Fees Divide Residents Of Golf Community

Article Courtesy of The Tampa Tribune

By Laura Kinsler

Published December 7, 2008


SAN ANTONIO - For the first time in Tampa Bay Golf & Country Club history, a resident will have a vote Monday on the homeowners association budget.

But as the community gets a voice, homeowners are divided into two factions. One group, led by former homeowner representative Dom Gualtieri, thinks homeowners have been wrongly charged for fees that should have been paid by developers.

Joan Hedlund, who heads the neighborhood association for the Deer Hollow subdivision, will take her seat at 10 a.m. Monday on the association's board of directors. She will be joined by two executives from Engle Homes, the South Florida-based home builder in Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The proposed budget would raise homeowners' fees $9 per month. But Gualtieri and his supporters say the residents in the retirement community already pay too much. He said homeowners shouldn't be paying to maintain ponds on the community's golf course, which is still owned by a previous developer.

The pond maintenance expense was shifted to the homeowners association in 2005, when then-developer Transeastern Homes merged with Engle's parent company, TOUSA. The association has paid $138,000 during the past three years for pond maintenance.

"We are paying for ponds that are owned by the golf course," Gualtieri said.

Hedlund disputes his conclusion. She said ponds are part of a continuous drainage system for the 1,500-home community, and that Swiftmud ordered the association to assume maintenance of the entire system.

"I personally don't think there's any legitimacy to what they're saying," Hedlund said.

The Owners Council has raised several other concerns: that the homeowners association has been paying a water bill for the golf course and the streetlight bill in a developer-controlled area where there are no homes. The streetlights in the back of the community cost nearly $12,000 a year.

Basil Grussing, another homeowner, said streetlights are necessary for security because Engle has model homes in that section of the community. Besides, Engle paid the association more than $235,000 in 2008, which more than makes up for the cost of the streetlights.

"They are trying to market and sell homes," he said. "The lights should be on."

Engle has eight homes in the permit stage and expects to start construction later this month, vice president Rick Feather said.

Feather, who chairs the homeowners association, said the complaint about the water bill was accurate. The golf club will reimburse the association nearly $14,000.