Residents push for business evaluation

Heritage Isles homeowners want somebody else to pay the fees

that help run a struggling golf course.

COURTESY : St. Petersburg Times
Published July 24, 2005

HERITAGE ISLES - Tired of paying expensive fees to support a struggling golf course and restaurant business, Heritage Isles' residents called for an evaluation of the business and a possible replacement for the current management company.

The decision was made after more than three hours of debate during a five-hour Community Development District meeting on Wednesday. While residents called for changes, the golf course and restaurant managers and Lennar Corp. argued that business was actually showing signs of improvement.

Still, some homeowners want somebody else to shoulder the burden of the business and the community's bond debt.

"The residents can't be responsible for a business of which we currently have no privilege," said Stephen Stark, one of two homeowners who sit on the CDD board.

The issue is just one of several that Heritage Isles and Lennar are trying to resolve before the developer is required to pull out of the CDD next year (three Lennar representatives now sit on the board).

Lennar has offered to pay $5.15-million to settle some of the bond debt that it used to build the golf course and clubhouse, but homeowners have not yet approved that figure. Some say Lennar should pay more to cover all or most of the $8-million-plus bond debt used to buy the golf and restaurant facilities.

"Based on the legal opinion we've gotten, the residents want the business end of the operation to run as a business," said Buddy Brannen, a member of a homeowners' committee. "We don't want to pay for it."

The golf course and restaurant issue overshadowed another issue that has bothered Heritage Isles residents for years but was barely mentioned during the CDD meeting: privatizing the roads. Many bought homes in Heritage Isles with the promise of living in a gated community. But because the city owns the roads, the gate must automatically open to the public.

In order to privatize the roads and install a secured and private gate, 80 percent of residents must agree to the change and Lennar must request the change through the city. But before that happens, Lennar is obligated under a $600,000 warranty bond to fix divots, potholes and other problems with the roads so that they meet city standards. Lennar has until December 2006 to do so.

"(Lennar representatives) are working with us on a solution," said Susan Johnson, the city's subdivision coordinate. "They want to fix it right. They don't want to drag this out."