By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
How would you feel if your city, township, county, or school board voted to add an additional $499 – $531 to your annual tax bill next year?
Chances are, you’d be quite upset about it, especially if that extra tax would be used to purchase and make capital improvements to a 20-year old golf course and 16-year-old country club that has been losing money for years.
For owners of 609 homes in Golden Lakes CDD, that’s exactly what could happen by February of 2017.
The story was recently reported in The Ledger:
Eaglebrooke golf club sale is on track despite some opposition
Posted Dec 7, 2016 at 10:07 PM
Updated Dec 8, 2016 at 7:05 AM
The Golden Lakes Community Development District (CDD) has signed an agreement to purchase The Club at Eaglebrooke, but the transaction is not yet a done deal and some residents oppose the potential acquisition.
By John Ceballos
LAKELAND – The Golden Lakes Community Development District (CDD) has signed an agreement to purchase The Club at Eaglebrooke, but the transaction is not yet a done deal and some residents oppose the potential acquisition.
The CDD – which provides infrastructural services such as common area landscaping, security and road upkeep for Eaglebrooke – is more than two-thirds of the way through a 90-day due diligence and inspection period for the sale, according to the district chairman, Rich Weaver.
“Everyone has a voice throughout this process,” said Weaver, referring to the more than 600 property owners at Eaglebrooke. “There are a few people that aren’t happy about it, but, for the most part, I’ve been happy with the positive response we’ve been getting from a lot of residents.”
In a July letter addressed to Eaglebrooke residents who live in the homes adjacent to the golf course, Weaver said the CDD was “evaluating the possibility of acquiring the Club at Eaglebrooke on behalf of its members, including the clubhouse, the amenities, and the golf course operations.”
However, Bill Huey – an Eaglebrooke resident for about eight years – isn’t too thrilled about the potential deal.
“When I bought a house in there, I didn’t buy with the intent of owning a country club,” Huey said. “It was a complete surprise to me that they (the CDD) even had the authority to acquire something like this.”
Golden Lakes CDD has posted a special assessment summary on its website. The estimated cost to purchase the golf course and bring it up to par: $4.15 million, resulting in an annual ongoing cost of around $500 per property.
The purpose of the CDD, established in 1992, according to the website, is to pay for construction and maintenance of community infrastructure.
The District was created to finance and manage the acquisition, construction, operate and maintain of a portion of the infrastructure necessary for community development. The Ordinance establishing the District authorizes the District to issue bonds for the purpose of financing, funding, planning, establishing, acquiring, constructing or reconstructing, enlarging or extending, equipping, operating and maintaining water management, water supply, sewer and wastewater management, bridges or culverts, roadways, street lights and other basic infrastructure projects within or without the boundaries of the District as provided in the establishment Ordinance.
I don’t see any statement that authorizes the CDD to acquire and maintain recreational amenities such as an 18-hole golf course, pool, tennis courts, and a clubhouse with restaurant. Am I missing something?
The CDD Board of Supervisors claims the acquisition of the golf course and country club will enhance property values. But not all homeowners agree, especially those who rarely, if ever, play golf. According to the Ledger, a November 10th informational meeting of Golden Lakes CDD had 160-200 residents in attendance.
The CDD Chair claims a majority want to purchase the golf course, but how does he know that? One homeowner has suggested having a referendum to allow Golden Lakes residents to vote on the matter. Sounds reasonable to me.
To clarify, because a CDD is a unit of government, all registered voters who reside in the CDD would be permitted to vote – one vote per person – as in any other local election. A list of Board members and information about elections is posted on the CDD’s website.
This is in contrast to votes in an association-governed community (such as a Eaglebrooke homeowners association), where votes are allocated one per property owned. If you take a look at Eaglebrooke HOA’s board of directors, you will see two names in common with Golden Lakes CDD board: Rich Weaver and Larry Knapp, who currently serve as Chair and Vice Chair of the CDD board.
Current home listings in Eaglebrooke range from $175K – more than $700K.
This case raises several questions. Should any CDD Commission have the unilateral authority to make a purchase decision of this magnitude – especially for discretionary acquisition of a non-essential recreational amenity – without resident voter consent? Why hasn’t the Commission considered having a referendum? What is the rush to complete this acquisition? And what if, after purchase, the golf course continues to lose money?
The purchase of The Club at Eagelbrook by Golden Lakes CDD is not yet a done deal. It will be interesting to see how this plays out.