6 Poinciana villages to have new elections Tuesday under new rules

Article Courtesy of The  Ledger

By Mike Ferguson

Published August 2, 2017


The Association of Poinciana Villages was forced to hold a second election after February’s results were voided by arbitrator Terri Leigh Jones.

Some Poinciana resident think this will be the first time that they truly have a choice.

The Association of Poinciana Villages will hold a new election for six village governing boards from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Poinciana Community Center, 395 Marigold Ave.

APV was forced to hold a second election after February’s results were voided by arbitrator Terri Leigh Jones earlier this month in response to a petition brought against the homeowners’ association by resident and former candidate Martin Negron.

Leigh Jones concluded APV was capricious in the “criteria used in determining the voting interests of the owners of undeveloped, unplatted land.”

She also determined, “the extensive dilution of homeowners’ votes throughout the Villages had a strong likelihood of suppressing voter turnout. It is not possible to know how many homeowners did not cast votes because they believed that Avatar had an overwhelming advantage.”

Residents have complained that APV has been controlled by developer Avatar because of how voter eligibility is determined.

“Things are pretty optimistic right now,” said Keith Laytham, a spokesman for Friends of Poinciana Villages, a civic organization that supports homeowners. “We feel like we can get about 1,500 people to show up.”

An APV spokeswoman said the homeowners’ association is working to prepare a statement, but it would not be ready until today.

Built in 1973, APV is one of the nation’s largest homeowner associations that represent about 27,000 residents in Polk and Osceola counties.

The community is divided into nine villages with each being governed by a five-member board. One member from each board serves on the APV master board. Elections will be held for Villages One, Two, Three, Five, Seven and Eight.

Complaints against APV center on the claim that developer Avatar has controlled the community for too long.

For each vacant parcel where a home could be developed, Avatar is given a vote, which residents say allows the developer to handpick board members and maintain control of the community.

Latham said Avatar exaggerates its vote total by claiming plats that are too small for houses by land use standards and saturated areas as developable.

“This is a major milestone for the residents to try to take their community back,” Laytham said. “The HOA has been letting Avatar do what they want for the last 44 years.”

State Rep. John Cortes, D-Kissimmee, whose district covers more than three of the villages in Osceola County, said he hasn’t been formally asked by either side to attend, but plans on attending the election as an observer. Cortes said he’s had numerous complaints from residents discouraged by the process.

“They feel like they’ve been being railroaded for 44 years,” Cortes said. “I’m hoping my presence will make it a little more transparent. I’m just going to observe.”

According to Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation documentation, the registrar, which in this case will be APV General Manager Mark Maldonado, will have to verify that developer votes are legitimate.

That could mean verifying that plans have been submitted with the appropriate government entity for developing vacant lots.

“If Maldonado does not follow the guidelines, our attorneys are prepared to take them to task,” Laytham said. “If the developer and other landowners abide by the rules, we think they’ll be able to come up with about 500 votes.”

Cortes said he hopes APV will follow the rules. “I’m not going to bully anyone. I’ll ask questions if I need to if they’re not following the rules.”

Laytham said during the February election that Avatar was granted more than 10,000 votes. Laytham said, for years, Avatar has been able to reap the benefits that APV has to offer without any of the costs.

“Avatar owns these properties and they haven’t paid a nickel to the HOA,” Laytham said. “Here we have homeowners who get notices if they’re a week late on fees. Avatar is getting their grass mowed while we’re paying the bill.”