Monthly Archives: January 2020

The Notorious “Buffer Restriction” #2

In my previous posting I asked the question:
When and how did this “Buffer Restriction” get voted on to become the law of the land?

In an exchange of opinions on our Facebook group Indian Hammock Owners’ Rights I directed this question to the President of our Board of Directors who is also the chair of the Buffer Ad-Hoc Committee.

I did this in advance of the first Buffer Ad-Hoc Committee meeting of February 2, 2020.

The Purpose of this Buffer Ad-Hoc Committee was described as follows:
“When a buffer is replaced, we do not have a good description of what plants should be included, how large they should be, how they should be placed, how many plants should be replaced, etc. The purpose of this committee is to create a proposal for the BOD, which defines what needs to be done to replace a buffer”

I believe that we have here two possible scenarios.

  • There is a legal, enforceable Buffer Restriction.
  • There is a guideline/suggestion of what is a desirable Buffer, one that will automatically be approved by the Architectural Review Committee.

These are two completely different scenarios, leading to two completely different sets of suggestions to be discussed.

The first scenario more than likely requires legal advice in order to make such definitions or suggestions enforceable in a court of law.

In the second scenario any suggestions must be extremely friendly to the Owner as they will be only suggestions, not enforceable by a court of law.

Instead of providing an answer to my question, the President of the Board of Directors responded “the assumption going into the meeting is that the 25’ buffer is a legitimate rule within the building restrictions”

This response is unacceptable to me for the following reasons:

  • Nowhere is a 25’ buffer mentioned in the Declaration of Restrictions or the By-Laws.
  • The only place a “Buffer” starts appearing is in the Building Application Package that the Owners are asked to submit to the Architectural Approval Committee before doing any work on their lot.

The “Buffer” issue caused in the past and is causing now a lot of animosity and mistrust between the Owners/Members and the Boards of Directors.

So here is my question again, mostly directed at our current Board of Directors and its President.

When and how did this “Buffer Restriction” get voted on to become the law of the land?

The Notorious “Buffer Restriction”

There is a Buffer Ad-Hoc Committee meeting on February 2 at 3:00PM in the Lodge

This is a very important meeting, open to all of the Owners/Members and I plead with each of you to come and take part in the discussions, no matter if you agree with my personal opinion or not.

My Opinion:
Before getting into the “nitty-gritty” of the notorious “Buffer Restriction”, one must better step back and look at the big picture.

Indian Hammock Declaration of Restrictions is the Indian Hammock “Law of the Land”.

Each Owner/Member should respect and obey the Declaration of Restrictions, as much as each USA Citizens should respect and obey the Constitution of the United State.

In order to place my argument in a clear way, I need to start with another restriction, a valid one, legally taking away Owner/Member’s individual right to do what he wishes on a portion of his private lot.

I am referring to the “50’ no-build zone”. (which is even greater than what the Okeechobee Building code requires)

I am quoting from the Declaration of Restrictions Article VIII “Building Control” Section 3.

“No Building shall be erected on any Residential Lot closer than 50 feet to the front, side or rear lot lines thereof.”

This “50’ no-build zone” is a “Law of the Land” in Indian Hammock.

On the other hand, there is nothing in the Declaration of Restrictions about a “25’ Buffer”.

This “Buffer Restriction”, call it a rule, requirement, regulation whatever one wishes to; Is a Restriction that takes away the Owner/Member’s individual right in regards the vegetation on a big portion of his/her lot

There are other sections in the Declaration of Restrictions that will force an Owner/Member to maintain and keep the vegetation on his/her lot to a high standard, so it will be a pleasure to look at from the roads and the common areas, but there is nothing about a “25’ buffer”.

So, the question to ask is:

When and How did this “Buffer Restriction” get voted on to become “the Law of the Land”?

Is it legally the “Law of the Land” or is it only an unenforceable recommendation, no matter how good of a recommendation it is.

Only after, and depending on how, this question is answered, it makes sense to continue with the “nitty-gritty” or stop this discussion about a “Law of the Land” that may not exist.

The Book of Rules

I could not get any information when exactly the “Book of Rules” came into existence.

The Book of Rules ends with a list of amendments and their dates; it also states “Adopted October 17, 2010”

I also could not find out how each issue covered in this “Book of Rules” was established and made into a “Rule”.

My view about this Book of Rules is as follows:

  • It contains some contradictions to the Declaration of Restrictions.
  • It inflicts numerous Restrictions and takes away Owners/Members’ rights, practically amending the Declaration of Restriction, freely at will.

 Part of this “Book of Rules” is a “Book of Restrictions” all put forward by numerous Boards of Directors, without being voted on and accepted by the Owners/Members 2/3 majority vote.

Some of the content of this “Book of Rules” is illegal and unenforceable, and will stay like this, no matter if it is a “good idea”, “justified” or anything else until it is put for a vote to the Owners/Members and get 2/3 majority vote.

This is a very serious and important issue, probably the most important one for each and every Owner/Member in Indian Hammock. It was overlooked for years and needs to be addressed.

The By-Laws

The By-Laws were created by the Developers and Originators of Indian Hammock, giving the Developers and the Originators full control of all of the club matters until 200 lots out of the 299 available lots were sold.

As we are far past this situation, The By-Laws no longer effect Owners/Members’ Rights.

The By-Laws are also a set of Definitions, Explanations and instructions in regard to; Membership, Meeting of Members, Book of Accounts, Notices, Management, Operation and Maintenance.

Article IV deals with the way the Board of Directors will be elected and operate.

Article V Deals with the Board’s Officers’ duties and responsibilities.  

On all other issues, the By-Laws refer to the Declaration of Restrictions and The State of Florida Laws.

Like with the Declaration of Restrictions, any amendment to the By-Laws require a 2/3 majority vote by the club’s Owners/Members

Declaration of Restrictions

The Declaration of Restrictions was created a long time before the smart phone, communication by email and the popular internet.

Yet, it is still the Supreme Law of the Land in Indian Hammock.

The Declaration of Restrictions is exactly what its name says, Restrictions; Taking away some of the Individual Owner/Member’s Rights, in order to create a livable Community.

The Originators and Developers of Indian Hammock put a lot of thought, time and legal minds into the creation of the Declaration of Restrictions.

While taking away some of the Individual Owner/Member Rights, the Declaration protects the Owner/Member by establishing that any future removal of Owner/Individual rights can only be done by a 2/3 majority vote of the club’s Members.

Simply put, no Restrictions, Laws, Rules, Procedures, or whatever someone choses to call them, which take away any of Owner/Member Individual Rights are legal or enforceable, unless they were put for a vote and accepted by 2/3 of the club’s members.

There is only one exception to the above.

There is only one place in the Declaration of Restrictions where the power to make additional restrictions was given to the Board of Directors, and this is only in regard to Motorized Vehicles.

As per Article VII Section 5. “No vehicle of any type may be operated on the property so as to create a nuisance, a hazard or do damage to the common areas. Because of their rapid proliferation and unforeseeable evolution, the board shall make rules regulating the use of, or prohibiting the use of, any type of motorized vehicle.

Nowhere else is there such power given to the Board to create anything that takes away from Owner/Member’s rights; it can only be done by the Club (being the Members) requiring a  2/3 majority vote.

HOA Board’s Fiduciary Duties Under Corporate Law

The fiduciary duties of HOA Board members mainly arise from state corporate law. Most HOAs are nonprofit corporations, typically formed by filing articles of incorporation in the state where the development is located. Recognizing that a corporation’s board members serve in a position of trust, every state’s corporation law imposes a fiduciary duty on the corporation’s board of directors, requiring them to act in the best interest of the corporation.

Subject to some limitations, this fiduciary duty applies to HOAs even though they are typically nonprofit corporations, and even though HOA board members are usually volunteers.

A Board member’s fiduciary duties involve three basic components: the duty of care, the duty of loyalty and the duty to act within the scope of its authority.


To meet the duty of care, an HOA Board member must make informed decisions, which might require a bit of research before you act or vote on an HOA matter. For example, before finning a homeowner for a rule violation, you must familiarize yourself with the association’s CC&Rs, and the details of the situation, such as by talking with the homeowner. HOA Board members must also act in a prudent and reasonable manner, basically using sound business judgment, and avoiding arbitrary or capricious actions. For example, you can’t fine a homeowner for painting his or her home red just because you don’t like that color, if this is not a violation of association rules.


The duty of loyalty requires that HOA Board members act fairly, in good faith, in the interest of, and for the benefit of, the HOA as a whole, rather than make decisions based on any personal interest or gain. HOA Board members should also avoid acting where there is a conflict of interest. For example, a Board member who is helping select landscapers for the property should not steer contracts for landscaping to family members. Or a Board member who owns a purple house should not participate in a Board vote on whether or not to allow pink and purple homes in the development.

Additionally, an HOA Board member must protect members’ confidentiality, and not divulge information provided in confidence. For example, if a home owner confides in a Board member about his impending home foreclosure in order to arrange a payment plan for HOA dues, the Board member should not disclose the information to a friend or neighbor


This duty requires the HOA Board to perform the duties it’s obligated to carry out, but prohibits the Board from making decisions or acting on matters without the authority to do so.The authority of an HOA comes from its obligations under state laws, as well as the authority granted to it in the development’s governing documents.

To ensure you meet your obligations as a Board member, you must know what duties are required. Review your state law and HOA’s governing documents, specifically the articles of incorporation and bylaws, and your development’s CC&Rs to determine the HOA’s obligations, and the extent of its authority. For example, if the laws or governing documents do not grant your HOA Board the authority to adopt new rules and regulations, any restrictions the HOA adopts about home colors might be invalid.