Courtesy of The Herald-Tribune
By Josh Salman
MANATEE COUNTY - Residents living in the gated Stoneybrook
neighborhood of Heritage Harbour are asking the community's developer to turn
over control of their homeowner's association and its assets.
But after a decade of controlling Stoneybrook, Miami-based Lennar Corp. may not
legally own what residents are asking for from the company.
Many deed-restricted HOAs become
entangled in issues, but Stoneybrook's situation has spread
far beyond overgrown grass and simple foreclosures.
The problems have become so acute that a homeowner task
force plans to meet next week to consider options for taking
control of the community they say should have been
rightfully theirs years ago.
“This is a huge concern,” Stoneybrook homeowner Rob Bloom
said. “We have been fighting for this for more than three
an upscale subdivision of 947 homes, was built by Lennar
The sign for the Stoneybrook neighborhood at Heritage Harbour in
ago. In 2005 residents say, the community reached a threshold of being 90
percent complete, at which point state laws mandate developers have to turn
over any governing association -- usually consisting of physical assets like
clubhouses and homeowner dues for improvements -- to residents.
same year, Lennar added 289 more acres to Stoneybrook for another 735 new
The builder argued those new lots allowed the company to maintain control of
the HOA and to continue collecting $419.81 each in quarterly dues from
When the market began to slide into recession, Lennar put building there on
hold, and refinanced an existing mortgage in 2008 — using the added land as
Three years later, in May 2011, the builder defaulted, and Lennar was hit
with a $9.3 million foreclosure judgment, court records show.
Sometime later, Manatee County builder and developer Carlos Beruff acquired
the land at a foreclosure auction. Lennar, however, refused to relinquish
control of the community.
Now, because some of the assets pledged on the mortgage were never turned
over to Beruff's Medallion Home, the builder has taken legal action against
Meanwhile, residents have grown uneasy.
“The battle is between the residents and Lennar as to which assets they can
turn over to us and which will go Medallion Home,” Bloom said. “It's a very
Who owns what?
A Community Development District, or CDD, that governs most of Heritage
Harbour now controls several of the overall community's parks, baseball
fields and roads.
The CDD also is responsible for repaying the bonds Lennar used to build the
Lennar officials did not return calls seeking comment Friday, nor did
Stephen Thompson, a Bradenton attorney representing disgruntled homeowners.
Beruff said he has no interest in the association, and wants only to resolve
the issue so he can begin building homes on land he bought two years ago.
“We're pretty well down the road on getting this thing fixed with Lennar,”
Beruff said. “Our issues are really unrelated to the HOA, but they're
wrapped up in it because our property is part of the HOA.”
Homeowners are scheduled to gather Monday evening in the community's
clubhouse — a meeting Lennar initially wanted to charge them for.
Lennar told the group last month that the company would hand over control of
the association by the end of the year.
But until a title search is completed, residents will not know if Lennar or
Beruff or another lien holder control the association's assets.
The HOA's manager says the push is being driven by small coterie of
Stoneybrook residents, including Bloom and George Najmy, a local insurance
agent and founder of the now defunct Bradenton bank First Priority.
The HOA is set to elect a new board on Jan. 1, presumably after Stoneybrook
homeowners are in control.
Dennis Colletti, owner of ICON Management Services, which manages the
association, said he expects a smooth transition.
“We work for the board and right now, the developer controls the board,”
Colletti said. “That will change hands to the residents next year, and we
will do what they want. I think both parties want to do what's right, it's
just a matter of getting there.”