SUMMERFIELD — Summerfield resident Joani Ellis is standing by her decision to keep her yard decorations as they are, even as fines against her accrue daily. So far she owes about $4,000.
But Ellis isn’t the only one standing firm.
Despite her request for a waiver, during a homeowner’s association meeting March 25, the Summerfield/Riverwalk Village Association board upheld a Compliance Committee decision to enforce the fines against Ellis, without discussion, and to continue fining her $50 a day until she removes excess items.
Ellis now will take her battle to court, maintaining her position that the HOA is selectively enforcing the rules and has passed the statute of limitations for imposing certain deed restrictions against her property, which has looked the same for a decade.
“The SRVA board continues to selectively enforce the rules and disregard state statues and business law,” Ellis said after the meeting. “Because of tonight’s unfortunate decision, I plan to continue to defend my rights as necessary, and I will use any means at my disposal to seek appropriate recompense and compensation.”
Ellis said she expects to file the lawsuit sometime this week. Although the move may end up forcing SRVA to spend thousands of dollars in legal fees, Ellis said it’s an action that must be taken on behalf of homeowners.
“They need to abide by state law,” Ellis said.
Ellis also indicated she has been approached by about a dozen other Summerfield residents who have asked her to start a class-action lawsuit. The notion is something she is considering, but Ellis said she has no plans to act on it at this time.
Ellis’ attorney Daniel Lobeck, whose firm normally represents homeowners associations, said Ellis’ case is defensible.
“Ms. Ellis’ case is as good as I’ve ever seen,” Lobeck said. “She has open and shut defenses against enforcement by the association — those are the statute of limitations, selective enforcement and ambiguity and unreasonableness of the restrictions.”
Lobeck also said he tells his HOA clients they must look beyond the restriction itself and determine what their defense may be should the association be taken to court.
SRVA’s attorney was on hand at the March 24 HOA meeting to make sure the board was on “solid legal grounds” in its decision.
SRVA Board of Directors President Shirley Suroweic said the board followed procedure in considering Ellis’ waiver request.
“Each board member was elected by Lakewood Ranch residents to follow the correct procedures and not make any changes when hearing a waiver,” she said. “We are always reminded to have a high standard of care and conduct at our meetings. After study of the waiver statement, the compliance violation report, the vote was 5-0 against the waiver. Homeowners were to sign and follow the homeowner’s manual when moving to a deed-restricted community.”
Among deed restrictions spelled out in Summerfield/Riverwalk Village Association documents is a provision limiting the number and style of decorative items in homeowners’ front yards. Ellis was cited for having too many yard decorations first in 2006, accruing a $1,600 fine for failing to remove them. After having an attorney write SRVA a letter claiming the entity had passed its statute of limitations for enforcement and was selectively enforcing the concept, the daily fines stopped.
Then, in December 2009, Ellis again received a letter about the violation. Fines began accruing in February after the SRVA Compliance Committee decided to enforce the fee.
Ellis said she believes some of the board members and property manager are pursuing “personal vendettas” but declined to elaborate.
“I hold the specifics for court,” she said.
Surowiec said SRVA review deed restrictions are reviewed annually. Deed homeowners are welcome to attend the meeting, which will be held July 21 this year for SRVA, to review or change modifications covered in the manual.
Contact Pam Eubanks at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Currently 8 Responses
- Let's see the Ronney's are professionals, that are always there for their community and charities with time, effort, or money. The Ellis' travel to the outer rural areas of Georgia, and Alabama to provide pre-natal care for women in poverty, and with with no insurance, volunteer for numerous charities for Animals, The Arts, and Cancer. But we penalize this positive behavior with this type of treatment? GET a life SRVA Board, you're looking pretty sad. And I must say, we all wonder why Ms Wills has a job that pays her to be nasty. This has nothing to do with the position, and everything to do with the person.
- This just amazes me. I have had 4 showings cancel in Summerfield in the last 10 days, because of this issue. I have driven by this home, and it is lovely. I have driven by some of the board members homes that are not as nice. It is apparent to anyone with sense, that this is a personal issue, and not a Board applying professional common sense. Don't they see what they are doing to this neighborhood. This woman has many many people behind her, and this will probably end in the board being recalled. I certainly feel they are not acting in the best interest of this neighborhood. Why wait for a class action suit? Make it right people, you're supposed to be professionals. PROVE IT. Lakewood Ranch used to be an easy sell, now - not so much.
- Now Town Hall is denying copies of records the Ms. Ellis requested. They say they (SRVA) "have no legal duty to supply the requested Documents."
What are they hiding this time?
- Carol Frankland stated in an earlier article that people are apathetic and that's why they have to ask "friends" to join the board because no one else will.
It's not apathy, the reason that people don't join this board is because they don't want to be associated with how these board members are conducting themselves, the way that they treat homeowners and are probably afraid that they might get dragged into a lawsuit.
- of course there was no discussion, they meet outside of the Board meetings. We have know this for years.
And why is Ms Wills again allowed to talk to a resident in a unprofessional, and demeaning tone? Ms. Wills stated, "Where is your lawyer?" in a super snotty tone. Ms Ellis says, "Who told you he was going to be here?", Ms. Wills screeches, "I believe we read it in the newspaper.". Ms Wills LIES AGAIN, this was never mentioned in any paper. How come she is not fired for lying, and why is a women of this low caliber allowed to work in Town Hall. Can't we get a professional for what we pay this amateur. And why if we don't pay fines, would we be in a deficit? Is this some of Bob Fernandez's new math he brought from the last place he was fired for mishandling finances? Rex Jensen please save our Town!
- They also forgot to mention that Mr. Lobeck had to send a letter telling them they had been breaking the law regarding Fines and Waivers for years. And they may have followed the rules regarding the waiver, but it says Written and they made Ms Ellis get up and read her appeal, trying to intimidate her. Then when she asked why can board members that are in violation still be sitting on the board, they stated all the violations were fixed. We call foul. This Board lies, and cheats, and will only cost the owners more money!
- Ms. Ellis is 100 percent correct in her statements.
- They keep forgetting to add Shirley Surowiec, Marlene VanPelt and others are in violation of our rules.
And the fact that the HOA has to fine people or we have a huge deficit at the end of the year.
Marlene when you going to start parking in your garage? And why haven't you been sited for this violation. Oh yes that's right you are about rules when you are on the
24 Christmas Eve Family Service
3:30 pm - 5:30 pm
24 Christmas Eve Traditional Service
9:30 pm - 11:30 am
25 Christmas Traditional Service
10:00 pm - 11:30 pm
12 Scramble for SPARCC
Food and fun
The Lakewood Ranch Business Alliance and its Young Leaders Alliance have something to talk about: the organizations collected 764 pounds of nonperishable food and $1,295 cash to benefit The Food Bank of Manatee/Meals on Wheels PLUS.
River Club’s Cheryl Kaufman says she’s still pinching herself.
A little “Ho! Ho! Ho!” can go a long way this holiday season.