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12/14/2017 Outside Looking In, Dominic Battista

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Deed-restricted debacle

The Villages of Rainbow Springs: “A 55 plus Active Adult Deed Restricted Country Club Golf Course Community within a natural setting.” That was the design and intent in 1979 anyway.

Today, in almost 2018, “It’s a great place to retire or raise a young family within a natural setting.” Well, it should be, yet there are those who refuse to make those changes to the modern world, especially when children around here are known as (them).

Almost 98 percent of the community is very neat and tidy. You can be sure six days a week, lawns and hedges don’t have a chance to grow an inch.

Sadly, many HOAs around the country are run by people with power trips, big egos, having a need to be in full control. People who create outrageous rules and regulations that really only satisfy the minority they are a part of.

Many people have an expectation that a deed-restricted community will provide general uniformity, keep out undesirables, junk collectors and farmers. Unless you are in a gated community, that can be a stretch of an expectation. Having previously lived in a deed-restricted community, it was not run like some around the country and especially not The Villages of Rainbow Springs. My experiences here to date take the “WOW Factor” to another level.

Moving to Country Club Estates was not my first choice.

Citrus Springs and Blue Cove in Dunnellon showed promise.

Two years and 200 properties later, an opportunity in Rainbow Springs arrived, without going into detail, the choice was clear.

My neighbors all around me are some of the most friendly, caring people I have ever known. We all watch out for each other and that’s a pretty good position to be in.

Imagine my disappointment about thinking of nice round of golf with family and friends or watching Sunday football, NASCAR, baseball or shooting some pool at the Country Club. Maybe even starting a Model Railroad Club? Those amenities ended pretty quickly upon my arrival.

Today, falling trees, noxious weeds, unsightly buildings and a mold-infested country club building, are apparently acceptable to some. When Kasmark Inc. shuttered it all, I was not happy about it. Knowing what I know today, I completely understand.

When the golf course closed, my research concerning this little community began. I had full intentions of joining a community group or just watching the grass grow. Never imagining how many layers of the proverbial onion would start peeling away.

Between the city of Dunnellon and Rainbow Springs during the past decade-plus, that’s a full day. The Internet and Social Media can be a wonderful informative place or a very ugly one. Rarely there is middle ground.

Anything I post under a discussion on Social Media has been vetted, researched and documented to the best of my ability. I have no time or tolerance for baseless, factless commentary that is intended to sway someone’s personal agendas.

In some instances, I find sarcasm to be the best comment in a thread of just utter nonsense. Most recently called out by the RSPOA board president as a “negative, uninformed liar, (screen shot on file), leading people astray.” Further, calling out several other residents as unfounded and misleading.

Just maybe he should follow his own three favorite phrases: “Go look it up!” “I guess you can’t read,” and my personal favorite, “Florida Statute 720 are followed to the letter.” There are many more such phrases.

It’s extremely difficult to get questions answered or have concerns when you get answers like that. As I, and others, basically have been quoting FSS720, it would seem the laws of the state are unfounded as well.

Let’s look at what could be considered misleading information, shall we.

Starting with the entrance signs: “A Deed Restricted Community.”

For about 14 years, the deed restrictions were expired until July 5, 2017, when the governing documents were revived. When questioned why, a mere “oversight” was the answer. That’s a load of horse hockey.

Strange that other neighborhoods in the villages have its rules enforced. They all have the original developer documents posted along with amendments and regulations that pertain to their area.

So again, why did Country Club Estates and the Woodlands have this so called “oversight.” I am sure someone has the real story. You have to question, what did the DEO really endorse under approval 17027?

Certainly, it was not the original documents required to revitalize. The wonderfully put together “Notice of Recording” dated July 5, 2017, is what was approved. There are so many omissions from the original documents that it was easy for a renewal. There are at least a half a dozen restrictions that would have nullified the attempt. One stands out the most, nowhere to be seen is a direct FSS 720 rule concerning the display of flags. (720.304(2) (a). You can’t nullify what is not there.

Although I certainly find interesting, (Section 11 Waterway Properties) is in there. No gas motor boats along with other river restrictions. I wasn’t aware, other than the resident’s park, there were deed-restricted properties along the river. Maybe the original developer planned for that.

Certainly, it makes one skeptical at best about how all of this was handled. What were the actual vote totals? Why was there a need to twice hand-deliver an unsealed envelope to Tallahassee? Why did this cost more than $30,000 to get accomplished? We have yet to see a line item detail on the treasurer’s report.

How many buyers believed they moved to a deed-restricted community? How were fines collected for unenforceable violations over 14 years? How many title policies reflect deed restrictions or not? So many questions with so many mixed or non-answers.

You can’t “aggressively enforce” any violations unless you clean up a 14-year mess first. Start with a clean slate, which should have been the proper course of action.

When you hear, “I don’t like grandfathered in,” as quoted by the POA board president at several meetings, it really opens the door for a lot more questions, concerns and even lawsuits.

No need to fear, go to a board meeting, it’s the standard answer. All your questions will be answered. Based on the comments of many residents and first-hand experience, that is not the case.

There is never enough time allotted and contrary to what has been said, residents are getting asked to leave unless they wish to speak of rainbows and harmonious agreement.

My very first meeting experience, my answer was “go look it up.” As a standard, meeting minutes are written as paraphrased overviews of what was covered. The devil can be in the detail. Even though property management video tapes the meetings, to obtain a copy can be a challenge. In the world of the Smart Phone, you really don’t need to make a request. This NABR Network website, now proclaimed to be the official factual communication portal of Rainbow Springs.

Not so, if each household had a network tablet or TV transmitter device that can receive constant information to the membership, then maybe so. There are folks who don’t have computer access.

It’s really just another website to join. Communication to the membership is a big deal in FSS 720 in regards to meetings, special meetings and voting. This board may have an “oversight” in regards following the law properly.

Anyone can read through sections 720.301 to 720.317 to compare what has and is happening or what’s not. It doesn’t take a college professor to read through it. FSS 720 was designed to protect property owners as well. If people are going to quote the law, then they should follow the law.

There are those board members who I give a lot of credit for attempting to promote change and modification. They understand it is a different era. I realize they are using the tools that are available to them. They need to understand they didn’t create the mess and that needs to be made clear. The lack of trust goes well beyond a decade. Anyone who feels intimidated is hesitant to participate.

What has transpired to date is sad and those who question issues become targets for harassment and violations. There is plenty of documented proof going back to at least 2008 that supports it. People are selling their homes because they are fed up.

As for me, I have stayed silent, but be assured I have been paying attention. I have been told to move several times. I will move when I’m good and ready.

Hopefully, the residents will finally make a stand and stop the nonsense. If rules are that important, all the time and money involved for the effort, you would think it would favor the whole community and just not a select few.

Until that happens it’s just another deed-restricted debacle.