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Opposition to SCC improvements simmers with disputed petition

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Enter the anonymous petition....

By MELODY JAMESON

SUN CITY CENTER – Members of the Community Association here may have voted down major improvements proposed by their elected officials, but the prevailing opposition still simmers.

And the current form of the continuing opposition — a circulating anonymous petition - is being vigorously disputed by the CA Board of Director’s president based on its miss-statements of facts.

In mid-February, CA members voted against a suggested capital improvements program that would have produced two new Central Campus buildings for multiple functions plus other enhancements, financed now with a $2.4 million bank loan and repaid over the next 10 years with accruing fees from anticipated sales of homes to first time buyers.

The CA board proposal, aimed at taking advantage of historically low interest rates and currently low construction costs, also included acquisition of approximately five acres of the now-closed North Lakes Golf Course from its owner, Canada-based ClubLink Enterprises, Limited.

The small acreage abutting the Central Campus’ north edge was to have accommodated new construction without forcing relocation of long- established campus features. Since defeat of the capital investment program it has been earmarked to facilitate expanded parking for Atrium and Fitness Center users.

Details related to transfer of the former golf course property to the CA were outlined originally in a Letter of Intent to ClubLink dated December 30, 2011. The transaction agreement does not involve any purchase monies, but would make certain concessions to the golf course owner which have been maintained in the so-called 1984 Agreement binding both developers and the association for the last 28 years.

Enter the anonymous petition. This signature document seeks CA member support to mandate a vote by the membership either approving or disapproving terms and conditions set forth in the Letter of Intent.

The petition itself does not bear any sponsoring names, either of individuals or of an organization. However, it may have stemmed from a letter to ClubLink dated January 20, 2012, and signed by Edwin Jacobs, an attorney, SCC resident and one-time candidate for CA director.

 In his January communication to ClubLink, Jacobs asserts that in his view directors are not authorized to make the commitments contained in the December Letter of Intent. Jacobs refers to sections of the CA Articles of Incorporation, its By-laws, its Declaration of Covenants, the 1984 Agreement as well as Florida law as supporting his contentions, but does not quote those sections.

CA President Ed Barnes does, however, as he points to “distortions” contained in the petition. The document, for example, refers to “PURCHASE” of 5.5 acres at the south end of the North Lakes course. Actually, though, the acquisition transaction does not involve purchase money and the Letter of Intent clearly so states, Barnes said. The “Purchase Price” in the LOI is stated as “Zero (0) Dollars.”

Another untruth in the petition is its declaration that proposed parking lot expansion will cost $800,000. This is patently untrue and there is no basis for such an estimated cost, Barnes added. “We have not yet obtained bids for the project,” he emphasized.

The parking expansion being considered would involve relocating the short paved roadway running from North Pebble Beach Blvd. to current Atrium building parking by about 10 feet to the north, adding vehicle spaces in the opened-up area. It has been calculated that about 150 badly-needed additional spaces could be made available, Barnes noted. He added that relocating the existing roadway, preparing the recovered ground, as well as reconfiguring and restriping existing parking areas might run in the $300,000 neighborhood – “far less than figures used in the petition.”

The CA president noted, too, that gift of the five north course acres to the association has mistakenly suggested to some members that the entire acreage could be developed for additional housing. However, the reality is that the number of homes that could be built on the north side of the community was and is controlled by the original, official, filed site development plan. The number allowed has been met, Barnes said, and cannot now be exceeded. A lengthy process involving formal modification of the site plan and approvals at the county level in concert with community support would be required to increase the number of housing units, he added.

Regarding CA authorizations, Barnes pointed out that Article X in the CA Articles of Incorporation specifically permits the board to spend up to 15 % of its operating budget without membership approvals. In 2012, that percentage is $420,000 and no part of the LOI transactions contemplated exceed that amount, he added.

Moreover, the board president noted that the 1984 Agreement has been modified five times during the years since its inception without membership approvals and its Article XXII “states that it can be modified by a written agreement duly executed on the behalf of the parties” to it. Additionally, CA By-Laws, XII, Section 4, enable it to establish operating policies which do not require membership approval.

Barnes said a copy of the petition bearing at least 100 signatures has been received and currently is being verified.

The Observer endeavored repeatedly to contact residents known to oppose the capital improvements projects for comment. Ken Stephens, an outspoken questioner during months leading to the vote, referred inquiries about the petition to Jacobs and to Lynn Mooney, a local Realtor. The Observer missed making connections with each of them.

Stephens, who lives in the Renaissance section, noted that the petition was not widely embraced in his neighborhood, possibly because it was perceived as not affecting residents on the south side of the community.

Copyright 2012 Melody Jameson

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