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Tempers flare at SCC Community Association board meeting

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image The Feb. 12 SCC Board meeting turned nasty and was adjourned, but some who were lined up at the microphone were still permitted to have their say. Photo Penny Fletcher

The scene turned ugly at the Feb. 12 monthly meeting of the Sun City Center Community Association Board when name-calling erupted during discussion of a need for a new theater.

The scene turned ugly at the Feb. 12 monthly meeting of the Sun City Center Community Association Board when name-calling erupted during discussion of a need for a new theater.

A $2 million member-approved renovation of the Atrium Complex has just begun after more than two years of planning. Its major points, as earlier reported in The SCC Observer News and The Observer News, include a new Information Center, a multipurpose building, and more than $800,000 in improvements to the parking lot, lighting and other parts of the complex.

The previous board, led by President Ed Barnes, pledged after a vote by community residents to proceed only on a pay-as-you-go policy, using money in the Operating Fund that comes from the resale of homes. The $1,500 resale fee is similar to the impact fee charged by the county for each new home built in Hillsborough County by a developer.

This board said it plans to stick to that policy because it was voted in by the members.

But a large group of persons who use the Rollins Theater, from the Performing Arts Company to the Front Porch Pickers, attended the meeting. And several — including two board members — became verbally abusive while discussing a larger, more modern theater that was not included in the current building program.

All board members agreed that the existing theater is often too small for the events held and that its needs will have to be dealt with in the future. CA board member Chuck Collett said he and a group had been investigating ways to build now and had come up with a deal from a private lender that would not endanger the association’s funds.

Collett said that interest rates and costs of materials and labor will be higher in the future, and that the arrangement he could make with the lender should be acted upon immediately while it was available.

“What will construction costs be a year from now?” Collett asked. “They’ve gone from $100 to $147 a square foot in just the last year. We need to use advance funding to get this done.”

People then began to line up to say why a new theater, instead of a renovation to the Rollins, was needed.

“We have promised the community we would not borrow to build,” said David Floyd, who has been in charge of planning and is on the board for a new term. “Until there is another vote, we will keep our promise,” he said.

Vice President Sam Sudman said he understood the needs for the future, but he could not uphold overriding what had been decided by a community vote.

Board Treasurer Neil Rothfeld explained that no matter what the private lender had told the group working with Collett, “if we don’t get enough funds from the resales, a lender has the legal right to put a lien against us. That probably will never happen, but we are on a pay-as-you go program so it can’t happen.”

Rothfeld said the lender Collett has spoken with “used to lend me up to $400 million in business. I have spent my life arranging money in the billions. I have reviewed this letter of intent with a Chase Manhattan official, and he says it does not give the lender the ability to lien anything.”

Rothfeld said if the community wanted to vote in a new policy, it could, but the board would not deviate from its current policy of pay-as-you-go until such a vote was held.

Members of the Performing Arts Company have spent more than $150,000 renovating the Rollins into its current condition. They and the other groups using  the theater say it is not large enough, does not work for wheelchairs and walkers, and that stage performers have no room behind the curtain to prepare.

They presented a list of things they say the facility needs that cannot be accommodated by further renovation.

“We would have to knock down walls to the surrounding rooms,” said one member of the audience.

“We have to turn people away now. We need a lobby because they stand outside in the rain, and it’s cold.”

Many others commented about the need to address a new theater now. But the board held fast to its contention that to change procedure before a vote to change the policy would not be proper.

When name-calling such as “liar” began, the meeting was adjourned. But board President Jane Keegan allowed those who wished to speak to continue until some comments became what Sudman called “inappropriate.” And that brought the noisy meeting to an end.

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