Boca Dunes residents want to take control from golf club

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Tal Abbady
Published June 11, 2005


West Boca There may be a few parked cars with rusted frames marring the view here, but one is more likely to notice the trim homes bordered by potted plants and flanked by SUVs, hallmarks of any American suburb.

Residents of Boca Dunes Golf & Country Club, a mobile-home community, want even fewer junked cars and more manicured lawns. That's why after 30 years with no effective homeowners association empowered to enforce rules, a group of homeowners went to court to wrest some control from the Boca Dunes Golf & Country Club, an entity they say has imposed unreasonable increases in maintenance dues and failed to keep up the community.
A settlement expected to be approved by a court this month would allow homeowners to form a committee enabling them to enforce the community's deed restrictions. It's a step residents hope will bring them closer to the formation of a legitimate homeowners association board to represent the community, help protect property values and avoid the management pitfalls that characterize runaway boards.

Residents who back the move say they are concerned that failure to maintain Boca Dunes' orderly appearance may discourage buyers and hurt property values. And despite the growing number of legal cases brought by residents against overzealous homeowner association boards, many Boca Dunes owners say they are looking forward to the organized leadership of residents.

The 170-home community was built in 1969, years after the enactment of a state law that requires developers of planned communities to transfer the rights of that community's governance and the enforcement of rules to residents. According to the covenants under which it was built, only the Boca Dunes Golf & Country Club can enforce the community's deed restrictions and make sure residents are keeping their driveways uncluttered and their grass cut.

Golf course officials say they've worked with residents over the years to enforce the deed restrictions and maintain that though they are empowered to do so, state law does not require it.

"On many occasions we've written letters to residents who don't mow their lawn or who keep abandoned vehicles in their driveways," said David Welch, an attorney who represents Boca Dunes Golf & Country Club.

"We've done that as a good neighbor in an effort to help the community because it is our neighbor. We were doing it voluntarily in order to be helpful, but we don't have any obligation to police the neighborhood for the community."

Residents currently pay about $84 a month in dues to the golf club and $105 for lawn maintenance. As part of the settlement, residents would pay $70 to the golf club and give up their rights to the tennis and shuffleboard courts. They also would form the deed-restriction committee and are working on mobilizing the entire community to form a real homeowners association

Previously, the existence of a self-styled "social club" attempted to act as a homeowners association to little avail and with little community input, residents said.

"We have people moving in here who are running down the neighborhood. They have junk heaps in their carports and park on the grass and we need a real homeowners association to do something about it," said Floyd Drummond, a plaintiff in the suit against the golf course who would head the committee. He's lived in the community for nine years.

"The country club hasn't been enforcing anything," Drummond said. "Part of the problem is that there's nothing in the restrictions regarding penalties, so we're writing up new articles with specific penalties and fines."

Committee members are concerned with setting the stage for a democratic and fair association.

"We don't want ... condo commandos here so we're writing up voting procedures," Drummond added.

It may be long before Drummond and others involved in the class-action suit -- about 100 residents have signed on -- are able to get a homeowners association off the ground with the community's full participation, but support is widespread.

Paulette Surtis, 59, bought her home four years ago for $102,000. It is now valued at $175,000 in an increase that reflects the community's growing desirability. .

"It'd help bring a better class of people in here and prevent people from owning 80 pit bulls and parking broken cars in their driveways," she said.

Suzanne Joy, 46, enjoys a view of a tree-shaded canal from her screened-in porch in the home she shares with her 8-year-old son.

"A homeowners association would really keep people in line more. You wouldn't have the cars and the mess. And if you live normal, then you don't have to worry about the HOA coming after you," she said.