Article Courtesy of The
By Beth Kassab
Published June 26, 2017
state arbitrator on Friday sided with a homeowner who challenged the way
Poinciana’s homeowners association, one of the largest in the state, held its
election of board members.
The arbitrator threw out the Association of Poinciana Villages’ results from a
February election and ordered the group to hold a new election in August for the
sprawling community of 26,000 homes in Osceola and Polk counties.
In question was whether Avatar, Poinciana’s developer and still a significant
landowner, could cast one vote for every house it says it could potentially one
day build on land it owns that is still undeveloped.
As a result of that practice, Avatar has been able to elect its representatives
to the HOA board and maintain control over the 44-year-old community of more
than 50,000 people, including the collection of fees, argued homeowner Martin
Negron, who filed the complaint against the association.
He claimed he lost the February election because Avatar improperly cast more
votes than it should have by claiming it could build hundreds of homes on land
that is covered by marsh and wetlands. The association is made up of nine
villages, which all conduct elections.
The order said counting so many votes for construction that may not be approved
by the local county government “improperly diluted the votes of other members of
all the associations.”
“Avatar may not maintain control of the sub-associations and thereby the
association in perpetuity by an imaginary regulatory scheme where maximum
density is the only law applicable to building a home,” wrote Terri Leigh Jones,
an arbitrator with the state Department of Business and Professional Regulation,
which oversees HOA elections.
Jeffrey Smith, an attorney with the Orlando Law Group who represented Negron,
said the order is a win for the little guy — the people who own homes in
“It gives much more power and sets a good precedent for the members so they can
control the community in which they live and not leave it up to some large
corporation,” he said. “At least it puts the members on a fairer playing field
with the developer.”
Avatar must now provide proof that it’s able under local and state codes to
build the number of homes it uses to determine the amount of votes it will cast,
according to the order.
A spokeswoman for the association said officials are still reviewing the order
and did not provide immediate comment.
A separate lawsuit filed by three homeowners is challenging the association in
Polk Circuit Court, while homeowners in another Avatar community, Solivita, also
are suing the developer.
Keith Laytham, a resident of Solivita and an advocate for residents throughout
Poinciana, called the arbitrator’s ruling a win.
“Fasten your seat belt because we ain’t done yet,” he said.
Poinciana residents challenge developer in