The Project Wide Advisory Committee on Monday bulled ahead with abolishing the amenity fee cap despite a change of heart by two of its members and relentless questioning from a resident.
The cap of $155 per month, or what is called the amenity deferral rate, will be abolished as of October.
That means that 67 percent of homeowners south of County Road 466 who currently enjoy the $155 cap will be subject to increases.
Marilyn Iskra, of the Village of Osceola Hills at Soaring Eagle, said her Properties of The Villages sales agent had touted the amenity cap at the time she and her husband purchased their home. She said she feared legal action could be taken by some residents who had been given similar promises by their sales agents.
“I don’t want my money being used to fight a lawsuit,” she told PWAC members, who were meeting in a joint session with the Amenity Authority Committee at Laurel Manor Recreation Center.
District Counsel Scott Gerken said that was unlikely.
“We have no control over what the Developer or the sales people say,” Gerken added.
Villager Ron Ruggeri, a former Community Development District 7 supervisor who previously served as a PWAC member, went to the podium armed with a legal pad and a lot of questions. He offered suggestions, including bringing in an outside consultant to evaluate the situation.
PWAC Chairman Peter Moeller repeatedly tried to cut off Ruggeri, citing a three-minute limit on speakers. Members of the audience shouted that they would gladly yield their time to Ruggeri.
“Let him speak. Let him speak,” the audience called out. “He’s the only one making any sense.”
Moeller scolded the audience.
“That’s not the way it works,” he said.
Ruggeri claimed to have unearthed a document which showed that attorney Archie Lowery at one point had advised the AAC it had the authority to charge for guest passes. One PWAC member made that suggestion earlier in the discussion and last week Villager Karen Tynes, who has a history of activism in The Villages, formally called on the AAC to at least consider charging for guest passes.
Frank Lynch, of the Village of Virginia Trace, charged that Villagers are paying for “outsiders” who come in and use amenities that are supposed to be restricted to residents and their guests.
“How many times do you check IDs at pools? You don’t. How many times do you check IDs at pickleball courts? You don’t. How about checking people who DON’T belong here?” he asked.
PWAC member Chuck Wildzunas, a resident of the Village of Winifred, said he had received many email and phone calls since he and other PWAC members came to a unanimous consensus April 8 that that the cap should be abolished.
He attributed his change of heart to the challenges of those living on a fixed income.
“I see people sacking groceries at Publix. They aren’t there to meet people,” he said.
PWAC member Jerry Vicenti concurred with Wildzunas’ observation.
“People’s pensions are being eaten up by the cost of living,” Vicenti said.
He complained that PWAC and the AAC had only been given three options:
• Remain at the current cap of $155.
• Eliminate the deferral rate.
• Increase the deferred rate.
He said ideas such as charging for guest passes, gaining efficiencies and cost control should have been put on the table.
In the end PWAC, voted to eliminate the deferral rate beginning in October. Only Wildzunas and Vicenti voted against it.
Although AAC members were present, they did not vote and contributed little to Monday’s discussion. That committee voted 3-2 last week to eliminate the deferral rate north of County Road 466.