Brandon: Dues going up at Heather Lakes

Article Courtesy of the St. Petersburg Times
Published November 10, 2003

Repainting walls. Trimming trees. Replacing worn fences. 

It all costs money, and residents within the Heather Lakes Homeowners Association might have to fork over more money to get those services next year. The association's board of directors has proposed a 2004 budget that would require the 567 homeowner members to pay an additional $40 a year in dues, which would bring the total to $280 annually. The board will vote on the increase during a 7 p.m. meeting Monday at Providence West Community Center. Board members want to hear from residents before they vote.

Ultimately, the five-member board has the power to make decisions regarding the community and the association budget, according to Heather Lakes' articles of incorporation.

The extra $40 from each home would boost the association's annual budget, now nearly $136,000, to more than $158,000.

Association leaders say they need the money to continue making improvements within the community of 1,200 homes, which was built starting in the '80s.

The board wants to negotiate a new grounds maintenance contract that includes more frequent tree trimming and fertilizing of landscaping in common areas.

Leaders also want to spruce up the cracked, chipping walls that run along Heather Lakes Boulevard and Sweetridge Avenue.

Association president Scott Laugherty said the white walls need to be patched with stucco, pressure-washed and repainted.

The most expensive project would involve replacing fencing near the western entrance to Heather Lakes.

Those homes are among the more than 650 that don't belong to the association because they were built in the '80s by a different developer. The board wants to replace about 5,000 feet of privacy fencing with more attractive white PVC fencing.

The project will ultimately cost between $40,000 to $60,000, which Laugherty concedes is a lot to spend on property outside the association's umbrella.

"But we're doing this to benefit the look of the community as a whole."

Until January, Heather Lakes was controlled by builder U.S. Home, now part of the Miami-based Lennar Corp.

Homeowners within the association say Heather Lakes deteriorated under a hodgepodge of loosely enforced deed restrictions, and the developer's failure to make much needed improvements.

The homeowners association board was elected in January, and took over maintenance in the community. In the past 10 months, the board has spent more than $50,000 painting and pressure cleaning the perimeter walls, putting in new landscaping and fixing a broken sprinkler system.

The board briefly discussed raising dues to more than $135 per quarter.

"But that's a lot of money, and we're trying to keep these dues as low as possible," Laugherty said. "We've got a lot of projects on the board, so some of these won't happen for a few years."