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Community Association leaders propose new membership

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image Ed Barnes

A substantial expansion of the membership is getting serious attention.

By MELODY JAMESON

SUN CITY CENTER – For only the second time in nearly 30 years of Community Association history here, a substantial expansion of the membership is getting serious attention.

The CA board of directors, after considering pros and cons, now is proposing that the organization’s membership be opened to all independent living residents in Freedom Plaza and Sun Towers, Ed Barnes, board president, said this week. A similar suggestion involving only Freedom Plaza was raised some years ago, but not widely embraced.

And, while far from a done deal, the notion recently has been the subject of talks involving CA directors and managers at both Freedom Plaza and Sun Towers, Barnes indicated.

It also has been suggested informally to FP residents, several living there said this week, getting hesitant reviews leaning toward favorable.

In addition, the idea was tossed around during a recent “Coffee and Conversation” session in SCC, generating mostly enthusiastic acceptance, Barnes said.

CA members in SCC currently pay $263 annual dues and have access to the community’s extensive recreational facilities, can join more than a hundred clubs, can participate as volunteers in a variety of service oriented organizations as well as make use of specific structures and other physical features.

From dog park and ag plots to meeting rooms and emergency medical service delivery, from groups representing particular states to artistic and artisan, craft and computer clubs, from swimming pools to lawn bowling fields to fitness center, SCC CA members can stay busy and involved around the clock and throughout the calendar for less than $22 per month. It is a cost/benefit situation rarely matched in other communities, whether retirement or family oriented.

It also is the menu of activities Freedom Plaza and Sun Towers independent livers would get if they were to become CA members entitled to all rights and privileges. And, Barnes added, it is a promotional factor that managements of the two facilities located golf-cart close to SCC could use in marketing their independent living housing.

On the other side of the coin, the first benefit accruing to the CA would be the annual bump-up in income, estimated to top $100,000 at the beginning of each and every year, payable in two lump sums. The dues payment process being discussed would have each of the two managements making a lump sum payment to the CA in January of each year, covering individual memberships for each independent living resident in the facility, Barnes noted.

How the managements then collected the dues reimbursements from their residents would be their choices. “That would be entirely up to them,” he said. Although, Barnes asserted, “ we would want assurance of dues paid on time and, in case of non-payment, we would want to retain right to lien.” In SCC, the CA places liens on properties whose owners have failed over a span of time to pay annual membership fees when due in order to eventually collect the fees when the properties are sold.

Asked about potential downside of the expanded membership proposal, Barnes said it might be thought to be possible overcrowding of SCC amenities. However, he asserted that, in fact, just about half of the new members actually would use them. He estimated that increase to be about two percent of the existing CA membership or perhaps 210 new users.

 Among current Freedom Plaza residents, the reaction was cautious interest. Paul and Theresa Campagna, for example, pointed to the range of amenities available to them on site – pools, pickle ball, shuffleboard, tennis. The couple, in their sixties and moving from Kings Point about 2.5 years ago, love their lifestyle, Paul Campagna said, but might access some SCC features if available to them as CA members.

Bobbie Haynes, whose husband, John, has been slowed down by health problems, expressed much the same outlook. Also former KP condo owners, she now is active in several FP groups and particularly interested in the Arts League where she works in water colors and pastels. On the other hand, she noted, if she had opportunity as a CA member to take instruction from visiting teachers in her media in SCC, she probably would do so.

Similarly, Martha Bingham, in the process of selling her longtime Valrico home and looking forward to relocation to her new apartment in FP, said she might investigate opportunities to work in stained glass and ceramics with the SCC clubs if CA membership were an option for her.

The options could, in time, be available to Bingham, but a multi-stage process must be followed first. Community Association Articles of Incorporation as well as the organization’s by-laws would have to be changed to accommodate the neighboring independent livers’ memberships, Barnes said. In addition, he noted that some adjustment would be required to the 1984 Agreement, a governing document outlining binding understandings on a number of issues by the CA and successive developers.
And, ultimately a referendum vote by the CA membership could be necessary, Barnes added.

Meanwhile, the proposal is to continue to be aired. It will be the subject du jour during another Coffee and Conversation session slated for 9 AM on September 13 in the Atrium’s Caper Room, Barnes said, and will be discussed in the October issue of the widely distributed CA newsletter, The News of Sun City Center. A “straw vote” form for CA members’ convenience is to be included.

Copyright 2012 Melody Jameson

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