Appeals court rules Ironhorse homeowners don't have to pay membership fee


Article Courtesy of The Palm Beach Post

By Kimberly Miller

Published December 18, 2009

An appeals judge ruled Wednesday in favor of residents of Ironhorse Country Club who opposed mandatory membership fees in a 2005 lawsuit.

The summary judgment in the District Court of Appeal of the State of Florida's Fourth District supports a 2008 circuit court ruling that struck down mandatory membership fees.

The Ironhorse homeowners association appealed the decision claiming Circuit Judge Kenneth Stern erred when he ruled the fees altered "owners' expectations by destroying the general scheme of the community."

Wednesday's decision will likely buoy other homeowners fighting mandatory memberships, but could further stress the financially-troubled, 325-home Ironhorse, which is considering selling the club to a private investor or even filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Attorney Guy Shir, who represented Ironhorse residents fighting the fee, said the club changed the homeowner rules after his clients moved in, giving them no say in whether they wanted to be a member or not. Attorney Patrick Dervishi worked with Shir on the case.

"It is patently unjust to tell owners that you now have to become a member of the country club just because it's located within the confines of the neighborhood," Shir said. "The bottom line is, there has to be a limitation and reason to how far you can go to tax residents of the community."

Ironhorse representatives could not immediately be reached for comment.

Ironhorse Country Club spent about $3.5 million renovating its Arthur Hills-designed golf course in 2006, but has since seen its members dwindle to about 200.

Bob Naples, president of the member-owned club, said earlier this week that club bylaws call for 350 members, but that the club could probably get by with about 300.