actor
- Udonis Haslem, Miami Heat power forward
- Daunte Culpepper, former NFL quarterback 
- Weston, Southwest Ranches and unincorporated West Broward
- "Region IV - Correctional Facility Office." Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on January 8, 2010.
- "Broward Correctional Institution." Florida Department of Corrections. Retrieved on August 31, 2010.
- "Country Estates CDP, Florida." U.S. Census Bureau. Retrieved on January 8, 2010.
- "Death Row Fact Sheet." Florida Department of Corrections. February 3, 2001. Retrieved on August 31, 2010.
- "SWR Parks and recreation". Retrieved on June 28, 2010.
- "Southwest Ranches Real Estate & Information". Retrieved on December 14, 2010.