C. Current Years (2005-2015)
I - IRS
The POA has continuously kept residents updated about the VCCDD's ongoing dispute with the IRS. A short summary follows:
- In January of 2008, the Village Center Community Development District (VCCDD) received an inquiry and a request for documents from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) pertaining to the VCCDD's (and later SLCDD's) bonds issued for the purchase of Amenity Contracts/facilities. The IRS challenged their tax exempt status and had three areas of concern regarding the VCCDD's bonds.
- First, since 2008, the IRS has taken the position that the VCCDD was not a political subdivision eligible to issue tax exempt bonds.
Is the Village Center Community Development District, the Issuer of the Bonds under investigation, a qualified issuer of tax exempt bonds?
The VCCDD's position has been clear since the beginning - "If the IRS wants to change how a political subdivision is determined, the new definition should be applied prospectively and not retrospectively." The VCCDD won this challenge as the IRS agreed to not apply their new "definition" retroactively.
- Second, the IRS took the position that the District paid an amount in excess of the value of what was purchased.
Did the Series 2003 Facilities acquisition price reflect the fair market value of the assets? Was the Bond Issue properly sized to carry out the government purpose of the Bonds? How does the Developer's control over the District's governing board and the related party aspects of this relationship impact the use and/or allocation of Bond proceeds to a governmental purpose or an essential government function?
After years of analysis and review of this issue, the VCCDD attorneys claimed that the IRS analysis was flawed and that when errors were corrected, the price paid was actually in the best interest of the District. (The IRS has not made any further claims regarding this issue.)
- Lastly, the IRS took the position that the bonds were private activity bonds and there- fore did not qualify to be tax-exempt.
Were the Bond proceeds used for an essential governmental function or do the nature of the Facilities acquired with the Bonds result in private business use, and hence the Bonds are Private Activity Bonds? The IRS has never responded to the VCCDD response to this allegation which was submitted last March until the current settlement offer.
- At the November 12 VCCDD Board meeting, Supervisor Moyer (the District's "liaison" on the IRS challenges) advised the Board that legal research suggested that it could prevail if it wanted to reject the IRS $1.5M settlement offer and fight to the end. He advised that even though the VCCDD attorneys believe they have a strong case, it would then likely go through the IRS appeal process, another costly process estimated to be about $300,000.
- The VCCDD Board voted unanimously to make a $300,000 counter offer (the approximate cost of an appeal). Supervisor Moyer will present the VCCDD results to the Sumter Landing CDD as it has a potential impact on that board.
II - COMMUNITY ISSUES
- Several live oak trees were illegally cut down with no one taking responsibility. The POA offered a solution: all residents in that neighborhood would have to share the cost of replacing 12 trees at a cost of approximately $50,000 unless someone (preferably the perpetrators) come forward (announced or unannounced) to pay for the replacement. Someone did come forward anonymously and the case was closed.
- Suddenly, a golf cart trail on Developer's owned property between Paradise Drive and The Villages Health System East Campus was blocked by a wall cutting off this path and leaving some residents on the wrong side with no way to get past. After much discussion, the wall was removed.
III - HEALTH CARE ISSUES
- The POA lead the opposition to the 2005 proposed Sumter County Hospital Tax which would have taxed Sumter County residents $200 - $300 per home for use by our hospital and would also give 20% of the tax off the top to the developer's foundation. It was defeated.
- The POA assisted in bringing to light care issues at the hospital which resulted in LRMC hiring a new CEO, new ER Director, dedicating more staff and resources to the ER, and bringing three Villagers to sit on the TVRH Board.
IV - PRODUCT RELIABILITY AND WARRANTY
- Sloppy work and installation procedures characterized the building effort of SOME OF the contractors for homes in the Villages south of Highway #466 in the 2005 - 2008 time period. A POA sponsored committee inspected the vinyl siding on over 1500 houses in the Villages and worked with contractors to replace the vinyl siding on many of these homes.
- The developer tried to force a $168,000 repair bill on the residents of CDD#4 to repair a sinkhole on his Nancy Lopez golf course. Although he eventually paid the bill, the developer cited a mistake by his and VCCDD attorneys who failed to complete the necessary paperwork to formalize the requirement that residents pay. Had this paperwork been completed properly, residents would have been stuck with the bill.
- The Villages is part of the Lightning Capital of the United States. The POA lead an initiative that history shows well over a century of experience demonstrates that lightening protection systems are effective in mitigating the potential disastrous effects of lightening provided that they are designed, installed, and maintained in accordance with the national standard on lightening.
- POA discussions demonstrated that the Free Wind Mitigation program would reduce home insurance bills for homes in The Villages which meet certain requirements for sturdy home construction. Many residents benefited from those inspections and reductions in their homeowners insurance.
- The POA was in the forefront in advocating action on defective roof shingles purchased from Owens Corning. This action continued for SEVERAL years prior to all the problems being resolved.
- In response to complaints of loss of Freon in the underground copper tubing lines of some air conditioning systems, the POA, in conjunction with contractors found the problems attributable to a number of factors including poor copper piping, bending of pipes to go underground, and bad welds.
- There have been issues with cell phone reception in some homes and in some areas of the Villages thought to be caused by lack of cell towers. In working with the companies, the POA has made limited progress with some companies involved.
- The POA brought to the attention of residents a voluntary recall of GE dishwashers because an electrical failure in the dishwasher's heating element could pose a fire hazard. Those involved were able to obtain a replacement.
- The POA has established a committee to research the possibility of a self-insured fund of interested homeowners to cover the expense of sinkhole losses that are not catastrophic and thus not covered under their homeowner's insurance policy.
V - LEGAL
The Lawsuit Settlement - 2004-2008
- We started a Legal Action Fund to give us the flexibility to pursue legal actions when necessary. Villagers made generous contributions. The Fund was a critical resource in 2007 and 2008 when it was used to pay some of the legal expenses in the 2008 Lawsuit settlement with the developer. Villagers achieved a friendly class action lawsuit settlement with the developer in 2008 valued at $43 million. The key points of the settlement were: Provision for Reserve funds for eventual repair and replacement of our facilities north of Hwy. 466; provision for renovation of the recreation trails north of Hwy 446; creation of the AAC (Amenity Authority Committee) which allows residents elected by residents to make decisions about the expenditure of amenity funds north of Hwy. 466; and payoff of the Paradise Recreation Center renovation debt.
- The POA feels strongly that the Chapter 190 Florida Statute law that created Community Development Districts (CDDs) should be reformed to eliminate abuses that we see here in The Villages. Specifically, we think that residents should be able to elect the supervisors in the Central Districts (the VCCDD and the SLCCD). These are the supervisors who make all the big money decisions in The Villages - and they are effectively appointed by the developer of The Villages. Residents have no say in these matters. This is like Taxation Without Representation. The POA is working to change the Chapter 190 law.
- The District Manager thought it was unnecessary to publish the financial details of the two Center Districts, the VCCDD and the SLCDD. Prior to then the District Manager said that it was not important to provide that information to residents. Thankfully, the Center Districts now routinely publishes this information and includes it on their website (www.districtgov.org.
- Some residents opt to pay off the bond on their home in full. For a time there was a miscalculation of the interest due at the time of payoff. Those making payments were being charged interest for the year (TO THE END OF THE YEAR?) following payment due to this error. The POA obtained a list of affected residents and former residents to advise them of this overcharge.
VI - DEVELOPER/SLCDD ISSUES
The Paradise Center
This recreation center on the east side of Highway 441/27 was deteriorating and an absolute disgrace. It was termite and rat infested, raccoons lived in the ceiling, mold was growing in many places, wallboard and ceilings were falling down, floors were bouncy, furniture was decrepit, and the VCCDD supervisors were almost oblivious to the pleas of residents to renovate. The POA campaigned strongly with Bulletin stories, a survey of residents, and strong advocacy in VCCDD meetings. The VCCDD eventually decided to proceed with a smaller-scale renovation than advocated by the POA, but, nevertheless, suitable. Today, the Paradise Center is beautiful.
ParadesVillage residents enjoyed parades to celebrate their favorite holidays for years. The Developer decided to discontinue these parades. As a response, the POA drafted a petition stating: we cannot understand your reasons for cancellation and we strongly suggest that you make these reasons public. With no response, the POA stepped forward and sponsored the effort to continue the parades.
VII - LOCAL GOVERNMENT
Passing One Sumter was one of the most beneficial voter's actions in years. It returned the county to its original roots wherein all county residents got to vote for all the county commissioners. The result is evident. Commissioner cooperation exists again and each district has its votes magnified fivefold for the good of the county as a whole. Taxes have been reduced, self-serving projects were reduced, canals dredged, wasteful items eliminated, and everyone benefited.
VIII - POA DEVELOPMENTS
- The POA developed a Special Discount Program for POA members sponsored by various Discount Partners in The Villages and the surrounding central Florida area.
- The POA took the initiative to review the causes and outcomes of golf cart accidents. Utilizing this information, the POA promoted the idea of golf cart installing seat belts.
IX - CULTURAL
See Mid Years (1996-2004)