55+ community left in the dark for a year and a half

Reporter: Taylor Wirtz
Published: Updated:

Once the sun goes down, there’s no going outside in this 55-plus community.

Hurricane Ian left Emerald Lake in Punta Gorda in the dark.

Hundreds of street lights are shut off, and they’ve stayed off for nearly a year and a half.

A woman in the community wrote to WINK News telling us she feels stuck inside, and that’s no way to live.

The springing forward of the clocks this past weekend meant more hours of sunlight, and nobody is happier about that than neighbors in the Emerald Lake community in Punta Gorda because they say they’ve been living in darkness far too long.

“It’s so dark here at night that if you’re an older person, like me, you can’t go out and walk at night. Forget it,” said Janet Farrell, Emerald Lake resident.

Farrell said it all stems from Ian. She said the community was devastated, and people were still unable to get materials or builders.

The community, she said, may be coming back, but the lights are not.

“We have no lighting at night. Over 100 lampposts are out,” she said.

And in a 55-plus neighborhood, she said it’s a safety hazard.

Farrell said that she does not feel safe going out at night.

“I have macular degeneration. I need four times the light of a normal person. I cannot go out here at night at all. Not at all,” she said.

So, what’s delaying the repairs?

Resident Bill Ringo said there is a disagreement over who is responsible for them.

“We were assured that ELS would repair or replace the lamp posts. Well, that didn’t happen,” he said.

Equity Lifestyle Properties, which owns Emerald Lake, said, per the community prospectus, that the community owner provides yard lights, but they are the homeowner’s responsibility to maintain, including bulb replacement.

But neighbors believe maintenance doesn’t mean repairing lights destroyed by a hurricane.

“We don’t feel that we should have to pay for something we don’t own,” Farrell said.

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