of The Villages News
By Scott Fenstermaker
Published November 11 , 2018
As I said in a pre-election Opinion piece: I would like to
acknowledge that the Developer has done a wonderful job in developing The
Villages. It is a great place to live. In fact, most of the time, the
Developer’s interests coincide with those of the residents. But there are
instances when they conflict.
Over the years, there have been several such conflicts. The most notorious
occurred about a decade ago, when our amenity facilities started to deteriorate
(rats in the Paradise Recreation Center, etc.) In a nutshell, that deterioration
occurred because the Developer had overcharged the commercial Community
Development District, which the Developer controls, for the amenity facilities
that the Developer sold it and thereby had left the CDD financially unable to
maintain the facilities. That situation led to a Property Owners’
Association-backed class action suit, which was settled with the Developer
agreeing to pay $40 million to keep the amenity system intact.
In most communities, when there is a conflict of interest between residents and
a Developer and where the residents are being wronged, the residents could
expect support from the local newspaper, local government officials, and their
homeowners’ association. But The Villages is not like most communities. The
Daily Sun will never help us, since it is owned by the Developer; the local
government officials from the county on up are beholding to the Developer as a
major donor; and our homeowners’ association is weakened by being split into two
groups. One of these groups is the POA, which as indicated above, has
consistently backed the residents in disputes with the Developer. The second
group is the VHA (misleadingly called The Villages Homeowners Advocate), which
was established with the collaboration of the Developer and which consistently
supports the Developer.
One area where the Developer had not, until now, asserted his financial power,
and which has therefore remained independent of Developer control, are the
residential CDDs. Traditionally, the campaigns for those elections have been
low-cost affairs, with the candidates for supervisor handing out fliers at the
postal stations. However, prior to the recent election, villages-news.com
exposed the fact (not reported in the Daily Sun) that the Developer had,
apparently for the first time, injected himself into the residential-CDD
elections by bankrolling a candidate, Patricia Francis, to the tune of $2,000,
in the CDD 6 race.
I do not know Ms. Francis or her opponent, Andrew Curtis. Both candidates seemed
qualified. However, Mr. Curtis serves on the board of, and was endorsed by, the
Property Owners’ Association. A cynic might suspect that that is why the
Developer, who is not known for throwing his own money down the drain,
bankrolled Ms. Francis’ campaign.
I don’t live CDD 6, but all Villagers had an interest in that race because of
the Developer’s meddling. Now the election is over, and Mr. Curtis won a
landslide victory. The voters’ overwhelming defeat of the Developer-bankrolled
candidate teaches two lessons:
• The first lesson is a lesson to the Developer: Stay the hell out of elections
in all the residential Districts.
• The second lesson is a lesson to residential-CDD candidates: Do not compromise
your independence and integrity by accepting the Developer’s money.
Scott Fenstermaker is a resident of the Village of Winifred and a frequent
contributor to Villages-News.com