|Homeowner group's truck dispute not out of sight yet|
Article Courtesy of The St. Petersburg Times
By Rodney Trash
Published December 18, 2008
TAMPA — When a Hillsborough judge called the Eagles Master Association's parking restriction "utterly unreasonable," pickup truck owner A.J. Vizzi and his attorney rejoiced.
But current and former neighbors — some of whom had also been cited for parking trucks in driveways instead of garages — wondered what the court's decision, handed down Friday, meant for them.
"Maybe I'll have a chance to get my money back," said Kevin Rainey, who shelled out more than $3,000 in penalties and attorney's fees when the association took offense at his white Dodge pickup.
Or will they have to dig deeper into their pockets to pay for the now 2-year-old legal fight between the association and Vizzi?
Homeowners in this gated northwest Hillsborough suburb pay an estimated $600 annual assessment to the Eagles and another fee to their individual subcommunity.
"They have to pay the attorney's fees for A.J. and that's not cheap," homeowner Patrick Oddson said.
"Economics 101 tells you one thing: We're going to have a special assessment."
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There is no answer to either question, at least not yet.
"I really can't say one way or another whether homeowners who were fined can make a claim against the association for reimbursement of fines," said Daniel Anderson, Vizzi's attorney. "Unfortunately, that's a separate matter that was not addressed in the court's order."
The Eagles Master Association met with its attorney for two hours Monday night to weigh legal options, said Leigh Slement, property manager for the Eagles and one of the people in attendance at the closed-door session.
"We're still looking at the ruling and the implication that it has," said Jonathan Ellis, the attorney for the association.
Don Conner, who was not at Monday's meeting but is one of nine directors on the Eagles board, said he "seriously" doubts "that there would be anything retroactive" for homeowners who have paid penalties in the past.
"That would involve some type of voluntary effort on the part of the Master Association or another legal ruling by the judge," he said.
That stance does not sit well with Rainey, who moved from the Eagles in 2003 because of the truck issue.
"Why should they keep it when it's my money?" he asked.
Rainey now lives in another deed-restricted community in Odessa that he said has no problem with where he parks his truck.
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The Eagles has until Feb. 12 to file an appeal. Some homeowners, angry that the association pursued the Vizzi case as long as it did, hope that's not the route the board takes.
"They never once had a special meeting to say, 'Are you interested in us pursuing this? It could be a very expensive lawsuit,' " Oddson said. "They went about it on their own little agenda."
Ellis, the attorney for the Eagles, said there was no agenda.
"There's a specific declaration that says pickup trucks are supposed to be parked in the garage," he said. "If there's a pickup truck not parked in the garage, they enforce the provision."
Board president Bruce Derby said the association has not decided how it will proceed, but Slement said the case will "probably go on for a little while.