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James Long: Open communities versus gated communities

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Local realtor James Long shares his column this week on open communities versus gated communities.

James LongOpen Communities vs Gated Communities 

We all know it’s different strokes for different folks. What one person likes the next may not. Wanting to live in a gated community is really just a preference. Medieval villagers lived within the walls of the main castle complex and used the castle lord’s military and fellow residents to protect the community. The walls deterred uninvited guests and the gate closed or the drawbridge rolled up at night for protection. Modern housing developments adopt the same castle mentality with guard gates and fences. Gates and walls add monthly costs for homeowners inside the development, but these communities don’t always offer the protection homeowners expect.
Creating Boundaries

Gated housing creates a boundary separating residents from the open community outside the walls. The International Foundation for Protection Officers outlines three types of gated communities: lifestyle, elite and security. Each type attracts a specific group of people to the gated neighborhood: lifestyle developments restrict the amenities and leisure activities to area residents.  Most will have a community pool and club house available for resident use, a good example here would be Oak Tree. Residents in elite communities look less for neighborhood interaction and more for a community presence that creates the look of status for the residents, and example of this type of community in Central Oklahoma would be Gaillardia . The security zone neighborhood establishes the community as an island limiting access to the homes inside, an example of this in Logan County would be Sweetwater Springs.

Gates imply increased security and a reduction in crime if guests must check with a security guard or enter a gate code or swipe a card when arriving or leaving. Developers use this feeling of security to market homes to new buyers, even when the community offers few other security features such as nighttime street lighting, home security systems and emergency phones located throughout the neighborhood. However, gates fail to deter major serious crime. Gates can also create a false security. This leads to ignoring normal precautions, such as closing windows at night, that open-community members routinely do for safety.
Some gated communities have what crime researchers call a “perceived gate” that offers only an unstaffed guardhouse and no real barrier to outside visitors. Suk Kyung Kim, doctoral researcher from Texas A&M University, reported that apartment residents living in perceived-gated communities felt the same overall sense of safety as those residing in gated communities with formal guards, even though the two have much different security levels. It’s also be said that the search for neighborhood security helps contribute to a movement of neighborhood secession from the greater society, and this means less access for non-residents to area parks and public beaches blocked by gated developments.
Cost Scales

Elaborate gates and fencing add dollars to property prices within the community, which means monthly, quarterly or yearly payments to the neighborhood association or to the hired security service. The most costly gated communities offer round-the-clock guards and neighborhood security patrols. Payments for this service includes salaries and benefits and operation of a formal guard house and insured patrol cars. Gates with keypad codes cost less, but homeowners must still for pay maintenance and repair of the system and the security gates. Then if there are pools, tennis courts, golf courses, and club houses all of those amenities come with additional costs as well.  Another thing to consider is once you have gated your community in most municipalities and counties the roads behind the gates are considered private roads. The maintenance and upkeep of those roads also lie within the neighborhood association. So when looking at gated communities there are more things to consider than just the home itself.
I personally like the concept of open communities.  When searching for a home it’s nice to be able to drive down the streets without having to have someone allow you in.  Some of my favorite communities are open communities.  Heritage Hills in OKC has some of the  most beautiful historical homes as well as Mesta Park, Crown Heights, Edgemere Park, and Nichols Hills.  And let’s not forget East Guthrie, also known as Fogarty Heights, there are many beautiful homes located in Guthrie, and Guthrie proper is one great open community, one that I call home.
So whatever your preference there is something for everyone. I just want to welcome you to Guthrie.
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