Live Oak Takes Homeowners Meeting On The Road

Article Courtesy of The Tampa Tribune

By Laura Kinsler

Published April 23, 2008

LIVE OAK PRESERVE - "Is this where you're hiding the meeting?" Live Oak Preserve resident Jim Hurley asked as he walked in late to the community center about 10 miles north of his neighborhood.

It was the first time in more than a year that Live Oak's master homeowners association met, and fewer than a dozen residents attended the belated annual meeting, which was held at Tampa Bay Golf & Country Club in San Antonio. Those who attended complained about the location, the time and the lack of notice.

"In the future, I hope the annual meeting is held locally and at a better time," said Zuriel Cabrera, Weatherwood Village association president. "And I think we should get the budgets printed and mailed to us."

Craig King, a property manager for Michigan-based LandArc, took a hit for the association, which is still controlled by Engle Homes. LandArc took over management of Live Oak Preserve's master association in September.

The board did not hold a meeting in 2007 though it's required to meet at least once annually and violated its own bylaws when it allowed the first quarter of the year to expire without approving a budget for 2008.

"There were some mistakes made as to why this wasn't done earlier in the year, and we're trying to rectify that now," King said. He also took the blame for the minimal notice.

LandArc announced the April 18 meeting on its Web site and posted a one-page notice at the community clubhouse.

In previous years, the annual meeting was held in the community, and copies of the proposed budget were mailed to homeowners. King said LandArc opted to eliminate the mailed meeting notices to save postage costs. Board member Lauren Arcaro said Engle would post signs for future association meetings at all of the entry gates.

Leaders of Live Oak's many village associations have long questioned how their money was being spent, and they got some answers. King said that when the association canceled its pest control contract, it diverted those funds to beef up spending for security.

"We moved that money to increase surveillance at the entrances," King said.

Homeowners will have to take his word, for now, because the association hasn't audited its 2007 books. The village presidents have been asking for audits for more than a year and just received the 2006 audit. Florida law requires any homeowners association that collects more than $400,000 a year to audit its books every year.

"It's amazing that Florida statutes say certain procedures need to be followed, and in this case they weren't," Cabrera said.

Still, Cabrera and other residents agreed that service has improved since LandArc took over. "We're better off than we were six months ago," he said.

Homeowners dues will not increase this year, since the board decided to keep the budget at $2.8 million.

King said LandArc would increase staffing at the pool and clubhouse during the summer season and would work with residents to rewrite the neighborhood's guest policy for the pool. Residents also will notice a change soon when Live Oak closes its community entry gates during the day.

Board President Rick Feather, a vice president with Engle Homes, said the 2008 budget for the first time calls for payments into a reserve fund for future repairs. "I think it would be unfair to say the developer isn't trying to accommodate the residents and their concerns," he said.

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