By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
It has been almost three years since Poinciana completed a feasibility study on incorporating as a city. At that time, a group of residents hoped that elected state and county leaders (Osceola and Polk Counties) would allow for a Referendum vote on the issue at the next general election.
Unable to move forward with incorporation, for the past two years, Poinciana residents have been fighting for their rights in their Village Associations, as well as the Master HOA, known as Association of Poinciana Villages (APV).
Despite a recent Arbitration ruling throwing out results of February 2017 elections, and a separate lawsuit challenging APV’s status as a valid HOA, developer AV Homes (also known as Avatar), continues to cling to control of Poinciana.
Without notifying Florida’s Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR) and homeowner Martin Negron, AV Homes sued APV within days of a state ordered re-election on August 1, 2017. AV Homes was able to obtain a court order that allowed the developer and Canadian investor to cast thousands of votes as ususal, in direct contradiction to the recent ruling of DBPR Arbitrator Terri Leigh Jones.
HOA Attorney Tom Slaten now faces possible sanction by the Florida Bar Association. And the legal battle rages on, challenging the validity of August 2017 election results.
So it is no surprise that some residents are once again considering incorporation of Poinciana as a city. The issue was brought up at a recent town hall meeting attended by dozens of Poinciana residents.
But, surprisingly, Rep. John Cortes explained that even if Poinciana were to become incorporated as a city, owners and residents might not be able to get rid of the HOA!
2 Lawmakers support Poinciana residents in fight against HOA, developer
Residents in the Association of Poinciana Villages, a community of about 27,000 homes spanning Polk and Osceola counties, are fighting legal battles with APV and developer AV Homes, commonly referred to as Avatar.
POINCIANA — A pair of state representatives expressed their support for residents of Poinciana at a town hall meeting at New Dimensions High School.
Rep. John Cortes, D-Kissimmee, and Sen. Victor Torres, D-Kissimmee, spoke Thursday night before about 80 people at the Osceola County charter school on a number of issues, but those in attendance were primarily concerned with gaining control of their community.
“The residents of Poinciana don’t have a voice,” Martin Negron told the state lawmakers. “We have to do something and you have to back us up.”
Laytham said, since the results of the February election were nullified, any action taken by the master board also should have been nullified. One resident asked about becoming a city, but Cortes said that wouldn’t necessarily eliminate the homeowners’ association.
That’s right. If Poinciana were to become a city, homeowners would be paying taxes to the City government and they might still be obligated to pay mandatory annual assessments to their HOA (APV), unless a supermajority of homeowners votes to dissolve the HOA altogether.
Of course, if the pending lawsuit brought by homeowners survives, and later determines that covenants for Poinciana have indeed expired, without being properly renewed according to state law (MRTA), then the HOA would be considered legally dissolved.
That could create a stronger case for incorporation. However, Cortes hints that there are other hurdles for Poinciana, including upgrades to infrastructure and increasing economic support from business and commercial enterprise.
By the way, residents could still be obligated to abide by any non-expired deed restrictions, with or without the establishment of a valid and active HOA. Without an HOA in place to enforce restrictive covenants, however, it would be up to individual property owners to either work it out themselves, or, as a last resort, to file a complaint in civil court.
In other words, incorporation is not an easy process. And one can argue that large scale HOAs were intentionally created to be self-sustaining, without any future plans to convert the association governed corporation to a local government.
Another thing to consider is, if Poinciana were to incorporate, who would be elected to lead the new city? And, if APV remains in the picture, what political influence might AV Homes exert at the municipal level?
It makes sense for Poinciana residents to resolve election matters with APV first.
Can residents work toward limiting the power of APV and AV Homes, or perhaps even find a legal path to dissolve the HOA structure entirely?