POINCIANA – The Solivita development’s request to be removed from the board of directors of Poinciana’s community-wide homeowners association has ignited a debate over an issue that charged up the community a few years ago, and probably never entirely faded: incorporation.
Since the board of directors of the Association of Poinciana Villages voted on Oct. 11 to take the first step in setting up an executive committee to negotiate the separation between Solivita and the APV, a debate has been going on about whether this decision would effectively kill any future efforts to incorporate Poinciana into a municipality.
Right now, Poinciana is made up of 10 villages that cut across unincorporated parts of Osceola and Polk counties. The community now has 84,000 residents, more than some neighboring cities like Haines City and St. Cloud.
Solivita, billed as an active adult development, is on the Polk County side of Poinciana, and makes up the community’s Village 10.
Jeanette Coughneour, manager of the APV, said this was not a controversial decision for the board. Solivita already has its own homeowners association, she said.
“This is a mutual thing,” Coughenour said. “It’s a positive for everyone concerned. It’s not being pushed by Solivita.”
Part of the agreement, if approved by APV later this year, would be to exclude Solivita from any future discussions about incorporation.
“The points of whatever agreement is reached will basically include the fact that the association’s board of directors would not ever endorse Solivita being a part of future incorporation talks,” she said. “There’s no underlying current of incorporation discussions going on now, but if it ever came up, the board of directors wouldn’t endorse Solivita being a part of it. That’s all.”
Several years ago, APV paid the University of Central Florida to conduct a study on the cost and feasibility of incorporating Poinciana’s 10 villages into a city. In order for that to happen, the state legislators who represent Poinciana would need to file legislation with the full Legislature to accept the change.
But after opponents of incorporation turned out in force at a public hearing with the lawmakers, they decided not to file that bill.
Since then, Coughenour said, there have been no serious efforts to revive the incorporation movement. And if the APV agrees to let Solivita take a voting member off its board, “All it means is that if in five years or 10 years or 100 years from now Poinciana does decide to incorporate, the board would not include Solivita in that.”
Keith Laytham is a resident of Solivita, and the president of Poinciana Residents for Smart Change, a civic group working to improve the community. Laytham agreed that if Solivita wanted to be excluded from any future incorporation plans, that wouldn’t necessarily prevent the rest of Poinciana from becoming a city. Solivita, he noted, is close to the border of neighboring Haines City, rather than right in the middle of Poinciana, and could easily be left out of a new municipal boundary.
“Because there’s nothing to the west of Solivita, that doesn’t have to get included in the boundaries,” he said. “The bottom line is all depends on how the maps are drawn. If you draw the maps like it was drawn two years ago, then yes, Solivita would be an enclave, that’s correct. But the reality is the land along Lake Marion Creek Road is a bunch of rural farms that’s not a part of APV anyway, and there’s no reason that has to be included in a municipal study for Poinciana.”
Laytham said excluding Solivita might actually make sense, since it’s a different kind of development than other parts of Poinciana’s remaining nine villages.
“Solivita is a retirement community,” he said. “There are no people in Solivita raising families now. Most of the people here do not have to worry about fighting traffic to get to work, so the wants and needs in Solivita and not the same as the people who worry about the traffic and jobs situations.”
Solivita wasn’t the only community in Poinciana to resist incorporation, Laytham added, noting that the Cypress Cove nudist colony did the same.
It also doesn’t mean, Coughenour said, that by letting Village 10 be removed from representation on the APV board – which would reduce the board from 10 to nine members if the decision gets final approval – that other villages will jump to do the same. She noted that Solivita’s HOA currently pays for its own lighting and landscaping needs, not APV.
“They’re a self-contained community,” Coughenour said of Solivita. “They have their own HOA that is active. Their lights are covered on their tax bill. Their amenities they pay for themselves. People are saying, ‘What if Village 7 wants to leave?’ Well, Village 7 can’t afford to pay their electric bill. You’ve got to have some kind of organizational effort to do these things. Solivita has an entity already. They’ve always had an entity. They’re able to handle all that on their own.”
Coughenour said it’s also not true that Solivita’s request is the reason that the APV board of directors approved a new budget on Oct. 11 that included a rate hike. The 2012 budget was approved at the assessment rate of $21 a month, or $252 a year, a hike of 50 cents per month.
Coughenour said the dues hike reflected the money that APV spent this year on two major recreation projects, and the need to budget for an increase in the amount that gets spent to provide street lighting throughout the community.
“There’s people out there saying ‘Because they’re pushing Solivita out, the assessments went up’,” she said. “No, that never had anything to do with it.”
Laytham said the community should focus on matters that unite them, and not on issues that are not even on the discussion board right now.
“The subject of incorporation is not a high priority subject in Poinciana right now,” he said. “There’s a lot more important things going on. Life in the United States these days is complicated. Poinciana, with the characteristics that we have as a bedroom community, we have a lot of challenges, and I think the community would be better off if we all learn to get along together.”
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