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April 25 Set As Election Day for AMSCD Seat

Ave Maria residents will be going to the polls April 25 for an election that will let residents choose a member of the Ave Maria Stewardship Community District board by popular vote for the first time.

The board set the election date at its regular Feb. 7 meeting and also set a qualifying period of March 20 to March 31 for candidates to fulfill requirements to get on the ballot, the main one being the payment of a $25 qualifying fee or the collection of 25 certified signatures from other town residents.

The process leading to the election began more than a year ago, when Robb Klucik, and attorney in Ave Maria, collected the necessary signatures on a petition requesting that at least one of the seats on the five-member board be elected directly by residents rather than being chosen by landowners on the basis of a one vote per acre. Following that the board took a number of steps laid out in the legislative act that created the town to hold a referendum on whether residents wanted to make the change, and to determine how many seats would be up for election based on the percentage of the town that had been developed.

Although the election day and qualifying period are set, the board still has a few details to clean up at its next meeting, such as whether absentee voting will be possible and whether a plurality or majority of votes is required for election.

The AMSCD is a special-purpose board that has responsibility primarily for infrastructure in Ave Maria such as maintenance of major roads, irrigation and stormwater drainage. It has no authority in governmental areas such as law enforcement, public education, zoning or regulations on businesses such as building codes. These are the responsibility of the county government.

Anyone interested in running for the seat on the board should call the Ave Maria Master Association office for information on required forms and submissions.

The Tuesday meeting began with a spirited discussion during which several residents aired concerns about the increasing number of large trucks, mainly related to construction, on roads running through residential property.

The trucks are not merely a nuisance, said resident Kathy Dittus who lives on Ave Maria Blvd., but they also are causing safety concerns for pedestrians, bicyclists, golf cart drivers and children waiting for school buses.

"This is a pedestrian neighborhood," she said. "The trucks are going way to fast, and it's constant."

Alison Vega, who lives in Maple Ridge, said the situation is becoming particularly dangerous at the corner of Ave Maria Blvd. and Avila, where dozens of children gather waiting for the school bus. "Kids are on bikes, scooters, and on foot and parents have to get out and stop traffic," she said.

Town Manager Todd Wodraska said trucks are on public roads and the district has limited recourse, but the board did agree on three specific follow-up actions:

- Barron Collier Vice President David Genson, who is the developers' representative to the board, said he would get in touch with the builders about having their trucking contractors use different routes that avoid residential areas.

- The board encouraged residents to call the Collier County Sheriff's Office to report instances of speeding and request stepped-up enforcement.

- The board also will ask its engineer to revisit what can be done regarding the traffic circle at Ave Maria Blvd. and Milano which is being regularly damaged by trucks.

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