Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Sleepy CDD races are waking up

On the day they filed to run for board seats in the Cory Lake Isles Community Development District, three candidates issued a joint press release, complete with an image of the U.S. Capitol and an acronym, SMART.

Soon, three opponents retaliated in kind.

Now, the dueling trios are planning neighborhood gatherings, waves of fliers and the kind of competition common to City Council races.

All to govern the taxing district in their neighborhood, a job that in other places can sit vacant for lack of volunteers.

When filing closed on June 20, for example, CDDs in Tampa Palms and Arbor Greene had automatically filled three seats apiece with candidates who filed unopposed. In Lutz's Cheval West, both incumbents were instantly re-elected.

Meanwhile, there is a mix of interest in New Tampa's Heritage Isles and Lutz's Heritage Harbor, two neighborhoods with similar problems and, well, heritages.

In Heritage Harbor, a spate of CDD resignations triggered a newsletter appeal last spring for fresh faces to get involved. Now, three seats are contested.

The president of the Heritage Isles CDD, Steve Stark, was re-elected for lack of an opponent, but the other two incumbents have challengers.

As in Cory Lake, its neighbor to the south, the Heritage Isles election is shaping up as challengers allied against incumbents.

But the Heritage Isles rivalries are genteel.

Incumbent William Martello says of his opponent: "If she beats me in the election, I would not be displeased."

The Cory Lakes races are intense.

Says David Burman, a challenger, "While concerned home­owners have given extensive feedback about management of the Cory Lake community, the sitting board headed by the developer remains unwilling to take our concerns into account."

Says Suzanne Manzi, an incumbent, "I do not believe that my opponents have the least understanding of how complicated government is."

Cory Lake Isles

The controversial developer of Cory Lake Isles is officially a package of companies, but really an individual, Gene Thomason, who named the place for his son, Cory. For 30 years, Gene Thomason's authority in Cory Lake Isles has been pervasive.

Until now. The three board seats on November's ballots are the first to be controlled by Cory Lake's voters instead of Thomason.

Pressure has been building for change. Last year, eight residents successfully sued Thomason for copies of the CDD's records, which are public under Florida law. Based on those records, a larger group accused Thomason in a new suit last month of spending thousands of home­owner dollars on private purchases.

Now battle lines in the CDD race are following Thomason's shadow. Incumbents Manzi and Roger Brown were appointed to the board with Thomason's approval. David Pardue, their running mate, is a homebuilder who last year became a 50 percent partner with Cory Thomason in an investment company.

The challengers include two of the plaintiffs in the latest suit against Thomason, Kerri Ringhof and Dan Morford, along with Burman. They are emphasizing openness and outreach from the board to homeowners.

"There shouldn't be anyone who has questions go unanswered," Ringhof said. "There shouldn't be anyone who doesn't know where their money is going."

The incumbents emphasize their experience and projects they have begun. Manzi, who worked in municipal government in New Jersey, warns that inexperienced boards can lead their CDDs into red ink.

"There are communities all over Florida that are in danger of going bankrupt," she said.

That irks challenger Morford, who boasts more than 15 years' service on homeowner boards in Virginia and Georgia.

"I promise you beyond a shadow of a doubt that I can step in without missing a beat," Morford said.

Heritage Isles

Thanks to developer Lennar Homes, the Heritage Isles CDD inherited a golf course, country club and restaurant responsible for paying off $4-million in debt.

Both incumbents and challengers agree that's unworkable. And when the country club can't cover the debt payments, Heritage Isles taxpayers must pony up a "reasonable" share of what's owed.

This has put pressure on a succession of country club managers, most recently a team linked to Saddlebrook Resort.

"They have not lived up to the standards that we expected," said William Martello, a CDD incumbent and president of Heritage Isles' homeowner association. Martello believes it's time to ask Lennar for help with the debt.

The two nonincumbents running for the CDD want to force the issue a little harder.

Barbara Adams, head of the community's Neighborhood Watch efforts, wants to default on the debt. Frank Camara wants to go to court to determine what's "reasonable."

The two sides also differ on security. Martello advocates privatizing Heritage Isles' roads so only residents and their guests could enter. That would be expensive but deliver on the expectations residents had when they bought houses there, Martello said.

Camara believes the community should continue building on Neighborhood Watch. Adams isn't sure but worries about the costs of privatizing the streets.

Jack Meehan is the other incumbent.

Heritage Harbor

An older sibling of Heritage Isles, Heritage Harbor in Lutz also has a golf course, country club and a CDD struggling under its debts.

But however November's vote comes out, Heritage Harbor will have a new generation of CDD leaders.

And they're optimistic that the worst is over, with the family that once operated Rocky's golf course restaurant at the University of South Florida now taking over at Heritage Harbor.

Board candidates Anthony Newlin, Richard Gordon and Jeff LaPace are new incumbents, having been appointed to empty seats in the spring. All are businessmen who pledge to keep a close eye on costs and cash flow.

Sajjad Malik, challenging LaPace, said he would like to see the board become more accountable to homeowners, and hold more frequent meetings.

Candidates Shelley Grandon and Matthew Rametta didn't return calls from the Times.

Westchase East

Since 2004, no Westchase CDD race has been contested. It appeared that 2008 would be no different.

Westchase CDD East board member Anthony Sanchez, whose work schedule prompted him to attend most meetings via telephone, announced in May he would not seek re-election.

That assurance — and a desire to return to community-based politics — prompted former Westchase Community Association president Brian Ross to enter the race unopposed on May 14.

Then on June 20, the last day for candidates to seek elected office in Hillsborough, Sanchez flip-flopped.

He said his position as chief financial officer at Ker's WingHouse in Largo was eliminated and he can now attend meetings in person.

He said his being a certified public accountant and his involvement in the annual budget qualifies him to analyze financial reports and "eliminate unnecessary budget requests in an effort to keep tax assessments to the lowest possible level."

Ross, a lawyer with 25 years of experience in real estate issues, believes in cost-effectiveness, too. But he said he would also focus on "any policy that would support our property being at the exceptional level that it should be for a community such as ours.

"The condition of our property is directly related to the property values of our community."

Cheval West

Mary Castro ran for the Cheval West CDD four years ago, and the election produced a tie, 461-461.

She and her opponent, Nathan Whitaker, agreed to draw cards, ace high. Castro picked the three of clubs; Whitaker, the king of hearts.

Now Whitaker is stepping aside and Castro, a member of the homeowners' board when she lived in next-door Cheval East, is trying again.

She'd like to obtain reclaimed water for the 800-home Cheval West, a project she championed in Cheval East.

Castro's opponent, Pat Hosler, moved here four years ago from St. Louis. She wants to maintain property values and "keep Cheval West in the forefront of residential communities."

Tampa Palms Open Space and Transportation

This CDD operates recreation centers in New Tampa's West Meadows and Richmond Place.

Incumbent Rosanne Clementi is being challenged by Martin Maldonado, a retiree who enjoys community service, and by Susanne Alfonso, who couldn't be reached.

Staff writer Rodney Thrash contributed to this article. Bill Coats can be reached at coats@sptimes.com or (813) 269-5309.

Fast facts

Development District candidates Cheval West

Seat 5

Mary Castro, 61, retail sales associate

Pat Hosler, 72, retired telecommunications coordinator

Cory Lake Isles

Seat 1

David Pardue, 45, homebuilder

Kerri Ringhof, 36, technology manager

Seat 2

Roger Brown, 58, medical equipment salesman

David Burman, 70, business owner, educator

Seat 3

Suzanne Manzi, 51, lecture agency manager

Dan Morford, 49, telecommunications business manager

Heritage Harbor

Seat 1

Shelley Grandon, 45

Matthew Rametta, 36

Seat 2

Richard Gordon, 44, commercial lending officer

Anthony Newlin, 37, computer consultant

Seat 3

Jeff LaPace, 41, owner, store equipment business

Sajjad Malik, 54, health insurance

Heritage Isles

Seat 1

Barbara Adams, 72, retired property appraiser

William Martello, 64, real estate agent

Seat 3

Frank Camara, 47, property manager

Jack Meehan, 67, insurance agent

Tampa Palms Open Space & Transportation

Seat 4

Susanne Alfonso, 41

Rosanne Clementi, 55, environmental consultant

Martin Maldonado, 66, retired chemicals salesman

Westchase East

Seat 2

Brian Ross, 50, lawyer

Anthony Sanchez, 40, business recruiter

>>

Sleepy CDD races are waking up 07/24/08 [Last modified: Thursday, July 31, 2008 10:18am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. St. Pete's Downtown Looper expands service with $900,000 grant

    Transportation

    By DIVYA KUMAR

    Times Staff Writer

    ST. PETERSBURG ­— The Downtown Looper will expand its route and its hours starting in October 2018 thanks to a $900,000 grant from the Florida Department of Transportation.

  2. Latest sewage crisis fallout: Higher utility bills in St. Pete

    Local Government

    ST. PETERSBURG — For months the cost of the city's sewage crisis has been measured in terms of environmental damage, legal ramifications and political repercussions.

    Now residents are about to get the bill.

    Signs at North Shore Park in St. Petersburg warn people in September 2016 to stay out of the water due to contamination from partially treated sewage during the height of the city's sewage crisis. Now the City Council is considering how much to raise utility rates to pay the $326 million bill to fix St. Petersburg's sewage system. [LARA CERRI   |   Times]
  3. Rays add a bat, too, acquiring Lucas Duda from Mets

    Blogs

    The Rays made another big move today, acquiring 1B/DH Lucas Duda from the Mets.

    Duda, 31, is a lefty slugger who will take over as the Rays primary DH against right-handers, with Corey Dickerson now playing most of the time in the outfield.

    To get Duda, the Rays gave up minor-league RHP Drew Smith, …

    The Rays acquired 1B/DH Lucas Duda from the Mets.
  4. Florida's legal losses up to $19 million and counting since 2011

    Blogs

    From Gary Fineout of the Associated Press:

    This is getting expensive.
  5. Susanne Bartsch installation at Tampa Museum of Art

    News

    Susanne Bartsch and Raquel Martuscelli adjust the hat and hair on a mannequin in the Susanne Bartsch: Art-a-Porter exhibit on Thursday July 27, 2017 at the Tampa Museum of Art, in Tampa, Fla. The exhibit features designs worn by Bartsch and highlights her career in fashion. Bartsch is known for her over the top style and lavish parties thrown in the New York club scene, since the 1980s. The exhibit runs July 30 through November 12.