Article Courtesy of The Ledger
By Mike Ferguson
Published September 2, 2017
POINCIANA — A pair of state representatives expressed their support for
residents of Poinciana at a town hall meeting at New Dimensions High School.
Rep. John Cortes, D-Kissimmee, and Sen. Victor Torres, D-Kissimmee, spoke
Thursday night before about 80 people at the Osceola County charter school on a
number of issues, but those in attendance were primarily concerned with gaining
control of their community.
“The residents of Poinciana don’t have a
voice,” Martin Negron told the state lawmakers. “We have to
do something and you have to back us up.”
Residents in the Association of Poinciana Villages, a
community of about 27,000 homes spanning Polk and Osceola
counties, are fighting legal battles with APV and developer
AV Homes, commonly referred to as Avatar.
Negron won an arbitration case against APV that voided the
results of the February election to the villages’ governing
boards. The community is divided into nine villages with
each represented by a five-member board that governs the
homeowners’ association. One board member from each village
serves on the master board that oversees the entire
Arbitrator Terri Leigh Jones ruled APV was “capricious” in
the way it determined how many votes the developer would be
able to cast and ordered the results of the Feb. 14 election
be thrown out and a second election be held.
But members of the civic nonprofit
Friends of Poinciana Villages were not happy to learn that
AV Homes had sued APV in Circuit Court on July 7 to get the
maximum number of votes for undeveloped tracts.
Residents in the Association of Poinciana Villages, a
community of about 27,000 homes spanning Polk and Osceola counties,
are fighting legal battles with APV and developer AV Homes, commonly
referred to as Avatar.
Neither Negron nor the Florida Department of Business and Professional
Regulation, which had provided the arbitrator, were notified of the lawsuit.
The July 21 court ruling allowed the developer and a Canadian investment
company to cast about 9,900 votes during the Aug. 1 “redo” election mandated
by the arbitrator.
The dispute centers on lots that are not yet platted. The developer is given
one vote for every home that could be built, which residents claim the
Homeowners each get one vote.
In the Aug. 1 election, developer and investment company employees won 11 of
the 13 seats they sought while Friends of Poinciana Villages-backed
candidates lost all 19 seats they were up for. Had the developer not been
able to cast large blocks of votes, all 19 Friends of Poinciana Villages
candidates would have won.
The lack of notice about the court case involving the developer and the
homeowners’ association prompted Jones to file a complaint with the Florida
Bar against APV’s Orlando-based attorney Tom Slaten.
“They disrespected the rules; they didn’t follow protocol,” Rep. Cortes
said. “Your case is going to affect a lot of cases in Florida.”
Cortes was referring to a case filed by residents Annette Brown-Best, Peter
Jolly and Victor Destremps that claims AV Homes violated the 1985 agreement
that would have had the developer turn control of the community over to the
residents. The suit has been dismissed without prejudice — meaning the
lawsuit can be refiled — on three prior occasions because of language
technicalities. It is set to be heard Sept. 7 in the Circuit Court in
“We’re going to do the best we can for all of our homeowners,” Sen. Torres
said. “There’s always a light at the end of the tunnel. You just have to be
The lawsuit also claims AV Homes is in violation of Florida Statute 712 or
the Marketable Record Title Act that says deed restrictions must be renewed
every 30 years. APV was founded in the early 1970s.
“If these three homeowners win their case, the deed restrictions are out the
window,” said Keith Laytham, spokesman for Friends of Poinciana Villages.
“We don’t need new legislation. We have legislation on the books that is
Another, more recent, gripe among homeowners regards predatory debt
collection. A number have complained about not being allowed to pay
delinquent fines or dues, which are then sent to debt collections where they
snowball. The homeowners say they are then threatened with liens and
“The first step, I would tell you, is appear at court and answer any
summon,” said Benny Valentin, a resident and former candidate for the
Florida House. “You don’t have to have a lawyer. They’ve been doing
foreclosures because people aren’t showing up to court. If the HOA
(homeowners’ assocation) sells your debt, the HOA cannot put a lien or
foreclose on your property.”
Laytham said the problem has worsened since Slaten’s firm, Larsen &
Associates, was given the collections contract at the April master board
Laytham said, since the results of the February election were nullified, any
action taken by the master board also should have been nullified. One
resident asked about becoming a city, but Cortes said that wouldn’t
necessarily eliminate the homeowners’ association.
“You need infrastructure, you need more businesses,” Cortes said. “It’s a
big process. Becoming a city is an option, but you got a lot of work today.”
Valentin recommended putting together a rally day to build morale and raise
awareness for the community.
“I know how effective these rallies can be,” he said. “Let’s all, as a
community, come together. It’s not about winning the battle, it’s about
winning the war.”