Landings - Government

by Eagle Staff

EDITOR’S NOTE: This series of articles, run in The Eagle  in 2002 and 2003 details the complex governing system in The Landings.  Thanks to Bob Greenfield for his legal expertise and editing assistance on this series.

Basic Structure

When you move to any state in the Union you are agreeing to live under the constitution of that state and its various statutes, rules and regulations, and those of the county and city in which you will live.

Similarly, buying into a condo, co-op, or deed restricted community you also buy into a package of rules, regulations, restrictions and covenants governing you and your property.

That “package” consists of multiple elements, typically:

The Covenants: A document created by the original developer and intended to set forth how the property will be developed and used, and basic restrictions upon the ownership of the residential units. .

The Articles of Incorporation of the Association: The document creating the body that will administer the completed property. Generally this body is dominated by the developer until such time as the developer completes work and pulls out of the community, when the members of the Association take over the responsibilities of management.

The By-Laws of the Association: The document setting up the specifics by which the Association will operate,

Amendments Each of the above can contain one or more amendments adding to, deleting or altering provisions of the documents. Amendments may also be used to add additional “geography,” i.e. property, to the original plan.

With these documents in place the Association Board becomes the governing body of the Association.

Every Landings property owner is subject to at least two such packages of the basic documents, to the governing bodies which administer and enforce them and to any rules and regulations adopted by the boards of those associations.

The Landings Management Association (LMA) is the umbrella organization. Its functions include the common areas, roads, boundary walls, Landings security, the entry/exit gates, lakes, Nature Trail, the Eagle Preserve, drainage, and street lighting, signage, and maintenance. Every property owner belongs to this association. Board adopted Rules and Regulations are published in the "Resident's Handbook" (the little GreenBook).

Your individual residence association: There are nineteen of these. We all belong to at least one of them. The Landings Homeowners Association encompasses 217 individual freestanding homes, and 10 freestanding homes comprise the Landings Cloisters Homeowners Association. Seventeen others are condominium associations, which include townhouses, villas, duplexes and high rise apartments. The smallest of them contains four residences in two buildings on Eagles Point.

If you are a member of the Landings Racquet Club, your membership is governed by its Covenants, Articles of Incorporation, By Laws and the rules and regulations adopted by its Board of Directors. All condo owners in Landings South are mandatory members of the Club, free of any initiation fee. All other Landings owners have the option of joining the Club upon payment of its initiation fee.

To further complicate matters, the members of the condo associations on Eagles Point Circle are also members of an umbrella association for Eagles Point. It serves the common interests of the high rises and other properties in that enclave.

One Bayview resident lamented paying assessments to the LMA, The Bayview Association, The Eagles Point Circle Association, and The Landings Racquet Club.

Landings government structure is more complicated than most planned communities.

The LMA and most of the individual associations have both an elected board and professional management who deal with financial compliance, meeting state regulations governing associations of home and condo owners.

On pages D-1 and D-2 of the "Resident's Handbook" you can find the name of each association and the elected president.

Associations vary only slightly in responsibilities and function. To understand the exact role of your association ,you should reference their covenants, articles of incorporation, by-laws and rules and regulations, copies of which you should have received when purchasing your property.

Many documents for the Landings Management Association and the Landings Homeowners association are available at www.LandingsEagle.com.

Other associations have not made them available to the Eagle. We’d be happy to assist in getting them posted, on request.

EDITOR’S NOTE: In the next issue we will examine the representation and voting structure within of Landings government..

Landings  Government

Representation & Voting

As reported last month residence owners in the Landings can fall under the purview of up to four “associations."

Everyone falls under the Landings Management Association (LMA) and under one of 20 condo or homeowner associations. Racquet Club (LRC) members fall under the Landings Racquet Club documents. Eagle’s Point residents fall under an additional association containing all Eagle’s Point owners. This article deals only with the LMA and residents' associations, not the Racquet Club.

Each association has its own documents governing its operation. We’ll deal here specifically with LMA, and more generally with condo and homeowner associations. They will differ in detail and owners are advised to check documents for their specific association.

Florida statutes and federal regulation also affect association rules and may, in fact, preempt certain of them.

The State regulations are designed to protect the interests and rights of individual members. For example, all meetings except specific types with legal counsel, are open to all members of the association. A meeting is considered a meeting when a quorum gathers. Meetings must be announced in advance, guided by the statutes and specifics of the association documents. Members, may also record the meetings subject only to reasonable guidelines established by the boards. (Links to the Florida Statutes are available at www.LandingsEagle.com under the heading “Legal Documents.”)

 Federal regulation, on occasion, preempts local rules. For example, Landings Covenants prohibit outside receiving antennas. But Federal regulations, designed to encourage competition in delivery of mass communications, override that prohibition as long as antennas meet certain specifications.

Landings Management Association: The Board has nine Directors, as specified in the Bylaws. It is not required that Directors be actual members of the Association, nor must they be Florida residents. It is also not required that officers, other than the president, be board members. These seemingly unusual provisions are carry-overs from the period when the original developer controlled the Board. Currently all directors and officers are residents.

As the result of a 1991 amendment, Board members serve two years. Board members are not elected directly by individual resident owners. They are elected at the annual membership meeting by plurality vote of residence representatives.

“Residence representatives” are the presidents of the individual condo/homeowner associations or their designated representatives. The number of votes cast by each representative is based on the number of residences in the association represented by her/him.  The total number of votes available for each candidate is 702. (Association details, including number of votes each, can be found under “The Associations” heading at www.LandingsEagle.com.)

 As reported in the first edition of the new Eagle, at the last annual membership meeting, the LMA president, holding proxies given to him by the resident associations, cast most of the votes. Only a few association presidents were actually in attendance. At that meeting nominations for the Board were also invited from the floor. None were made. (The next in this Eagle series will deal with “running for office.”)

 All LMA business, including amendment of its By-Laws is by majority vote of the LMA Board.

Committees may be appointed and function at the will of the Board.

 While voting at the LMA annual meeting is delegated to the association representatives, it is a membership meeting and all Landings property owners are entitled to attend. The monthly meetings of the LMA Board of Directors are open to all members.   Comments by attendees are welcomed, but the Board requests advance notice to the President so that he may schedule such comments.

 The Neighborhood Association: Twenty neighborhood associations serve different segments of the 702 households of the Landings. It is not possible to detail the operation of each. There are some generalities that apply to all or most of them.

They are run by boards of directors nominated and elected by the vote of the members at annual membership meetings.  The directors elect the officers.   When a vacancy occurs during a director's term, the remaining directors appoint a replacement. 

 The board is responsible for carrying out the duties detailed in the association's documents. It may use committees, committee chairs and officers to make recommendations and execute its decisions.  It may also engage professional property management or individual employees to provide needed services. 

 The functions of the board are fundamentally the same for all condo associations.  They deal with budgeting, maintaining the common areas, landscaping, and owner issues that arise from time to time.  There are differences dictated by the architecture of the individual associations.  For example, Eagles Point associations have only minor landscape maintenance, but have elevator and other mid-rise building maintenance responsibilities

 Villa and townhouse residences require more attention to landscaping, more diverse exterior maintenance, and, for the older ones, the occasional, but expensive necessity to repair or replace multiple roofs, driveways and parking areas.

 The Homeowners Association (LHA), one of neighborhood associations, has no common area requiring association maintenance. But, it is charged with architectural oversight of its members' single-family residences. The charge is to “enforce restrictions wherever applicable and appropriate” and “protect and preserve the quality” of the subdivision. This charge requires dealing with applications for homeowner exterior additions, alterations, noticeable modifications and landscaping, all of which must be brought before the LHA Board. This responsibility also requires the Board and its assigned committees to deal with violations, alleged violations and complaints made by one owner about another’s property.

 Serving on these various boards does present the occasional awkward problem of neighbors judging neighbors on issues ranging from defining “nuisance,” the choice of color for a new roof or the care with which trees are trimmed. With Florida statutes requiring operation in the “sunshine” and secret ballots prohibited except when voting for officers, service to the neighborhood association is not always a pleasant task.

 Attending meetings is, of course, a requirement of board and committee service. But most the members who serve will tell you the greatest burden of the job is taking phone calls.

People call when they know what they want and to whom they should speak; they call when they don’t know what they want and have no notion of to whom to talk. They call with ideas, practical and logical and impractical and illogical. Sorting them out with patience and understanding goes with the territory.

It is valuable for some members of a board to have budgeting and finance experience, especially those boards that deal with building and grounds maintenance. Long term planning for major repairs like roofs, can save association membership unexpected assessments. Some associations hire management companies to assist in daily administration of the association; others don’t. Those companies, published in last month’s Eagle, are posted at www.LandingsEagle.com.

 The smooth operation of Landings government depends on the volunteer participation of its residents.

Landings  Government

Running for and Serving in Office

Association Board elections have either just taken place or will within the next month or so throughout most of The Landings.

There are 22 different associations including the Racquet Club and the Landings Management Association  (of which all property owners are members) plus individual condominium associations or homeowners associations.

Last month The Eagle suggested there are plenty of opportunities to serve on boards, committees and associations.  In all cases checking the by-laws or covenants of the appropriate board is the place to start. This is especially important with condo associations. They are regulated by documents that can vary from organization to organization.  Condominiums are governed by a state law more complex and restrictive than the LHA and  the LMA.  (Both laws are accessible through www.LandingsEagle.com.)

The two organizations representing the largest constituency have their elections this month.  The Landings Management Association (LMA) holds elections February 6 at 7:00pm and the Landings Homeowners Association February 20 at 7:00pm.

Two interesting anomalies make these two elections wide open until the moment of the vote. Florida state law reads:  a member may nominate himself or herself as a candidate for the board at a meeting where the election is to be held.  In other words you can show up at the meeting, nominate yourself and be included in the voting.    Since both organizations’ covenants were written for the benefit of long departed developers, you need not be a homeowner or even a resident of The Landings to run for a position on either board.  These rules do not apply to condo associations.

Showing up and nominating yourself is not the recommended method of seeking office.

After discussion with past and present board members and observation of boards here are some tips, better executed over a period of time, for getting elected or appointed to the board of your choice:

·  Attend the meetings and observe how your association operates

·  Get to know current board members.

·  Show intelligent interest in board’s activities.

·  Be constructive, not destructive.

·  Resignations, therefore vacancies, occur throughout the year.  These are filled by nominations from the existing board.  Make it known you’d be willing accept an appointment.

·  There are likely not lines of people wanting to serve. Your willingness to serve will probably be very welcome.

·  Be knowledgeable about the covenants, by-laws and rules and regs governing your association of choice.

·  If paperwork is required, find out what it is and submit it in a timely fashion.

Of  Offer to serve on a committee prior to running for office.  You get to know the board and more of your constituents; they get to know you.

The amount of work and frustration board membership brings depends entirely on the nature and personality of the board.  The greatest frustration seems to come from constituent phone calls.  Some callers aren’t sure which board they should be calling.   Some callers are rational and precise, others emotional and confused. Since these are your neighbors reasonable patience is, of course, required.

Some boards and committees deal with sensitive issues like architectural change approvals and regulation enforcement.  There can be awkward moments when you deliberate or vote against a neighbor’s wishes.

By law, meeting deliberations are held in public and are open to association members.   Open meeting provisions also apply to some committees “or other similar body, when a final decision will be made regarding the expenditure of association funds, and to any body vested with the power to approve or disapprove architectural decisions with respect to a specific parcel of residential property owned by a member of the community.” (Florida Statute 720.303 )  These provisions make your vote known to all, except in the case of elections, which may be held by secret ballot.

Most, but not all, of the associations in the Landings are guided by professional management companies.  They seem to ease some of the burden in the planning and decision making process.  They can also ease the pain in notifying residents of rules violations since the notification comes from an outside company rather than a board of the violator’s peers.  Final decisions, however,  still rest with the elected board.

Outside management companies can be especially useful in easing board member’s phone burdens.   Residents are urged to call the management association with initial requests for information, as well as maintenance issues.

Hopefully the rewards of guiding your association, making decisions for the betterment of the community  and making the Landings a better place to live outweigh the occasional hassle.

Consider running for office.