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Idyllic Twin Lakes neighborhood copes with questions

VALRICO — The residents of Twin Lakes enjoy a 15-acre park, fish-stocked lakes, private tennis courts and a community swimming pool.

Driveways with basketball hoops separate manicured lawns. Drivers slow down for morning joggers, kids riding their bikes and ducks waddling about in packs. Mothers bring their toddlers to Zeina Park, near the entrance and shaded by giant trees.

The idyllic subdivision existed largely in suburban anonymity until a Sept. 26 shooting shattered the peace, leaving veteran David James dead, neighbor Trevor Dooley facing a manslaughter charge and a community reeling with questions about Twin Lakes.

Here are some answers:

What was the dispute that led to David James' shooting?

David James was playing basketball with his 8-year-old daughter when a skateboarder showed up and asked whether he could share the court. James said yes, but Trevor Dooley, who lived across the street, came outside and told the skateboarder he had to leave.

Dooley pointed out a sign at the edge of the court that says trespassers, including skateboarders, are prohibited. James questioned Dooley about a gun he had in his pants, and the two got into a physical confrontation. The gun fired, killing James and leaving the neighborhood in shock.

Why do the kids skateboard on the basketball court if it's not allowed?

Twin Lakes kids who regularly skateboard in the community say there's nowhere else for them to go. One of the skaters, 16-year-old Bill Myers, has been working on a petition to build a skate park at Twin Lakes since before James died. Although some neighbors have voiced support, they said the community's homeowners association board hasn't embraced the idea.

Board president David Campbell noted in an e-mail that the board has not been presented with an official petition.

"We run very open meetings and welcome all our residents to participate," Campbell wrote. "I personally do not feel there are any tensions between the HOA and the residents on this matter and as a community we are moving on."

What's the purpose of an HOA?

Homeowners associations maintain and improve the appearance of common areas in subdivisions and enforce rules residents agree to abide by when moving into the subdivision. Twin Lakes has 45 rules, including keeping homes a neutral color and no parking on the grass.

What are typical problems associated with an HOA?

Residents know when they move into an HOA-run community that someone else will make decisions about their own home. They agree to sacrifice a few freedoms in exchange for a nice place to live. Wanda Sloan, Hillsborough County's neighborhood relations coordinator, said most people don't have time to be involved in their HOA. This lack of broad involvement can often result in board members with personal agendas and rebel residents, Sloan said.

Campbell, who is serving his fifth term as Twin Lakes' HOA president, said he's disappointed that more people don't come to the meetings with concerns.

How can an HOA-run community overcome disagreements?

Sloan said her office works directly with HOAs to provide improvement project grants, resolve disputes and offer training to help select board members. Sloan has seen ugly disagreements turn around when neighbors work collectively on something.

"When neighbors get together for something like a tree-planting project, and they really get to know each other, they can see one another's point of view, and at least agree to disagree," she said.

Campbell highlighted the HOA's accomplishments, including improvements to Zeina Park and playground areas.

Sarah Whitman can be reached at (813) 661-2439 or Kim Wilmath can be reached at (813) 661-2446. Times staff writer Nandini Jayakrishna contributed to this story.

Idyllic Twin Lakes neighborhood copes with questions 11/18/10 [Last modified: Thursday, November 18, 2010 3:30am]
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