Homeowners vote to buy golf course

Article Courtesy of The Tampa Tribune


Published July 21, 2010


SAN ANTONIO - Homeowners in the Tampa Bay Golf & Country Club have voted overwhelmingly in favor of a plan to buy their golf course and clubhouse.

Nearly 800 homeowner association members cast votes Friday. Board member Ray Proch announced that 88 percent of them voted for the purchase.

"This is super, and it's a great day for Tampa Bay," Proch exclaimed.

Starwood Land Ventures, the company that bought the undeveloped lots at auction, needed at least 51 percent approval from the residents for the homeowner association to assume the $3.75 million debt.

"We're very happy with how the vote went," Starwood representative David Ivin said.

Starwood inherited the golf and clubhouse problems when it assumed control of the association in March. The amenities were owned by previous developers Robert and Arthur Falcone, who had raised homeowners' rates and stopped making bank payments. Regions Bank was about to foreclose on the club.

In addition, Starwood learned that nearly 400 homeowners in the community had never actually joined the master association. Most of them had paid their dues for years and had no idea their membership was in question. Ivin said 238 homeowners have since joined the association and had full voting rights Friday.

The developer agreed to loan the association $3.75 million to cover the golf club purchase and closing costs. But some residents opposed the purchase because of the terms: a three-year, interest-only loan at 9.5 percent.

"I voted no - not because Starwood isn't good," homeowner Helanie Gist said. "I'm just afraid they're going to dump it on us in three years."
Ivin said he expects to be able to refinance the debt with a long-term loan before the three years are up.

The issue has been contentious in the retirement community. Homeowner Dominic Gualtieri, who sued the association in 2009, filed a formal challenge to the election. He complained about the ballot, which asked three separate questions regarding the clubhouse purchase and financing plan but only allowed the member to vote yes or no.

Gualtieri and Gist also questioned why homeowners' names were printed on their proxy ballots, saying votes should have been anonymous.

Homeowner Anita Baker said she didn't have a problem with her name and address being listed on the ballot. She voted for the purchase. "Why shouldn't we buy it?" she asked. "We're spending that money anyway."

Jim Seeman echoed those feelings. "We got the best deal we could possibly have," he said.


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