By Suzanne Eovaldi, staff writer
Committees are now drafting bills to be presented in the March session of the Florida legislature. If enough citizen input is received demanding regulation of single family residences in Florida’s gated communities and regulation of drug-re-hab centers now being located in private neighborhoods (which may or may not be gated), relief just may be coming for oppressed homeowners, their families, their children!
About ten years ago, the Flower Pots bill was successfully passed which regulated only residents of condo communities. However, the State of Florida was reluctant to do anything about giving protection to those of us who own and maintain our own homes in gated communities; protection, that is, from the same Condo Commando mentality that made life miserable for condo dwellers. Hopefully, Florida lawmakers will draft and pass legislation that can exemplify for the entire country just what is needed to protect long suffering homeowners from heavy handed tactics of Home Owner Association (HOA) boards of trustees, the legal firms they hire and the management services they engage to “control” residents, many of whom are elderly, sick, or too beaten down to fight back.
We all become aware of the tensions bubbling just beneath the surface of these Potemkin villages when some sick veteran is put through the HOA meat grinder when he tries to fly the American flag in front of a home he fought and sacrificed to make safe. But here are important issues Florida’s lawmakers need to address first: 1. TERM LIMITS now are vital to stop the ingrained and perhaps, self-serving mindset of HOA board members who are returned to office by select cliques which they accommodate in a quid-pro-quo of political nastiness that shuts out other homeowners. One HOA just had their lawyers deem it perfectly acceptable to hold another election when the entrenched clique did not get the results it wanted the first time voting was held! 2. The closing of public comment sessions until after official HOA meetings have been gaveled down erases any possible record of legitimate concerns or complaints by afflicted residents. As a result, the treatment of these people becomes nothing but a matter of hearsay. 3. The way in which HOA boards handle residents’ monies, legal agreements, vendor contracts and the hiking of HOA Maintenance fees must be subject to oversight by Tallahassee. One Treasure Coast HOA hiked resident fees by nearly $100 in less than a year without any vote of community at large, thus putting unwarranted burdens on many seniors with fixed pension incomes. 4. Harsh surveillance devices, installed with the excuse of “stopping speeders” in gated communities provides a level of intimidation even the DHS might be reluctant to institute. 5. Rewriting blue books of long established procedures in gated communities by overweening HOA boards which do it just because they can has to be stopped by Florida legislators. 6. It is necessary to regulate ostensibly “private” garage sales that allow total strangers into these communities. These garage sale events allow strangers to case residents’ homes, possibly inviting in danger and/or criminal activity from possible associates. How can EMTs, ambulance, police vehicles get through in the event of an emergency when these sale events clog tiny streets, lanes? Florida legislators must rein in NOW the generally oppressive, heavy-handed treatment of individual residents in single family gated homes by out-of-control HOA Commandos.
A second important issue concerning residents of private communities has to do with the location of re-hab facilities, which provide help for drug and alcohol addicts in Florida neighborhoods. Last year’s legislation, according to State Senator Joe Negron, was merely an attempt to make lists of these drug houses and carried no real regulations that would give homeowners the relief they must have. It appears that placing addiction centers next to the homes of families with little children just got out ahead of lawmakers. By following tax sales that fold in a just expired covenant parcel or other type of no go real estate, clever addiction promoters are buying such properties at auction, often at much reduced, fire sale prices. Homeowners are unaware of what is moving in next to them until bulldozers appear on their streets. Homeowners I’ve talked with say over and over they are not against addicts getting help with their drug and alcohol problems. Just don’t move these addicts in next door. One big Treasure Coast development was given the OK by lily-livered city council members, cowed by a threat of lawsuits. This move is causing terrible grief, worry, and tension at a site right at the corner of school bus stops where small children get on, off.
Parents have a right to worry. Single family residents in HOA gated communities have a right to be fed up with how their Boards and HOA attorneys treat them with their very own money! Now it is up to Florida legislators to put in place legislation that will stop these out of control trends.
You can contact these Florida lawmakers: State Senator Alan Hays, Rm 320, SOB, 404 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, 32399-1100; PH: 850-487-5011. An aide is his local office in Umatilla, FL was very receptive to my concerns: her number is 352-742-6441. E mail: firstname.lastname@example.org Contact State Senator Joe Negron at Rm 412, SOB, 404 S. Monroe St., Tallahassee, 32399-1100. PH: 850-487-5032 E-mail: Negron.joe.web@flsenatelgov. His number is 850-487-5032. Needed here are actual documents pertaining to sale of these re-hab centers, profiles of owners and developers, where their money is coming from, ads touting Florida as the go-to place to get sober.
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