Townhome group gets outside help

Article Courtesy of The Miami Herald


Published August 22, 2007

Residents yelling a political SOS while reviving a defunct homeowners association at West Kendall's Bird Lakes have received much attention from State Representative Julio Robaina.

Although Robaina does not represent the district, the representative said he had met with Miami-Dade County Attorney Tom Robertson and Mayor Carlos Alvarez with concerns that residents are being taken advantage of by their court-appointed receiver, Philip Shechter. He made his worries clear at Thursday's meeting between Shechter and the community's residents.

''This is so cut and dry; it is as clear as the nose on your face,'' Robaina told Shechter, with hundreds cheering him on.

''These decisions should be made by [their] attorneys, by these people,'' Robaina added.

Shechter, appointed by Circuit Judge Robert Scola in February, was given the responsibility to reestablish the association after Miami-Dade County issued it a lawsuit and 105 zoning code violations. He has repeatedly stated his desire to release himself from his position of power as quickly as possible over the problem-ridden neighborhood.

''You still need to get along as a community,'' Shechter told residents, explaining why the association's power could not yet be delegated.

Shechter had attempted to relieve himself as receiver and put Robaina in charge of organizing the homeowners association at a court hearing Tuesday after coming to what he believed was an agreement with Robaina on Aug. 7. The receiver said he mailed a written copy of the agreement to Robaina the next day but never got a response. Even more confusing to Shechter, the representative never showed up in court and the request was dismissed.

''I don't know if he's going to follow through with this deal,'' said Shechter.

''He had it all wrong, that's why I never responded to it,'' Robaina said. "I'm not an attorney, I don't represent these people legally. I proposed an idea. This is not a deal. What I've proposed will become a deal when the attorneys sit with the county and prepare a deal that he signs off on. This has to be handled in a court of law.''

Townhome owners have not had association fees for a decade despite county laws requiring them to have one, causing them to ignore the landscaping of common grounds and payment of insurance for the local lake. Owners of single-family homes near the lake refuse to pay for it, and those living near the townhomes want to avoid paying for roads on common grounds. And while each schism holds back any possible transition of power, attorney's fees continue to accrue.

Robaina hopes to speed the process and lessen the cost.

''Guess who's paying for that? A community of middle-class to poor people. We don't need Shechter doing it. A third party's only interest is to make money off of the situation,'' Robaina said Friday.

Although the representative has little interest in taking control of the association, he does hope to bring together attorneys representing each individual group of homeowners. Robaina urged residents not to hire more attorneys than the three currently being used.

''The more segmented they get, the harder it is to solve the problem,'' Robaina said.

"I'm going to meet on Monday with the townhome folks to advise them, to tell them what the laws are, what their rights are. I can't cut a deal. They have to do it.''

The time and location of Monday's meeting has yet to be announced.