Courtesy of the Tampa Tribune
January 02, 2005
LAND O' LAKES - As part of a
settlement negotiated with the state, Paradise Lakes developer Joseph Lettelleir
has agreed to pay $5,000 for violating Florida condominium regulations at the
The fine is a substantial reduction from the
$30,000 he initially faced, after a state investigator determined Lettelleir
failed to file the proper maps, provide documents to potential buyers, conduct
an audit and complete other procedures when converting a recreational vehicle
park to a condominium, said Mike Cochran of the state Division of Land Sales.
Allegations that Lettelleir improperly revoked
club memberships and threatened the investigator were dropped as part of the
settlement. Cochran said an administrative judge must review such charges.
Lettelleir said this week he feels vindicated by
the settlement but believes the state investigator, Peggy Lynch, was misled by
residents who since have moved to Caliente Resort, a competing nudist community
in Land O' Lakes. Lettelleir has maintained that a small number of the Paradise
Lakes condominium's 60 residents fabricated the claims.
"As you can see, the entire thing was
basically a revenge/vendetta thing from some not very nice persons who were
removed from the club for inappropriate behavior and elected to vindicate
themselves through the use of an unwitting civil servant who fell for their
misinformation,'' Lettelleir wrote in a letter about the case.
"Had the regulators taken the time to
inquire about our records and the facts, all of this would have been avoided.''
The Paradise Lakes RV Park Condominium is
composed of recreational vehicles and mobile homes as well as roads, a camping
area and bathrooms.
Lettelleir said the condominium designation
entitles residents to land ownership but not use of common elements or to
membership in a nearby club.
The former condominium association president,
Jerry Bergeron, and three other residents of the RV park at Au Naturel Lane
complained to state officials that Lettelleir had not followed proper procedures
in converting to a condominium in 2000.
Complaints Triggered Investigation
The complaints prompted the investigation and a
years- long battle between Lettelleir and the residents.
The Florida Department of Business and
Professional Regulation's Division of Land Sales, which approved the conversion
of the RV rental park to an owner-operated condominium, also conducted the
investigation of Lettelleir and Evergreen Pasco Management Co.
In June 2003, Lynch recommended that Lettelleir,
a former Pasco Tourist Development Council member, pay $25,000 in fines to
settle his case. She recommended an additional $5,000 for "aggravating
circumstances,'' including a lack of cooperation with the state and threats to
The case was scheduled for an administrative
hearing in November, but the parties reached a settlement before the deadline,
The state agreed to the settlement after weighing
evidence and the costs of litigation.
"We felt like this was a just settlement,''
Issues of property boundaries, which do not match
the way the recreational vehicles are positioned on the lots, were not resolved
as part of the settlement, Cochran said. That dispute would have to be resolved
through a separate lawsuit or court hearing.
"Those were not things we had jurisdiction
over,'' Cochran said. "Only a judge can adjudicate that issue.''
Bergeron and fellow residents Jim Dragonir, Dan
Nemeth and Ray Susong, have moved to Caliente. But they have been unable to sell
their Paradise Lakes property, Bergeron said. He added that he was disappointed
the fines were reduced.
"We can't sell our land because of cloud of
title,'' Bergeron said. ``This is just ludicrous. The state was going to fine
Paradise $25,000, then $30,000. All of a sudden it's $5,000. Something's very,
very fishy. I can guarantee we will pursue it. This is nowhere near over.''
Clothing Is Optional
Paradise Lakes has about 400 full-time residents
and 4,700 club members who pay for use of a fitness center, spa, pools and
restaurant. The development, on 70 acres west of U.S. 41, also includes 56 hotel
rooms and 100 condominium rentals.
It is among about a half- dozen communities in
Pasco geared toward nudists and is the original ``clothing optional'' resort.
Nearby Lake Como and Caliente are strictly for nudists.
According to the consent order:
* Lettelleir and Pasco Evergreen must pay $2,180
for submitting a map to the state that did not properly identify a camping area.
Lynch initially proposed a $16,800 fine, saying the map also did not identify
structures, common elements, parking and conservation areas. Lettelleir said he
submitted the wrong map by mistake.
* The developers also must pay $2,820 for failing
to conduct a required audit. The fine is the same as Lynch proposed. Lettelleir
said developers had consent from the condominium directors to waive the audit
but found out later that was not an option. The audit has been completed,
* Two claims that developers failed to file
proper paperwork were dropped. Lynch proposed fines totaling $3,852 for those
* An accusation that developers did not provide
prospective buyers with a copy of condominium rules and kept a copy chained to a
desk were dropped. The developer provided signed releases from purchasers saying
they received the documents. The desk copy was a draft provided before final
changes were made, Lettelleir said.
* Charges were dismissed and no fine was imposed
for allegations that Lettelleir deliberately and over a long period filed
improper documents, improperly revoked memberships and threatened Lynch.
Bergeron, Dragonir and the two others claimed Lettelleir revoked their
memberships because of the condominium dispute. Lettelleir said the residents
lost their memberships because they did not follow community rules. Lynch had
proposed a fine of $6,912 for those charges.
* Lettelleir and Pasco Evergreen also agreed to
cease and desist further violations of condominium law, Cochran said.
The Division of Land Sales handles between 1,000
and 1,500 complaints about condominiums, mobile home parks, time shares and
co-op ownership each year. The majority of cases are settled, and fines usually
range from $1,000 to $5,000.
Cochran has said a recommendation for $30,000 in
fines was unusual and it is typical in a settlement to reduce proposed fines.