Nudist Condominium Dispute Settled


Article Courtesy of the Tampa Tribune


Published 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 clothing-optional resort.

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 investigator.

The case was scheduled for an administrative hearing in November, but the parties reached a settlement before the deadline, Cochran said.

The state agreed to the settlement after weighing evidence and the costs of litigation.

"We felt like this was a just settlement,'' he said.

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, Cochran said.

* Two claims that developers failed to file proper paperwork were dropped. Lynch proposed fines totaling $3,852 for those allegations.

* 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.