Article Courtesy of The
By Mike Ferguson
Published August 6, 2017
POINCIANA — Controversy and Association of Poinciana Villages elections tend to
go hand in hand. That trend continued late into Tuesday night.
All of the results were not in by deadline Tuesday, but the results for Village
One were nullified because fewer than 10 percent of the homeowners in the
community voted. As a result, the board members who held office prior to
February’s voided election will serve another three-year term.
“It looks like we’re definitely going to
be filing some more litigation,” said Keith Laytham, a
spokesperson for Friends of Poinciana Villages, a civic
group that supports homeowners. “We turned out 564 voters,
which is more than we’ve ever had since I showed up in
Laura Burns, a spokeswoman for APV, said that because a
quorum was not reached, the numbers will not be released for
the 564 homeowners who showed. That was 33 below the
required threshold, she said. The number of homeowners who
voted Tuesday exceeded the total number of votes from
February (562), even when developer votes are added. Two
hundred fifty-two of the votes in February came from Avatar
and 200 more came from the Canadian investment company,
“For them to do this is preposterous,” Laytham said. “It
could be somewhere deep down in bowels of the paperwork, but
when we were bringing 200 people out, they were happy with
that. They’re the sleaziest characters I have ever dealt
with. This is absolutely ridiculous.”
Tuesday’s election was held after the
results of the Feb. 14 election were voided by arbitrator
Terri Leigh Jones in a case filed by Martin Negron, a
resident and Village Seven board candidate, against APV.
Jones ruled on July 12 that APV was “capricious” in the way
that it counted votes for developer Avatar and added that
could have suppressed the voter turnout.
Friends of Poinciana Villages members and candidates,
from left, Annette Brown-Best, Kimberly Lynch, Victor Destremps and
Rudy Vyfhuis hand out information at the Poinciana Community Center
during Tuesday's election.
“I have never ever seen this enthusiasm for an HOA election,” Laytham said.
“It’s a long fight, and it has cost our people more than $70,000 in legal
APV is one of the nation’s largest homeowners associations, consisting of
almost 27,000 residents and spans parts of Polk and Osceola counties. The
community is broken into nine villages, each represented by a five-member
board. Each board selects one member to serve on the nine-member APV master
board. Elections were held Tuesday for Villages One, Two, Three, Five, Seven
According to the APV bylaws, property owners are given one vote per seat
open for the village in which he or she lives. For unowned or undeveloped
parcels, Avatar is granted a vote for every lot on which a house could be
built. Laytham said Avatar should have about 500 votes to cast, but was
given more than 10,000 during the last election.
Tom Slaten, a lawyer for APV, said the process for the election was never in
question. The only qualm residents had expressed in arbitration, he said,
was the vote count, which was set during arbitration. Slaten was unable to
give maximum vote allotments for the developer.
“There was no question about the process,” Slaten said. “We haven’t changed
any of the processes. It’s transparent. It’s on video tape.”
The complaint put forth by Negron and shared by other members of the
community is that Avatar exaggerates its vote count by claiming that more
houses can be built on certain parcels than permitted in land-use
regulations and that the developer claims votes for parcels on wetlands and
other areas designated for conservation.
Friends of Poinciana Villages candidates and sympathizers were encouraged by
the turnout, but they were not pleased with the way APV had conducted the
election even prior to the results. Jesus Gonzalez, a Village Three
candidate, said Tuesday’s election was not well advertised or mentioned in
the community newsletter.
Annette Brown-Best, who is part of a lawsuit against APV on similar
complaints, said the boxes on the ballot were so small that they almost
looked filled in. Brown-Best also said a homeowner with five properties in
one village was only given one ballot for the village and someone wrote a
“5” in the corner. Brown-Best questioned whether the votes would be counted
as five as they should.
“It’s so convoluted,” Brown-Best said. “The people are coming out because
they’re fed up. We’re probably going back to court.”
In total, 20 seats were up for election. Winners in Village Two were
Fairhomes director Felix Gratopp, Avatar property manager Dan Young and
The next master board meeting is Aug. 15, Slaten said. Each village is
expected to appoint a master board member by then.