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Plantation vote is declared invalid

A Boys & Girls Club center was approved, but irregularities force a new election.

A vote on whether to build a Boys & Girls Club facility in Plantation of Carrollwood has been declared invalid and residents will be asked to vote again.

While the measure passed by a wide margin on Nov. 8, the election was almost entirely based on proxies voted by a handful of residents, which an attorney last week determined were improperly cast.

Homeowners will soon be mailed a notice inviting them to attend a special homeowners association meeting and participate in a new election in February, said Tom Jones, Plantation property manager.

"This is a very important project and obviously we don't want to go forward if there are any flaws," Jones said. "We'd rather deal with this now than wait until further in the process and have things unresolved."

Some people had strongly opposed building the youth facility near the main entrance at Plantation Boulevard. This time around, Jones said they will propose that it go in the playground area, a location he thinks more people will agree on.

But that change was made largely because the group has changed some of its own plans.

The Boys & Girls Club has operated in Plantation for three years and its facilities consist of one large portable building. The community voted last month to allow the club to build a permanent center on the subdivision's common grounds.

Now Boys & Girls Club officers are saying the new building should be suitable for a future use as a licensed child care center, which means they'll need to increase the floor space from 4,000 square feet to 6,000 square feet to include indoor play space and restrooms for up to 105 children.

Jones said the original site near the front entrance has no room for an outdoor playground. He said the main recreation area is the only place in the subdivision zoned for a licensed child care facility.

"I think the big dispute was not the building, but the location of the building," Jones said. "The majority of people I talked to, except for a handful, realize the contribution of the Boys & Girls Club in the community and want their presence to continue." Among other things, Jones credits the Boys & Girls Club with helping to reduce juvenile crime in Plantation.

Following the first election, some residents said they opposed the project because the building would be near a retention pond and too close to the Goodfellas pub. But critics also had a number of problems with the election itself.

There were allegations of improper vote counting, ballot stuffing and lax voter registration. Some said they weren't exactly sure what they voted for because the proposed location of the building was not indicated on proxies that they allowed others to vote.

But of all the allegations made, the only one addressed by Plantation attorney Francis Friscia was the legality of the proxies.

Residents approved the Boys & Girls Club building by a vote of 222-63. Because 190 of those votes were proxies, which have since been declared improper, the community did not have a quorum.

Friscia told Jones in a letter dated Dec. 19 that in order to be valid, the proxy must be "dated, must state the date, time and place of the meeting for which it was given and must be signed by the authorized person who executed the proxy."

Friscia also has designed a proxy using those criteria which Plantation will use in all its future elections.