Amenity fee is euphemism for a tax

Dennis Petrucelli

The Project Wide Advisory Committee was established by Resolution 13-05 of the Sumter Landing Community Development District (SLCDD) and is comprised of a Board Supervisor from Village Community Development District No’s 5-11. The establishing resolution provides the PWAC will provide input, explore issues and provide advice and recommendations to the SLCDD on issues related to the maintenance of Project Wide Improvements.

The PWAC has scheduled meetings seeking public comment as to the treatment to be given our Amenity Fee in view of a projected expenditure shortfall. The PWAC cited as possible treatment 1) remain at the current deferral rate 2) increase the deferral rate 3) eliminate the deferral rate in accordance with the original contract.   Bear in mind this debate entails more than just consideration of the above-stated options, characterized as adding just a few more dollars to residents costs. This is a decision asking if the contractual agreement can be breached? If the Developer, the District, the PWAC or AAC are allowed to breach this contract agreement it has  financial and legal implications which cry for clarity and perhaps relief.

Many residents with a spirit of collaboration and cooperation responded with a mix of suggestions. Among them was a conscious attempt at conservative spending of amenity fee monies. The Morse Street Bridge project comes to mind and it is assumed that the project’s reconstruction costs factored into this projected expenditure shortfall?  

Another popular suggestion was in remaining at the current rate and charging all non-residents a “user fee” for use of our facilities. The latter was met with an empathic “no” by the PWAC Chairman who cited as his only reason, that he had guests visiting.  His remarks were alarming and they bring into question his basis for voting and leaves an appearance of a conflict of interest to both his position as chair of the PWAC and as a representative of CDD 6.  Can one imply, from the comments, actions or lack thereof from committee members, that these are not serious people seeking bona fide solutions to this expenditure shortfall?  And, that the public meetings are for show only because a decision has already been made?  I hope not, nor do I wish to prejudge motive or manner.

The signature/salient selling point being marketed by the Developer is, “you are buying The Villages Lifestyle” which clearly implies exclusivity and upon which homeowners, in a good faith manner, readily accepted premium market prices for the exclusive privilege to access “The Villages Lifestyle.” And since “The Villages Lifestyle” are the amenities, the premium paid is ostensibly an advance payment toward those amenities. And yet the Developer simultaneously provides that “The Villages Lifestyle” practically free to anyone who has not purchased a home here because vacationers bring more profits. 

The Developer chooses to continually expand this community which exponentially increases/draws non -buyers of homes and non-residents. Money is fungible and hence all the same to the Developer.  While the Developer increases its profits, as do property owners who rent out their homes, none of this windfall inures to residents, who suffer the financial consequences of its expansion, an expansion that does not better but actually worsen this community with overcrowding and all that derives from it. One takes pause and asks, are we getting utility for our amenity dollar? To wit” so many executive golf courses are closed for an indefinite period owing to their extreme compaction, or limited availability of prime tee and pickleball times, etc. This all creates a downgrade in quality and additional expenditures which fall solely on residents who are forced to pay.

The most important truth about any political proposal is the part left unsaid. In my opinion the amenity fee is euphemism for a tax and perhaps the reason for this euphemism is that if called a tax, then residents have a right to make claim of “taxation without representation.  But even if I am wrong then just as revealing is the fact that the amenity fee program in itself is based on a socialist model where all contribute equally and all share equally.  And with all socialist programs pretty soon you run out of using other people’s money as people continue to game the system to get more. 

Despite what is being said, most residents are quite aware of the behind the scenes business activity that always seems to inure favorably to the Developer and shortchanges resident. It is clear that all non-owners of property are riding free, or practically free, on someone else’s amenity fee. It is also clear that like any socialist program you will find those who will abuse the system and demand more out of it then they contribute, if they contribute at all. I opine others can decide.

Dennis Petrucelli is a resident of the Village of Bonnybrook.