INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — Whispers are being exchanged among the residents in the posh Eagle Trace community.
Some are concerned about court filings piling up at the Indian River County Courthouse against the subdivision's new developer Eli Baron. Others want to know who is responsible for building the unfinished community pool and clubhouse.
There's also questions about who is responsible for upgrading community services: the new developer or homeowners association?
"People are talking about the money problems," said John Eade, who rented in the gated community for about five years before purchasing an Eagle Trace home for $221,000 earlier this year. "Sometimes the gate goes down and it's a couple of weeks before it gets fixed again.
"The clubhouse never progressed, and there's 10 to 12 sold signs on homes that got started but never finished. There's been no activity on them for a long time."
Still, Eade said he is fairly satisfied with his home and the quarterly homeowners association dues, which are about $350.
"It has four bedrooms and $70,000 in upgrades," Eade said of his home. "I am paying less for my mortgage than I did when I was leasing."
Eagle Trace's original developers, Richard Rendina and Stephen Siegel of Mizner Grande of Vero Beach LLC, were charged in 2008 with the grand theft of $469,000 in deposits paid on homes never built. As part of a 2009 plea deal that resulted in the developers getting probation, Rendina returned $80,000 and Siegel refunded $389,000, according to court records.
After satisfying conditions of their 2009 plea deal, Rendina and Siegel sold Eagle Trace to Sewalls Point developer J.C. McKinney, manager of 623 Partners LLC, for $1.75 million in 2009. McKinny sold 51 lots to Baron's company Eagle Trace Estate Homes LLC for an undisclosed amount in 2010. Baron owns all vacant homes and residential parcels in Eagle Trace.
In an Oct. 27 interview, Eagle Trace's new builder Eli Baron said construction of the clubhouse and pool is not his responsibility.
"I only own the (home) lots," Baron said. "It was the responsibility of the original developer."
Rendina said other than the two Eagle Trace rental homes he owns, all his obligations went to 623 Partners when the development was sold.
"That contract was between 623 Partners and Eli," Rendina said. "I have no idea what they agreed to."
McKinney could not be reached for comment.
Indian River County Community Development Director Bob Keating said no new permits have been filed for the clubhouse or pool at Eagle Trace. Phase I and II at Eagle Trace have received their certificates of completion, Keating said.
"They had a recreational tract in Phase I they initially had planned for a clubhouse and pool," Keating said. "They had gotten building permits for those and they never followed through. Those permits expired."
In addition to questions about community amenities, 73 construction liens have been filed by Treasure Coast contractors at the Indian River County Courthouse alleging unpaid work contractors have done for Eagle Trace Estate Homes on various lots since March.
As of Nov. 7, only 17 of those liens have been satisfied, according to the most recent court records.
"As a builder, I have high expectations from each sub that comes on the job," said Baron, adding some construction work was not finished to his expectations. "The day they finished the work, they placed a lien. This is the industry."
Don Scott and his wife bought their home from Rendina in 2006 and remain concerned for the future of the second phase of the development. Scott said he estimates about 80 percent of Eagle Trace is complete.
"There's been these sold signs on all these vacant lots ... but I haven't seen any closings in the (news) paper," Scott said.
David Rosenthal runs Lake Worth-based Phoenix Management Services Inc., which manages Eagle Trace's homeowners association. As a homeowner and resident of Eagle Trace, Rosenthal said he, too, wants to know who is responsible for final construction of the clubhouse and community pool.
"This becomes a legal question," Rosenthal said. "All we do is manage the association. We have no ownership of the development."
Deerfield Beach-based real estate analyst Jack McCabe, who has no connection to the development, said responsibility of the clubhouse and pool should fall on Eagle Trace's new developer.
"It sounds like he can cover those expenses," said McCabe, owner of McCabe Research & Consulting. "When you're buying a development, you know what you're getting. At this point, I would say it's in the best interest of the residents there to get legal assistance ... if they can't get answers on the (pool and clubhouse) issue."
Others are less than pleased with Baron and the homeowners association managing the community.
Ginger Duer purchased her $397,000 home from Rendina in 2007. She said Rosenthal and Baron have not worked to fix her sprinkler system, which she's had issues with and complained about since buying the property.
She's talked to the association manager and Baron about the sprinkler issue, the unfinished clubhouse and community pool but got little results. Earlier this year she decided to withhold her homeowner association fees hoping for a solution to the problem. Instead, she said the association placed a lien on the Duer family home for nonpayment of dues. Court records back up her claim.
"I've had brown grass forever and I am not the only one with this problem here. So, I asked if they could fix or upgrade the entire system by doing a special assessment," Duer said. "But the new developer owns so many lots in here and he doesn't want to be burdened with multiple assessments."
Duer has resumed paying her homeowners association fees, but her sprinkler issues remain unsolved.
"I am burdened with brown grass and paying fees for a broken sprinkler system," Duer said. "I guess that's better than what some other people are going through here."