Heritage Pines Braces For Fight


Article Courtesy of The Tampa Tribune


Published March 13, 2007

HUDSON - Fed up with brown lawns, residents of Heritage Pines recently gave their leaders permission to sue Lennar Corp. if the community and the developer can't resolve their differences over Heritage Pines' water supply.

At their meeting last week, more than 70 percent of Heritage Pines' 1,000-plus homeowners voted in favor of the lawsuit. Lennar cast its 93 votes with more than 200 people opposed, said E.J. Ludolph, a member of the homeowners association's board of directors.

The vote was the latest stage of a dispute dating to January 2006, when residents took control of the 1,300-home community off County Line Road.

Since last year, residents have put increasing pressure on Lennar to correct what residents say are defects in their community. Those defects include the lack of a second entrance and problems with the golf course and clubhouse.

"Since we've gotten the lawyers involved, Lennar has been very facilitating," Ludolph said Monday as he stood outside the community's golf course clubhouse.

In a written statement, Lennar officials said they think the two sides can reach a deal without going to court.

The biggest point of friction remains Heritage Pines' supply of reclaimed water for lawns and landscaping.

Lennar has about 100 lots left to develop in the community, which has been under construction since the late 1990s. Ludolph said residents what to ensure Lennar leaves behind what it has promised home buyers - most notably, a functioning irrigation system.

Elsewhere, the county provides reclaimed water to individual homes. Heritage Pines was set up to get water for the golf course and common areas only, supplemented by wells, said Bruce Kennedy, the county's assistant administrator for utilities.

As a result, Heritage Pines has an "interruptible supply" that can be altered when demand is higher in other parts of the county, Kennedy said.

The problem is this: Heritage Pines home buyers must pay a one-time $2,400 fee for irrigation. So everyone has plumbing for lawn sprinklers but not necessarily water to put in them, Ludolph said.

"Last year, we had a lot of days when we didn't get any water," Ludolph said.

The community has a patchwork of systems keeping most of its grass green. But that system doesn't fulfill the community's entire demand of 1 million gallons a day, Ludolph said.

Heritage Pines has begun installing moisture sensors in the ground along the golf course as a way of watering only when needed. That could help stretch the supply somewhat but won't meet all the needs, Ludolph said.

Lennar officials said they're working with the county and the Southwest Florida Water Management District to solve Heritage Pines' water problems as quickly as possible.

One possible solution calls for the county to return a well site it requested during Heritage Pines' early days. The site was reserved for drinking water but could be turned over for irrigation if Lennar got a well permit, Kennedy said.