CDD Plan In Florida Is on Hold

The Bond Buyer - - Front Page - By Shelly Sigo

A Florida de­vel­oper for­mally ter­mi­nated a con­tro­ver­sial agree­ment to sell pools, parks and other ameni­ties in the cen­tral Florida re­tire­ment com­mu­nity of So­livita, just days be­fore Tues­day’s elec­tion in which can­di­dates op­posed to the deal are run­ning for the com­mu­nity de­vel­op­ment dis­tricts’ boards.

The Poin­ciana CDD and Poin­ciana West CDD, which en­com­pass So­livita, signed a pur­chase agree­ment with­out ob­tain­ing an appraisal to fi­nance the 15- to 17-year old de­vel­oper-owned ameni­ties with $73 mil­lion in bonds.

The move sparked res­i­dents’ anger over a pur­chase price many felt was too high, and led them to op­pose at­tempts to val­i­date the bonds in court.

The deal also spurred five Soli- vita res­i­dents to run for seats on the CDDs’ boards of su­per­vi­sors. All are backed by the grass­roots Price is Too High Com­mit­tee, said can­di­date Michael Luddy.

The re­cent sale of So­livita’s de­vel­oper led to a change of tune on the sale and the bond pro­posal.

On Oct. 2, Scotts­dale, Ari­zona-based na­tional home­builder Tay­lor Mor­ri­son Home Corp. closed on the pur­chase of AV Homes.

Brian Brun­hofer, the Or­lando di­vi­sion pres­i­dent for Tay­lor Mor­ri­son, said in an Oct. 25 email to

So­livita res­i­dents that the com­pany rec­og­nized that pro­posed sale had been “a point of frus­tra­tion and con­fu­sion for many.”

“We want to move for­ward fo­cused on build­ing on the strong sense of com­mu­nity, de­vel­op­ing a foun­da­tion of strong re­la­tion­ships and trust, and to make that mu­tu­ally suc­cess­ful we have de­cided not to move for­ward with the sale of the club ameni­ties to the CDDs,” Brun­hofer said, adding that Tay­lor Mor­ri­son will con­tinue to own and op­er­ate the fa­cil­i­ties.

On Oct. 29, at­tor­neys for the de­vel­oper for­mally no­ti­fied the CDDs in sep­a­rate let­ters that the de­vel­oper would ter­mi­nate its agree­ment to sup­port val­i­dat­ing the bonds, and to ter­mi­nate the com­pany’s fund­ing for the ef­fort.

The CDD boards still need to vote to with­draw the bond val­i­da­tion case. Their next meet­ing is sched­uled for Nov. 28, when new board mem­bers will be seated. Tues­day’s elec­tion may bring some new faces to the boards.

“We’re run­ning as a group of like-minded in­di­vid­u­als that op­posed the bond sale and the man­ner in which it was be­ing done,” said Luddy, a 64-year-old re­tiree who bought a home in So­livita in 2013. “The bot­tom line num­ber on the deal was a huge neg­a­tive to the res­i­dents and to the com­mu­nity at large.”

Luddy, Tony Reed and El­iz­a­beth Lam­brides are car­ry­ing the Price is Too High Com­mit­tee ban­ner in the Poin­ciana CDD board of su­per­vi­sors elec­tion. Peggy Gre­gory and Roy LaRue are the com­mit­tee’s can­di­dates for the West Poin­ciana CDD. Luddy said they are run­ning be­cause most of the ex­ist­ing CDD su­per­vi­sors didn’t lis­ten to res­i­dents’ calls “to do the right thing” and ob­tain ap­praisals for the ameni­ties be­fore agree­ing to a pur­chase price.

“We are rea­son­able peo­ple who want a rea­son­able and fair deal,” he said, adding that re­cent events may give new board mem­bers an op­por­tu­nity to ne­go­ti­ate a new trans­ac­tion.

Five other can­di­dates are also seek­ing seats on the boards. Most, if not all of them, sup­port the orig­i­nal deal.

Lita Ep­stein, a Poin­ciana CDD su­per­vi­sor whose term ex­pires in 2020, has op­posed the pur­chase and bond is­sue since she be­fore was elected in Novem­ber 2016.

“I be­lieve Tay­lor Mor­ri­son looked at the deal and saw how bad it would be for So­livita in long term,” she said when asked to com­ment on the ter­mi­na­tion. “The deal maxed out the bond ca­pac­ity of the com­mu­nity and left noth­ing for re­serves or cap­i­tal im­prove­ments for 30 years.”

Ep­stein said she hopes Tay­lor Mor­ri­son will work with the CDDs to “struc­ture a deal that is a win/win for both Tay­lor Mor­ri­son and the res­i­dents of So­livita.”

In ad­di­tion to a change in own­er­ship, Luddy said he be­lieves that re­cent rul­ings in two on­go­ing court cases — the bond val­i­da­tion and a class-ac­tion suit op­pos­ing fees res­i­dents must pay to use the ameni­ties — af­fected Tay­lor Mor­ri­son’s re­cent de­ci­sion to sell the ameni­ties.

The CDDs had planned to is­sue about $102 mil­lion of bonds, us­ing most of the pro­ceeds to buy ex­ist­ing ameni­ties and $11.2 mil­lion to build a new well­ness cen­ter and a small per­form­ing arts the­ater.

Dou­glas Peter­son

Golf cart signs in Florida’s So­livita re­tire­ment com­mu­nity sup­port can­di­dates who say the cost to buy ameni­ties with bonds is too high.

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