Residents critical of task force meeting
By CHRIS CURRY
Courtesy of the Ocala Star Banner
Posted 10 - 04 - 2003

OCALA - A statewide task force on homeowners' association reform has received a lukewarm response from some of those who traveled to Tallahassee for the group's first meeting.

Representatives of property owners' right groups said they feel the task force is stacked in favor of the developer and the first agenda did not address key issues.

"There seemed to be a lot of developer types there compared to homeowners," said Cherrywood resident Chan Gerber, vice president of Marion County's Concerned Homeowners in Partnership. "To me, it seemed like going to an automobile dealer to ask him if he has any problems with the cars he sells."

Gov. Jeb Bush requested that the Department of Business and Professional Regulation form a Homeowners Association Task Force after the last legislative session when a bill proposing to form a similar group died in the session's waning days. The 15-member group first met Sept. 24 with two representatives from property owners rights' groups.

"In short, if you have out of a 15-member task force, 12 industry members, you know where the whole thing is going. We don't have to beat around the bush," said task force member Jan Bergemann, president Cyber Citizens for Justice, an Internet-based property owners rights group.

"I think it was a good way to open up the lines of communication . . . but the way it's set up doesn't leave much room for any substantial changes," said Bergemann.

The first meeting included discussion of whether homeowners in communities with associations should have the same right as condominium owners to fly military flags, and if the definition of a homeowners' association should be expanded.

Bergemann said he believed more crucial issues are the lack of state regulation of homeowners' associations and finding alternate ways to resolve disputes between homeowners and associations that now end up in expensive court battles. He also wants to see increased financial disclosure by homeowners' associations, including any mandatory assessments residents may have to pay and deed restrictions.

Majestic Oaks resident and Cyber Citizens for Justice member Bob Janauskas described September's meeting as a good starting point.

"I'd say overall it was a good meeting," Janauskas said. "We were kind of disappointed by the fact that this was supposed to be an organizational meeting and we already have two co-chairs and an agenda.

"And we all realize that nothing is going to come out of this task force as far as definite legislative reform. It will just be making recommendations to the governor, the president of the senate and the speaker of the house," said Janauskas.

The task force will meet again Oct. 17 at the University of Miami Law School in Coral Gables. The agenda includes discussion of whether provisions for the removal of association officers should be added to Florida law and methods of alternate resolution for disputes involving deed restrictions, access to records, meetings, voting and other matters.