Clubhouse repairs stalled 15 months after Wilma

Article Courtesy of The Sun Sentinel

By Jason B. Gumer

Published March 26, 2007


West Delray The Lakes of Delray community's clubhouse has yet to reopen, more than 15 months after Hurricane Wilma damaged the building.

The 24-year-old building suffered significant damage in the storm, and the community's board of directors estimates that repairs will cost more than $3.25 million.

"The entire roof collapsed and rain went pouring into the clubhouse," 13-year resident Howard Grosse said. "The only thing that wasn't damaged were some chairs, which is too bad because they are very uncomfortable."

Reimbursement battles with the insurance carrier, new code compliance requirements and neighborhood infighting have stalled the construction. It will be months before it reopens, according to board president Edward West.

Residents are growing angry over the delay, saying the lack of a functional clubhouse is hurting their property values and costing residents on the resale market. The 1,408-unit community is off Atlantic Avenue.

"Everyone just wants to know when we will have a clubhouse," Grosse said. "There are discrepancies in the information we are getting, and there has been a lot of bologna. What the heck has the board been doing?"

About 150 residents attended a homeowners association meeting last month to discuss construction developments. West stressed that progress had been made, and that 99 percent of the roof repairs had been complete.

"The board has handled this very badly," said 15-year resident Arthur Cohen, 80. "If they would have taken responsible financial steps right after the hurricane, instead of just bickering with insurance, we might have had a clubhouse by now."

Last year, residents were assessed $300 per unit to help pay for the $160,000 insurance deductible and community improvements. West stressed at the meeting there will be no more assessments, unless the community loses its battle with their insurance carrier.

"I understand that people are frustrated, but they just don't understand what it takes to get this building back open," West said. "We are having lots of unforeseen problems with the insurance company, code changes and getting permits, and they are all taking quite a bit of time. Although we have not gotten the money in total yet, we are still going to proceed with the completion of the job."

To comply with new building codes, the community will have to expand handicap-accessible bathrooms and parking spaces, install larger drainage pipes, redo aging plumbing and use new, fire-retardant materials for construction.

Several residents complained at the meeting that the board has not been open in disclosing budgeting and financial information, and treasurer Jerry Mandelbaum promised to print a full financial report in this month's edition of the community newsletter.

"There are people who have a lifelong ambition to make life miserable for anybody on the board," West said. "They say that nobody knows what they are doing, but we have a management team that is highly qualified, and these people just like to make destructive and negative comments without trying to understand what is going on.

"They just want to force their opinions and drive us crazy, but 90 percent of people here are very patient, they understand the situation, and are satisfied with what is going on."

However, at the meeting, neighbors fired angry questions and comments at the board and received equally impassioned replies.

"We don't get information; the board seems to want to keep us in the dark," Cohen said. "We all own this community, so shouldn't we know what's going on with insurance and how much the engineers and roof are costing?"

The board sought approval of a $500,000 redecorating spending plan, to be funded through the assessment and insurance dollars. The plan eventually was approved, but the debate lasted for hours.