By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Conflicts over who should control Poinciana, one of Florida’s largest homeowners associations with 26,000 homes, have been ongoing for years. At the heart of the matter is the fact that the 44 year old planned community – a Census designate place near Orlando – remains primarily under the control of developer Avatar (AV Homes).
Poinciana’s homes are divided into 9 separate Villages, each with their own HOA or Condo boards. While homeowners are entitled to cast one vote per residential parcel or unit for their Village board members, they do not have any right to cast a direct vote for members who serve on their master HOA, known as Association of Poinciana Villages (APV). Instead, each Village’s board members elect officers of their respective boards, and choose one representative – usually the President – to serve as that Village’s representative on the board of APV.
In other words, theoretically, homeowners may only elect board members of their own Village within Poinciana, but have no control over who ultimately serves as their Village representative on the Master Association, APV.
That arrangement would never be acceptable beyond the artificial world of association-governed communities.
For example, what if every city or town council were permitted to elect one of its members to serve on your County Board of Commissioners? What if your County Commissioners elected your State Representatives and Senators?
I’d say there would be widespread public outcry.
Yet, somehow, large-scale HOAs in Florida and other states commonly organize their political structure in a way that dilutes voting power of its members, and puts control into the hands of a few people, who may not truly represent the interests of their community.
To make matters even worse in Poinciana, homeowners within each Village are often outvoted by developer. That’s because Avatar claims its legal right to cast one vote for each vacant parcel of land that could become a buyer’s future home.
It does not seem to matter that, after more than 4 decades, hundreds of acres still remain vacant and, most likely, not suitable for home sites due to marshy conditions.
The result, according to some dissatisfied homeowners, is that the developer controls a majority of Village boards, and, ultimately, the master association, APV.
And, quite often, a developer’s interests in generating profitable new home sales clashes with the interests of homeowners for a well-managed community that respects the needs, desires, and rights of its residents.
Poinciana residents challenge developer in election disputeJune 15, 2017 10:50 AM
POINCIANA — A dispute over who should control Poinciana, which says it has the largest homeowners association in Florida, could hinge on a strip of pine woods dotted with soggy marshland on the eastern shore of Lake Marion.
At stake is control over a 44-year-old community with more than 50,000 residents, about the size of Apopka.
A homeowner is challenging whether Avatar, the developer of the community of 26,000 homes, can cast thousands of votes in the HOA elections based on its ownership of hundreds of parcels of land. Much of it is undeveloped and, in some cases such as the property along Lake Marion, marshy and potentially off-limits for new construction.
Avatar contends it can cast one vote for every developed lot it owns and additional votes for homes the company says it could eventually build.
Martin Negron, who ran for the HOA board during the annual election in February, said he lost because Avatar improperly used such pieces of land to cast more votes and elect the company’s favored candidates. He said Avatar, also known as AV Homes, wants to maintain its hold over the massive community that straddles Polk and Osceola counties between Haines City and Kissimmee.
“The reason to get on the board is so we can vote on behalf of the residents, not the developer,” said Negron, a retired warehouse worker from New York who has lived in Poinciana for about 10 years. “They don’t want anyone that is going to ruffle their feathers.”
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To summarize, homeowner Martin Negron’s complaint states that Avatar cast at least 1,600 invalid votes, based on Avatar’s hypothetical plans to build thousands of homes, townhouses, or condos that may, in reality, never be constructed.
Once again, the entire concept of attaching voting interests to property, rather than basing voting rights on residency, is challenged as fundamentally unfair and unworkable. That is especially true when considering a developer’s exceptional voting rights, intentionally written into governing documents for the association.
After the Division of Business and Professional Regulations (DBPR) makes its final decision on this complaint, the finer details behind this dispute should become clear.