A Poinciana homeowner
Homeowner tries to diminish developers’ power
contests the results of a homeowner association election, saying that the second ballot was as flawed as the first.
A homeowner is again trying to tip the balance of power within one of the state’s largest homeowner’s associations away from developers.
An election challenge filed by homeowner Martin Negron calls for a recount of votes in the Association of Poinciana Villages, but only after the state agency that regulates HOAs tosses out scores of votes he thinks are illegal.
That agency, the Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation, already sided with Negron in a challenge in June and nullified the results of a February vote. In that ruling, an arbitrator ordered the Aug. 1 election.
If the votes are tossed out, Negron and his attorneys think it would pave the way for homeowners to be seated on the board.
“How are we ever going to win?” he said. “Hopefully the [state] will put some teeth into this.”
At stake is a say in how the community of about 50,000 residents spends annual fees paid by homeowners and how the HOA governs the neighborhood.
Negron’s challenge alleges nothing changed in the August election, and that developers were again allowed to cast thousands of votes for undeveloped lots they own in the neighborhood.
He contends some of these lots can’t be legally built upon because they’re dotted with marshlands, or fall within the 50-year flood zone, the complaint states.
Negron also alleges that the developers didn’t properly fill out paperwork allowing them to vote and that one of the developers isn’t a United States citizen.
Asked for comment, the HOA said it was “aware of the new petition, however, the DBPR has not, as of yet, asked APV to respond.”
Previously, the Association of Poinciana Villages maintained a judge’s ruling in Polk County Circuit Court allowed it to calculate developers’ votes by allowing a vote for the maximum number of homes that can be built per acre.
In a previous statement, the HOA said it “will recognize the
developer’s right granted by each Village Association to cast votes on behalf of its unplatted tracts of lands without platting them.”
Negron and his attorney intervened in the Polk County case and asked for the ruling to be thrown out because it interfered with arbitration.
A hearing is scheduled for November, Negron’s attorney Jennifer Englert said.
After the Orlando Sentinel reported on the Polk County judge’s ruling, the state arbitrator working the case recused herself and also filed a complaint with the Florida Bar against attorney Tom Slaten, who represents the HOA, because he didn’t notify her of the circuit court case.
“We’re kind of back to square one,” Englert said. “They still never have proven what lots they’re building on … the more we dig in, the more problems we find. … Eventually their feet will be held to the fire. If we keep going, we’ll eventually get there.”
For years, residents have complained they lack a voice in the 44-year-old community, which sets annual fees and controls the budget. The HOA is comprised of nine villages and collects $252 from each property owner annually.
A group of residents has said they think the association doesn’t treat them fairly in debt collection and isn’t transparent with its spending.
Keith Laytham, an advocate for the group of residents, said the association has “proven time and time again they can’t run a fair election.”
Negron said he and others in the neighborhood spent many hours and several weekends trying to motivate homeowners to vote in the August election and was frustrated all it resulted in was more legal proceedings. “Why should there be another election? APV already did everything wrong,” he said. “The state already gave [the HOA] rules to follow,and they didn’t do it.”