Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Area HOAs Divided on Control vs. State Laws; Some Homeowners Want a Say in Building and Will Abide by Sunshine Rules to Keep It

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Area HOAs Divided on Control vs. State Laws; Some Homeowners Want a Say in Building and Will Abide by Sunshine Rules to Keep It

Article excerpt

Byline: SHAKAYA ANDRES

Several Ponte Vedra Beach-area homeowner associations want to continue ruling on building applications in their communities - and abiding by Florida's Sunshine Laws as a condition of that.

But others want to curtail their influence on the applications so they can limit their exposure under the open records and meetings laws.

After months of working on the issue, St. Johns County Attorney Patrick McCormack said this week that his office is still accepting feedback from communities in hopes of coming up with county rules for homeowner associations complying with the Sunshine Laws.

"We are consolidating the HOA [homeowner association] preferences and are making some minor revisions on the ordinance," he said. "We will be scheduling a workshop for the [County Commission] so they can get an overview and provide direction to the overall plan."

McCormack wouldn't provide details about the ordinance revisions to date.

But he said last week that Sawgrass County Club, Sawgrass Players Club, Sea Hawk III and Seaside voted to keep the ordinance as it is: Associations who rule on building applications must comply with the state laws.

And Marsh Landing, Old Palm Valley, Sawmill Lakes and Ponte Vedra Lakes prefer to relinquish some control over building in their communities while getting themselves out from under the laws.

The issue surfaced at a recent Ponte Vedra Beaches Coalition meeting when McCormack said some homeowner associations' architectural review committees were violating the Sunshine Laws. Some associations were not aware of the extent of the laws or the penalties for breaking them, he said.

"I have one or more items referred to me by the State Attorney's Office pertaining to [homeowner associations] and Sunshine Laws alleged violations," he said.

Some homeowner associations, as part of their covenants, decide to issue building permits in their community. But not all associations make a ruling; instead they leave that to the county. However, the ones who make the rulings themselves must comply with the Sunshine Laws, officials said. …

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