Residents Group Awaits Control

Article Courtesy of The Tampa Tribune


Published August 29, 2006

WESLEY CHAPEL  - A year after they expected to take control of their community, residents of Chapel Pines still are waiting for their promised election.

The election - the key to homeowners taking control - was canceled in August 2005. Since then, neighborly relations in the 600-home community have eroded.

On one side, volunteers led by resident David Quinones say they've been shut out of the transition to homeowner control. On the other side, another group of residents led by investor Greg Anderson is working with Rampart Properties Co., the Tampa management company hired by Metro Development Co.

"We're like in a purgatory state," Quinones said.

This is an all-too-familiar story to Frank Rathbun, spokesman for the Virginia-based Community Association Institute. The group represents community associations nationwide.

"It's unfortunate when these kinds of misunderstandings occur," Rathbun said. "But they do occur in some communities. Transition is a difficult process."

Rampart said last week that elections for the homeowners association will be at 6 p.m. Sept. 28 at the New River Church on State Road 54.

Rathbun urged residents to support whomever wins the election.

"If these people don't learn to work together, their community is going to suffer," Rathbun said.

So far, communication at Chapel Pines seems to be stalled. Quinones didn't know about the scheduled election until a reporter told him.

Anderson is a property manager who lives in Lake Jovita. He owns houses on Birdhouse Drive and Tabogi Trail in Chapel Pines, according to Pasco County property appraiser records.

Anderson sat on committees with Quinones before Rampart disbanded them early this year. He blames Quinones' aggressive treatment of Rampart Vice President Kelly Moran for the move.

Quinones said he's looking out for residents.

"I have a right to question them," Quinones said of Rampart and Metro. "So do other homeowners."

Quinones moved his family to Chapel Pines from New York in 2003. He volunteered on committees enforcing deed restrictions and preparing for the transition.

But he also raised questions about the community's drainage system. He pointed out oversights by Rampart and complained about maintenance of the grounds.

Quinones showed Rampart it had let a nonhomeowner run for the association board and challenged information Rampart gave about who owned Chapel Pines' roads, according to e-mails between Quinones and Moran.

The election was canceled a week after the Southwest Florida Water Management District demanded Metro resolve conflicts between Chapel Pines' designs and the on-the-ground drainage system.

Neighbors next to Chapel Pines claimed in 2003 that poor design caused the neighborhood to flood on their property.

Rampart spokesman John Heagney said developers had to fix the drainage problems before turning Chapel Pines over to homeowners. The water management district approved the changes this spring, said spokesman Michael Molligan.

Chapel Pines' stalled transition may hold lessons for future associations. Both sides disagree on what those lessons might be.

"Double- and triple-check every single thing," said Lorraine Howell, a Quinones ally who lives on Schoolhouse Road.

"I don't think Chapel Pines is unusual," Anderson said. "There is a group of hoo-has that wants to be in control."