EAST COUNTY — As Stoneybrook residents prepare to finally control their community, homeowners vow to put aside their differences for the betterment of the community.
But, more than a decade of developer control, and the circumstances surrounding it, have created deep-seated animosity that is showing itself with the turnover date fast approaching.
On Jan. 2, Lennar, the developer of Heritage Harbour, will formally resign from the homeowners association board; an election that day will determine a new resident-controlled board.
Lennar must turn over all assets and pay its outstanding bills by that date, as well.
Faced with the task of managing the community’s assets, such as the Stoneybrook recreation center, basketball and tennis courts and pool, candidates for the new board are trying to present a united front.
“I am running because I believe in this community,” said Tom Bakalar, who has applied for one of nine seats on the Stoneybrook homeowners association. “I believe in the people who live here. It’s a great place to live, and I want to keep it that way.”
Some of the 21 candidates who have applied for nine spots on the Stoneybrook homeowners association board have identified themselves as part of separate groups representing factions of the community.
Bakalar, along with eight others, identifies with the self-proclaimed “Pro-Stoneybrook Team.”
Rob Bloom, another resident who has applied for a spot, represents a different group — one without a name.
“We are a diverse group: women, men, blacks, whites,” Bloom said. “We are a better reflection of what this community is. And we’re not afraid of someone else taking over the sandbox. There won’t be the comfort of a dictator anymore. I’m not concerned with the nuts and bolts. I don’t care if you want big flowers for the community or little flowers. I just know we (residents) can do a better job than Lennar.”
Bloom is the co-creator of a task force made up of residents who sent Lennar a letter in mid-August demanding its departure.
The letter ultimately provided the impetus for the turnover, Lennar acknowledged.
Lennar, the developer of Heritage Harbour and the communities within it, including Stoneybrook, has been in control of Stoneybrook’s homeowners association for more than a decade.
In September, a Lennar representative, Tony Burdett, traveled from Fort Myers to a Stoneybrook homeowners association meeting to announce the developer’s intent to give up control.
Since then, community members have emerged to help lead.
“At the end of the day, everybody who is running wants to maintain the high standards of the community,” said Dick Williams, a candidate aligned with Bakalar’s group. “Given that common goal, everybody will come to an agreement somewhere along the line.”
Some residents, such as Bakalar — who was a member of the homeowners association’s advisory council, which assisted in running Stoneybrook while Lennar controlled the community and had final authority on decisions — say their involvement with such groups makes them better qualified to run the community.
Upon moving in 2008 to Stoneybrook, Ira Tropp joined the homeowners association finance and landscape committees. Over the last few years, he said, Lennar slowly let the finance committee make the budget, although the developer had final approval.
“Whoever is elected will have to run the community like a business,” Tropp said. “I have that experience.”
Candidates from both sides say they would not change much about Stoneybrook.
“The foundation of the community is strong,” Tropp said. “I wouldn’t knock things down. We build on what we have. We keep it a premier community.”
The candidates also agree residents deserve maximum use of the community’s assets, such as the recreation center, and would try to make those assets more accessible, if elected.
“It’s a community center, not a business,” Bloom said. “I want to see a more supporting center where you don’t have to rent it out and people can play cards.”
Candidates from both sides agree they would listen to constituents when making decisions and hear both sides of issues, if they end up sharing the dais.
“We won’t ignore what the other side has to say,” Tropp said. “We will listen to their ideas, and we hope they listen to ours.”
Contact Josh Siegel at [email protected].