Statewide condo alliance taking agenda to Tallahassee

Group looks to influence association law

Article Courtesy of the Sun Sentinel

By Patty Pensa
Published December 25, 2005


The newly formed statewide Coalition of Community Associations is readying for its first descent on Tallahassee.

With representatives from nine counties, including Palm Beach and Broward, the coalition is looking to spread its influence to legislators who write homeowner and condo association law. The group formed earlier this year as a way to counteract the influential consumer group Cyber Citizens for Justice, which advocates for homeowners battling their association.

Coalition leaders say they represent association leaders and homeowners alike, and they are intent on opposing "efforts to tear at the fabric of neighborhoods."

"People have no idea what it takes to be on a board and run a community," said Bob Schulbaum, a coalition member and president of the Alliance of Delray Residential Associations.

For a coalition that believes in less state intervention, this spring's legislative session will be the first test of its political prowess.

Some of the issues the group will pursue: ensuring a board's ability to place a lien on owners who fail to pay dues, eliminating mandatory mediation for homeowners and boards and adding standards of objectivity to the condo ombudsman's office.

"How it's going to play out remains to be seen," said Charlotte Greenbarg, a coalition member and president of the Broward Coalition. "This will be a learning experience."

The success of the group could hinge on bringing Democrats and Republicans to its side. Considering South Florida leans Democratic and northern Florida goes Republican, there might be something to this loose network of community leaders, coalition members said.

Three influential groups from southern Palm Beach County -- the Delray Alliance, West Boca Community Council and Coalition of Boynton West Residential Associations -- are members. Together, they represent more than 200,000 residents.

The coalition's strategy will be face-to-face contact with legislators, said Spears, who criticized Cyber Citizens for bombarding Gov. Bush and legislators with e-mails about home- and condo-owner issues across the state.

Cyber Citizens president Jan Bergemann had his own criticisms for the new coalition. He contended the group does not represent homeowners because its members are not elected by homeowners.

"In this country, people should speak for themselves," he said. "There should be nobody there that says, 'I'm the big yahoo and I speak for you.'"

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