By Mark Risner
When Cordillera Ranch was being planned and designed, one of the intents from the beginning was to have a gated community that provided an added measure of privacy in the beautiful Texas Hill Country. Since the development began in 1996, Cordillera Ranch has grown from only one community gate servicing just a few homes and a couple of miles of roads in the first phase, to roughly 50 miles of roads inside Cordillera Ranch and five perimeter gates that allow access into the community. Though privacy is just as important to property owners today as it was 20 years ago, the growth and expansion only makes the management of the access control systems that much more difficult.
Today, the community faces problems with too many unauthorized vehicles accessing the community through a variety of means. While we have been fortunate that the negative consequences of those unauthorized guests are limited and rare, it’s a problem that the POA staff and Board of Directors want to address proactively and resolve in a comprehensive manner. The biggest causes for our problems are: 1) unauthorized guests “tailgating” through an opened gate behind an authorized guest or resident, and 2) the use of codes for guests to enter the community. Eliminating or mitigating these two challenges is not easy and does come with other costs or challenges, but we have worked diligently for many months with various consultants to come to the best solution for the community, which we will outline here.
New Access Control System Summary
Here is a brief summary of the multiple different modifications the POA will be making to the access control system over the coming months:
1. Eliminating gate clickers and codes and replacing with RFID (Radio Frequency Identification) stickers for property owner and member vehicles, which will allow faster access and better controls for the community. The elimination of codes will greatly enhance privacy in our community.
2. Upgrading gate management software to provide a user-friendly database for property owners and members to update approved guests online.
3. Adding barrier arm gates at each perimeter gate to prevent tailgating.
4. Initiating new access control authorization protocols limiting unauthorized guest access.
RFID Access Technology and Upgraded Access Control Software
After doing a lot of research on what has worked for other communities, the committee has decided to use the RFID technology for access into the community, in lieu of gate clickers. Having a small windshield or headlamp sticker that replaces the need for remote openers and entry codes is a more effective entry mechanism and much more common than clickers today. The encoded sticker pings off a receiver and tells the gates to open as you enter the property. The accompanying software provides a much more efficient system and also makes it easier for updating approved guests into the database. Furthermore, the RFID and software system allow for customized restrictions to set certain time parameters for when certain RFID stickers would provide access. For example, if we have short-term vendor or contractor RFID stickers, the system can restrict their access to certain times and days. The best part is that residents can manage their information from phones, tablets or laptops. It is important to note that at this time the RFID readers will only be installed at the perimeter gates, so residents accessing gates inside Cordillera Ranch will continue to use clickers for access to those areas.
Barrier Arm Additions
Our perimeter entries will see a facelift as well. One of the current access restriction issues we face is the tailgating of unapproved vehicles onto the property. Our current gates take a while to open and close. This can be corrected with adding drop arms at the entries. The drop arms open and close quickly and allow for one vehicle entry at a time, significantly reducing the tailgating traffic. Look for the property owner/member and guest lanes to be clearly defined and separated. This will keep resident traffic moving quickly through the gates as the window stickers are automatically opening the drop arms.
The existing camera systems at the perimeter gates will be used to provide visual confirmation of the guest’s identification at the Rio Cordillera/FM 3351 entry and the Joe Klar Road entry. The guest’s license plate and vehicle will be on camera and the guest will have to provide proof of identification to the keypad mounted camera in order to be authorized in through the ‘virtual guard’ system. At the Kreutzberg Road entry, vehicles will only be able to access the community via RFID or by dialing a property owner through the keypad and having that property owner grant access.
The key for successful integration of these upgrades is that property owners and members are well-informed and know what they need to do to continue having seamless access and making sure their approved guests continue to have access. As part of our stricter entrance process, making sure that guests, contractors and any other visitors are registered in advance will be critical because once we rollout the new system, guests that are not on your approved guest list will NOT be granted access by the guard. Guests will still be able to call by directory at the gate keypads to dial your number in the system, allowing you to grant access to the guest by phone. It will be important for you to know your 4-digit direct dial code (your direct dial code that currently exists) so that you can give that to guests to punch in at the gate, which will dial your phone number (which can be your home or mobile phone) allowing you to decide whether to grant access; but again, we will no longer have gate access codes that will open gates.
Timing and Cost
These projects are scheduled to start in the coming weeks and, weather-permitting, completed in the first quarter of 2018. The POA has been reserving funds for the project to allow for this $300,000 overhaul to be entirely funded without a special assessment to property owners for the infrastructure, hardware and software system improvements. There will, however, be a cost associated with acquiring RFID stickers for your vehicles. The cost of the RFID sticker is $50 per sticker (or $75 for the headlamp version).
We will be sending out communications via mail and email that provide more details about when RFID stickers will be available for purchase and installation, how to update your data in the new database, how guests will be authorized and other important information.
We are very excited about these enhancements and the much tighter access controls they will provide for the community. Among the benefits will be reduced impact to our private roads from unauthorized vehicles, reduced usage of parks, trails and amenities by unauthorized guests, and generally a better sense of privacy and exclusivity, just to name a few. This is a considerable change and there will be some bumps along the way as people adjust to the system. We will do our best to make this a smooth transition with the hope that everyone will see the benefit of further protecting the community. Thank you in advance for your support and assistance in making this transition as smooth as possible.
If you have questions in the meantime, feel free to call the Cordillera Ranch POA office at 830.336.3501. If you are not currently receiving Cordillera Ranch POA emails, please make sure to call us at that number or go to www.cordilleraranchpoa.com and set up or update your account information to make sure you receive these very important notices over the coming weeks and months.
Mark Risner, CMCA, is the General Manager of the Cordillera Ranch Property Owners Association, Inc. He can be reached at 830.336.3501 or firstname.lastname@example.org.