Southwest Ranches, Florida

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Southwest Ranches, Florida
Town
Motto: "The pavement stops here!"
(unofficial)
Location of Southwest Ranches within Broward County
Location of Southwest Ranches within Broward County
Coordinates: 26°3′31″N 80°20′14″W / 26.05861°N 80.33722°W / 26.05861; -80.33722Coordinates: 26°3′31″N 80°20′14″W / 26.05861°N 80.33722°W / 26.05861; -80.33722
Country  United States
State  Florida
County  Broward
Incorporated 2000
Government
 • Type Commission-Manager
 • Mayor Jeff Nelson
Area
 • Total 13 sq mi (30 km2)
Time zone EST (UTC-5)
 • Summer (DST) EDT (UTC-4)
Area code(s) 754, 954
Website www.southwestranches.org

Southwest Ranches is an affluent town in Broward County, Florida. It is located on the eastern edge of the Everglades, 15 miles (24 km) southwest of Fort Lauderdale. It became the county's 30th incorporated place in 2000 to avoid annexation into 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 at the 2010 census was 7,345. The town includes the 2000 census-designated places of Country Estates, Green Meadow, Rolling Oaks, Sunshine Ranches, Landmark Ranch Estates, and Sterling Ranch Estates, all of which are now Southwest Ranches neighborhoods. To support its rural-equestrian lifestyle, the town has developed miles of multi-use trails.

History[edit]

In 1996, Pembroke Pines proposed a bill to the Broward County Legislative Delegation to annex all the unincorporated areas between Griffin Road, Sheridan Street, Flamingo Road, and SR 25 into Pembroke Pines. Hundreds of citizens from the unincorporated area of Southwest Ranches packed the delegation hearing in November 1996 at Pembroke Pines City Hall to protest this 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 which called for a vote of Southwest Ranches' citizens in March 2000, in which they could vote to be annexed into either Pembroke Pines or Davie or vote to become a new city.[citation needed]

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 the group, with full voting rights. In 1997, its members agreed to actively promote incorporation of a new city for the area and formed a 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; Dluhy had produced many such studies for groups which subsequently became successful cities. The committee also contacted Moyer and Associates, the company which provides contract services to Weston.[citation needed]

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.[citation needed]

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 Mayor Harry Rosen.[citation needed] The bill passed in 1997 authorized the vote in 2000 to determine if residents wanted to 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 and August 1999, and formulated a new charter, using the Weston charter as a template.[citation needed] A contest was held to name the town, with 122 different names submitted. A vote was held on October 12, 1999 to select one of the top five names, which 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, which was approved. 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.[citation needed] The majority of members felt that council members should be elected at large, meaning that any qualified candidate could run for a seat, no matter where that individual lived, but 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 established.[citation needed]

Description[edit]

The area is primarily residential, with most lots consisting 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 (0.40 ha). In order to conserve the town's rural lifestyle, the laws also generally stop streetlights and sidewalks from being constructed.

From the time of its founding until 2012, the town conducted its business from a modular office at the South Broward Drainage District headquarters. In 2012, the town, under the leadership of Vice Mayor Doug McKay, renovated a former church to create Southwest Ranches' first permanent town hall. Police services are provided by the Broward County Sheriff's Office and emergency services are provided by the nearby town of Davie.[1]

To support its rural-equestrian lifestyle, the town has developed miles of multi-use trails. People can be often be seen riding horses or bicycles or walking the trails that spread throughout the town. Since incorporation, the town has also acquired seven open-space parks, only one of which has been developed so far.[2] This park includes a schooling ring, a show ring, and the Equestrian Oasis, an art installation primarily used to provide drinking water for horses.[3]

Government and infrastructure[edit]

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.[4][5][6] The Broward prison formerly housed the female death row,[7] which was moved to the Lowell Correctional Institution in February 2003.[5]

Southwest Ranches' charter defines the governing body as a council with one mayor and four council members. Both the mayor and the council members are elected at large from the electorate of the town, but the council members 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 first council consisted of Mayor Mecca Fink, Vice Mayor Johnny Dollar, Forrest Blanton, Freddy Fisikelli, and Astor Knight.[citation needed] The town's current council consists of Mayor Jeff Nelson (2008–2016), Vice Mayor Steve Breitkreuz (2006–2014), Doug McKay (2008–2016), Freddy Fisikelli (2000–2004, 2008–2016), and Gary Jablonski (2010–2014). The town administrator is Andy Berns (2012–present).

Notable people[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]