Courtesy of The Tampa Tribune
LIVE OAK PRESERVE - Days after an announcement by parent company TOUSA to wind down production, Engle Homes, the developer of Live Oak Preserve, is relinquishing some of its authority at the development.
Engle Homes Vice President Rick Feather said all Engle employees who serve on the Live Oak I, Live Oak II and The Hammocks' community development district boards are stepping down immediately.
"We resigned under the advice of counsel," Feather said.
Feather served as a board supervisor on all of the three developer-controlled CDDs. Engle employees Lauren Arcaro, Dennis DeMott and Michael Mulvihill were members of the Live Oak II and The Hammocks boards.
The taxing authorities are in charge of setting the budgets and overseeing management of the common areas throughout the community.
The remaining board supervisors, residents appointed by Engle representatives, will formally consider the resignations at their next meetings.
The Live Oak I board of supervisors has scheduled a special meeting for 10 a.m. April 14, said district manager Andrew Mendenhall. The other two district boards will meet in June.
"I'm sure it will be worked out," said Feather, who added that he remains president of the Live Oak Preserve master homeowners association.
The latest move by Engle comes a week after its bankrupt parent company, TOUSA, announced it was wrapping up construction projects, selling off its inventory of homes and not planning to build any new ones.
The South Florida-based developer, which filed for Chapter 11 protection in January 2008, also plans to lay off 200 of its remaining 700 employees.
Live Oak Preserve, and its neighboring town house community, The Hammocks, remain properties of Engle for now, TOUSA spokeswoman Jennifer Mercer said. The home builder is seeking buyers to take over Engle properties, including the two New Tampa communities.
"We are in a state of flux with that property," she said.
A bond payment for Live Oak Preserve is due May 1, however, TOUSA has not decided whether the bill will be paid, Mercer said.
Live Oak Preserve homeowner Zuriel Cabrera, who serves as president of the Weatherwood Village association, said the Engle employee resignations from the district boards are a bad sign for the company's future in the community.
Cabrera had expressed concerns at community meetings for months about what might happen should Engle shut down and leave Live Oak Preserve residents stuck with paying the bills alone. Engle contributed more than $800,000 to the community's $3.2 million operating budget in 2008, Cabrera said.
He worries his worse fears may become reality and the community will face making major service cuts.
Cabrera, an outspoken critic of Feather's decision to negotiate a 15-year cable agreement with Bright House Networks, said that contract is a major reason for concern. The cable company is required to provide cable, Internet and home security monitoring services to all of the some 1,100 homes in the community.
The master homeowners association budgeted $1.14 million for this year's annual bulk cable contract. The community must pay for the services, regardless of whether the houses are occupied.
Mendenhall said he plans to take a more active role to make sure the district boards stay on track regarding the annual budget and other financial matters.
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