Palm Beach Polo owner called 'dictator' in suit

Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post


Published July 29, 2007


WELLINGTON Glenn F. Straub has a full-fledged revolt on his hands in his Palm Beach Polo Golf & Country Club.

Eighteen homeowners associations there have filed a lawsuit against two of Straub's companies that own and operate the 2,200-acre community in yet another power struggle between the developer and its property owners.

The 35-page lawsuit, filed Wednesday, calls Straub the "self-proclaimed 'dictator' of Palm Beach Polo" and seeks a court ruling to blunt what some homeowners see as a power grab.

"He's made no bones that he feels he has total control over there," the associations' attorney Howard Coates Jr. said. "Obviously, we disagree."

The lawsuit claims Straub and the Straub-controlled property owners association at Polo, also a defendant in the case, improperly levied owners a special assessment, deposed a member of a governing board and restricted access to community records.

The biggest contention for some of Wellington's most well-heeled, however, is the new monthly $35-per-unit assessment, which the associations began collecting in January under protest.

"No, it's not a lot of money per unit, but if you add up the amount over all the units in Palm Beach Polo, I think it comes to $500,000 a year," Coates said. "I think the assessment is really the polarizing lightning rod that has galvanized the residents."

On the other hand, Straub says it's a minority faction that is stirring up trouble.

"You're talking about a dissident group," Straub said.

Straub, one of the largest landowners in Wellington, said these associations have not provided resolutions documenting their membership's support of the lawsuit, adding that most owners are against suing their own property owners association.

He lists former mayoral candidate Duane Christensen as one of the dissidents. Christensen had been on the property owners' association board there for nearly 10 years, until March, when Straub exercised his voting power and had him voted out of one of its four "independent," non-developer-appointed seats.

Coates said the election was improper and called Straub's actions unprecedented. Straub said it was not, adding it was time for "new blood" on the board. He said the assessment also was aimed at reinvigorating the community.

"Everything that the $35 went to was to increase the lifestyle, upgrade the lifestyle of the homeowners," Straub said, citing a dog park area in the Big Blue Cypress Preserve section as an example.

But the lawsuit alleges the assessment was invalid from its conception, stating that not only was it improperly noticed before a November vote but that a portion of the assessment would fund improvements on Straub's personal holdings.

"They want to sue? They can go ahead and sue," Straub said Friday. "Every homeowner bought their house and got the documents they had to abide by - the Bible they had to abide by."