LETTER TO MY NEIGHBORS

The Estates at River Crossing Homeowners Association of Valrico


 

October 14, 2004

 

George C. Gould

Valrico, FL

Dear Fellow Homeowners and Residents of the Estates at River Crossing:

I am writing this letter to provide you with news I think you need to know prior to attending the annual membership meeting on Tuesday, October 19, 2004.

I apologize for having to be the bearer of bad news but on Sunday, October 17, 2004, the Tampa Tribune is scheduled to run an article that may very well have an adverse impact on property values in the Estates at River Crossing.   I also regret to inform you that I am the one who invited this article to be written.

The Tampa Tribune article is a new front in a war that has waged since almost the first day my family and I moved in.  I didn’t start this war and I most certainly didn’t want this war.  The Board of Directors of the Estates at River Crossing Homeowners’ Association, specifically Adam Roth, the president of the board, and Rick Pitrowski, a.k.a. Communities of America, Inc., the “community manager” started this war. 

Until now this has been a one-sided, one-front war with Roth and Pitrowski and their attorneys, Becker & Poliakoff, on the offensive.   I have made every attempt to appease Roth and Pitrowski and to accommodate them but to no avail.   Now they have crossed the line to where I have no choice but to fight back and seize the initiative.  It is my sincerest regret that you will now be caught in the crossfire.

As is often the case, this war is, on the surface, about very petty issues; but, as you will see, there are more serious principles that underlie the war.

You see, in your name and mine, the Estates at River Crossing Homeowners’ Association (of which we are all members by virtue of living here) has brought a lawsuit against my wife and me.  The lawsuit alleges that we don’t maintain our lawn and that we planted a flowerbed without prior permission, both of which are false.  I’ve provided a full explanation of the suit and my response to it as an attachment to this letter for those who want to know the details.

Pretty petty, right?   If the allegations were true and were the summation of the whole story, I would agree with you wholeheartedly and would plead guilty as charged.  Case closed.  War over.

But guess what!   You did know that nothing is that simple, didn’t you?

Adam Roth and Rick Pitrowski know the allegations are false.  They know that they are already on thin ice when it comes to forcing compliance with the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CC&R) because they selectively enforce them.  They know that if they had filed this lawsuit a little over a week later, they would have been compelled by state law to petition for mediation.

This lawsuit is about neither my lawn nor flowers nor the CC&R.  My wife and I have expended considerable time, effort and money in improving the functionality and appearance of our property.  After all, who has more incentive to maintain the property?  We have a large capital investment in it. 

This is about power and the abuse of power. This is about Adam Roth and Rick Pitrowski refusing to allow any member to question, as I did, their selective enforcement of the CC&R (see the discussion on basketball hoops in the endnotes) and the need for the home owners of Estates at River Crossing, (we have only 179 homes), to pay $1,100 a month (over 1/3 of the association’s budget) for a “professional” community manager.  Their response to the second question was most instructive.  They said that we needed a manager to “hold the homeowners and residents ACCOUNTABLE!  Since when are the governed to be held accountable to and by the governors?  Somewhere along the line I must have missed something in my civics classes.

This is about a fence that is in full compliance with the CC&R, but which Adam Roth doesn’t like for “aesthetic” reasons of his own.   In an effort to be neighborly, we moved the fence once at Roth’s and Pitrowski’s request at a cost of several hundred dollars to ourselves, but that wasn’t good enough for Roth.

This is about my asking who is the treasurer of the association.  It’s not listed anywhere and the only person I saw discussing financial matters at a board meeting was Pitrowski.  Isn’t it a conflict of interest, or at least give the appearance of impropriety, for a person who is paid from the dues you and I pay to the association to be the one holding the purse and keeping the financial records?

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Ultimately, lawsuits like this are about intimidation.  They single out, isolate, and attempt to intimidate homeowners who, when they say jump, don’t ask, “how high?”  They think people lack either the resources or the will to fight back.  After all, they’re playing with our money.  We have to use our own.  They’ve done it to others and they thought they could do it to me. They were wrong.

Ours is a civic-minded family.  I was an infantryman in Vietnam and spent twenty-five years on active duty in the military as an enlisted man and commissioned officer.  Kathy has worked extensively with the developmentally disabled.  Our children are all college graduates or soon will be.  One of our daughters is a teacher with the Hillsborough County School District; the other, an entrepreneur in Baltimore, Maryland. Our twin sons are seniors at the University of South Florida and are volunteer firefighters with Hillsborough County Fire and Rescue. 

As a retired military family we are well aware of rules and regulations.  We question neither the existence nor the necessity of rules and regulations.  We also know, however, that rules and regulations do not build communities.  Communities are built upon trust and neighbors caring about the welfare of neighbors. 

Trust is built on the accountability of the governors to the governed.  To have legitimacy, rules and regulations must be enforced fairly and consistently throughout the community.  Those who are responsible for enforcing those rules and regulations have a duty to not use their offices for purposes of personal gain or the furtherance of personal agendas.   They must religiously avoid even the appearance of impropriety. 

Neighbors caring about the welfare of neighbors?  That is an idea that obviously has no currency with the Board of Directors or the community manager, who of course, is not a neighbor.