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Community Association soon to take possession of small acreage

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Opposition here to proposed acquisition of a few acres sliced from a closed golf course apparently has ended.

By MELODY JAMESON

SUN CITY CENTER – While some criticisms remain, aggressive opposition here to proposed acquisition of a few acres sliced from a closed golf course apparently has ended.

The opponents have pointed to the accomplishments of their resistance and proponents have executed an agreement finalizing the deal.

A small group of SCC residents, coming together as the Sun City Center Awareness Committee, twice circulated signature petitions in the community calling for a membership vote on the SCC Community Association board proposal to acquire between five and six acres of the inactive North Lake Course at the north edge of the Central Campus.

The deal with ClubLink, the Canada-based company which owns the community’s golf courses, was outlined in a Letter of Intent (LOI) initially drafted in December, 2011. No purchase money was involved, but the exchange did involve CA concessions on several points contained in the 1984 Agreement which has guided and controlled CA-developer actions for nearly 30 years.

CA board directors have said the additional land is needed for any expansion undertaken as part of a community enhancement effort. The committee questioned the potential transaction based on possible but not yet known costs related to the concessions.

In an especially-called CA board meeting last week, directors voted to reject the committee’s second petition, citing Article XV of the Articles of Incorporation which allows the board to turn aside an effort deemed not to be in the community’s best interests. The first petition also was rejected, in part because it was not adequately conformed. In addition, CA directors have pointed to sections of various governing documents which authorize their actions, underscoring that the board had not exceeded its authority on behalf of the community.

At the same meeting, Ed Barnes, board president, announced that the LOI had been revised to delete a clause of particular concern to the committee. The deleted point – contained in Paragraph One of the Other Considerations section - was interpreted by some as limiting the CA board’s ability to object on behalf of the community to any plans for the closed course by ClubLink that the community considered onerous or damaging.

It was this revision, coupled with recent changes in connection with guest passes, that prompted the committee to drop its opposition, Lynn Mooney, committee member, said this week. Earlier this month, CA directors agreed to suspend requirements that both the resident and the guest must be present to acquire a guest pass for the visitor giving access to community amenities and that guest passes cannot be obtained in advance. Guest pass policy changes are slated for discussion at the board’s May 9 meeting,

“We feel we got two really good things accomplished” as the result of the petition drives which served to emphasize the dissatisfactions of some residents with some board actions, Mooney noted.

Asked if the committee is shaping any new resistance on other fronts or in connection with other community subjects, she said “we want to get back out and talk with residents; find out what they want and what they will support.” As part of the signature gathering process for the second petition, committee members staffed a table for five consecutive days in the Atrium, explaining their opposition to the LOI for passing residents. Mooney said afterwards that the experience was both rewarding and enlightening.

Ed Jacobs, retired attorney and committee member, was not quite as sanguine about the situation, however. Jacobs expressed the concern that board directors could be, even unknowingly, sowing seeds of future destructiveness for the community by not examining and questioning more intensely their proposed actions. While the LOI does not involve a purchase price for the north course acreage, “there is a cost,” Jacobs asserted. The concessions made can be valued monetarily, he added, and by giving away those rights, a price therefore is paid. “And don’t you think ClubLink wanted what it got for a reason?” he asked rhetorically.

Jacobs also pointed to the board’s recent engagement of a University of Tampa marketing professor under a $15,000 contract to conduct opinion surveys in the community, analyze the results, produce a database and report findings. “Why are we paying someone to ask people who already live here what they want? We need to find out what the people we want to come here in the future want,” he said.

Meanwhile, the LOI that transfers the small acreage to the CA from ClubLink in exchange for concessions related to golf course use by outsiders and rights of first refusal in connection with a golf course sale was executed last week by representatives of both organizations. Formal closing on the transaction, Barnes said this week, is to be accomplished on or before May 30.

Copyright 2012 Melody Jameson

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