HERITAGE HARBOUR — As a lawsuit over how property owners in the Heritage Harbour South Community Development District are assessed makes its way through the legal system, both residents and parties involved hope to resolve the dispute quickly.
Residents say they are worried the lawsuit will rack up high legal fees. Plus, if the district loses, it may have to pay $3.8 million to the owner of Stoneybrook Investors, owner of the Stoneybrook Golf Course, as per the lawsuit. Homeowners, essentially, would foot the bill.
Representatives of Stoneybrook Investors say the fight is one they don’t want. They simply are protecting their assets and trying to show the golf course provides value to the district and homeowners that was not considered when the CDD adopted a new assessment methodology in September. Under the change, the club’s assessments would increase by about 500%, or $35,000 annually.
CDD officials say the assessment methodology they adopted is fair and their position is solid. The lawsuit — and what it is costing the district and its residents — is causing them to lose sleep at night.
Ultimately, a judge will decide March 15 whether the lawsuit should be dismissed or move toward a hearing.
“(This is) to argue whether the case should proceed,” CDD attorney Kenza vanAssenderp said.
Mark Pentecost, who owns the Stoneybrook Golf Club with his wife, Cindy, sent out a letter in late February to Stoneybrook homeowners to explain the course’s position and that the lawsuit is a step to protect the course and residents.
“I feel like I’ve been bullied, and I think I’m being attacked,” Pentecost said of why he wrote the letter. “I didn’t start this. I don’t want this.”
Residents expressed mixed responses to the letter. While some passionately defended the golf club, others said they felt the letter was misleading because it did not divulge costs associated with the suit that would later be assessed to homeowners if Stoneybrook wins the case.
“It was a half-truth,” said resident Harrietta Martinetti, who attends all the CDD meetings. “It actually put our community down. Don’t put us down for living in a CDD.”
Pentecost said he did not include costs associated with the lawsuit, because the letter’s intent was to show the golf course provides value to the community.
Residents at the meeting continued to advocate for the golf course and CDD to work together toward an amiable solution as quickly as possible.
“I would hope the CDD and the golf course can make every effort they can to settle this,” resident Tom Bakalar said. “If this going further, we’re really going to negatively impact this community and that’s unfortunate.”
Lighthouse Cove Homeowners Association also has filed a lawsuit against the CDD, alleging homeowners are being improperly assessed. A motion to dismiss the case was slated for March 7, after the East County Observer went to press.
Contact Pam Eubanks at [email protected].
In other business, the board:
• Directed a representative of MBS Capital Markets, LLC to proceed with the due diligence portion of a possible refinancing of the district’s 2002 bonds.
• Voted unanimously to award a five-year auditing contract to McDirmit Davis & Co., at an annual cost of $4,500 for 2012 and $100 more per year for each year afterward.
• Voted to move their first budget meeting forward to May 2.
• Supervisors approved support of Stoneybrook’s third annual Earth Day event April 21.
Jaudon works toward solutions
At the March 1 Heritage Harbour South meeting, Supervisor Joseph Jaudon again raised concerns that issues in a petition of more than 200 residents still were not being addressed.
Supervisors discussed six items.
First, the petition stated the district should establish an official place of business within the CDD or close by, for CDD records, among other information. Chairman Lee Bettes suggested the district create a website. Supervisors directed community manager Jim Ward to proceed with the idea.
Second, the petition asked that a new treasurer be designated and that checks are signed by the treasurer and by another person, as authorized by the board. Third, it asked for an oral treasurer’s report at each meeting to apprise the public and supervisors of ending balances of all CDD accounts.
Ward currently signs checks on behalf of the district.
Supervisors agreed to have Ward report at meetings information regarding checks of more than $5,000.
Fourth, the petition asked for no attendance of engineers at meetings unless permitted, to save the district money. Because the cost of meeting attendance of engineers now is covered in the district’s annual contract with Morris & Riley, representatives of the company now will attend as needed.
Fifth, the petition asked to have an auditor attend the CDD meeting and explain the annual auditor’s report to the public. A motion by Jaudon to do so failed. Auditors will be available by phone conference for the meeting.
Sixth, the petition asked for supervisors to address an issue regarding Lennar/Harbourvest’s neglect of the district during its tenure on the board. Supervisors said they did not understand the request. Jaudon said he would get more information, and the board would discuss the issue at its next meeting.