Cortes: FirstService must communicate with Poinciana residents

Article Courtesy of The Osceola News-Gazette

By Ken Jackson

Published September 20, 2015


Florida House Representative John Cortes, D-Kissimmee, is trying to serve as a mediator between the residents of Poinciana and FirstService Residential, who acts as the homeowner’s association and answers to the Master Board of the Association of Poinciana Villages.

The key for resolving most of the issues in Poinciana, Cortes said, is going to be communication.
A rift has formed between residents and the HOA, with shouting matches occurring at most of the recent Master Board meetings between the board and residents.

Over the last five months, former officers of the APV board — President Peter Jolly, Vice President Victor Destremps and Secretary Jose Perez — questioned FSR’s actions and were later removed from those positions, after they unilaterally removed FSR as Poinciana’s alleging mismanagement of APV funds and manipulation of the rest of the Master Board membership, by the rest of the APV board. Those six seats include three resident managers and three representatives of AV Homes, Poinciana’s primary developer.

Cortes met with Poinciana residents Monday to talk about what he’s trying to do, at the state and local levels, to bring compromise to Poinciana between FSR, the APV and residents.

“These folks want to communicate, and we need to hear the other side because the truth always falls somewhere in the middle,” said Cortes, who’s said he reached out to FSR officials and didn’t hear back. “Businesses that flourish effectively communicate and market themselves.”

He said he and state Sen. Darren Soto, D-Orlando, both members of the Osceola Legislative Delegation, are of the mindset that the status quo is no longer sustainable for Poinciana residents.
Cortes said he is working on a pair of bills, one local to Osceola County and another general bill for Florida, in the State House, to help. The local bill would address how FSR and APV elect their officers, poll operating hours, voting stipulations like proxies and local enforcement. The general bill would provide clearer dispute resolution outside of the civil litigation process.

That court process is what angers those who post on a Facebook group called Friends of Poinciana Villages say Enough is Enough, like Perez, the former APV secretary.

“This is truly a David vs. Goliath situation, a $1.1 billion company going up against a minority community being represented by three retired residents, three residents that depended on the court system to get justice,” Perez posted on the page.

“Addressing HOA grievances should not be predicated on the ability to afford civil litigation,” said Cortes, who noted he’s working with the county commissioners, namely Mike Harford, to create county policy. Commissioner Brandon Arrington, whose district 3 includes the Osceola County portion of Poinciana, is out of town this week.

Calls made to Tony Iorio, vice president of Development for AV Homes and one of the members of the APV Master Board who voted to removed Jolly, Destremps and Perez from their executive positions and reinstate FSR, were directed to APV’s public relations department.

Cortes said the issue of incorporation of Poinciana as a city, another divisive issue among the residents, will come up again at the Osceola Legislative Delegation meeting Oct. 2 in Kissimmee. The issue of whether to put it on the ballot got support last year from Cortes and Soto, but not enough from the rest of the delegation.

The two proposed a joint meeting of Osceola and Polk legislative delegates prior to that Oct. 2 session focusing on Poinciana incorporation, which would change the community’s management hierarchy from an HOA to a municipal government, and its internal conflicts with FSR.

Cortes said he hopes invitees from FSR come to present their side.

“We have the hope they’re going to show up,” he said. “I’m doing what I can to help residents with incorporation. Those who don’t want it can vote against it.

“In the meantime we need to prevent people from getting their houses taken away and instead give them an explanation of what the problem is. The HOA’s not going anywhere. We need that communicating to folks.”