Monthly Archives: February 2020

The Declaration of Restrictions is the Law in Indian Hammock.

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

The Declaration of Restrictions contains all of the Deed Restrictions and it is the only document a Deed Restrictions can be placed.
Deed Restrictions cannot be amended, added, or removed without being voted on by the Owners and getting a 2/3 majority vote of the Owners.

The Declaration of Restrictions also contains those Guidelines, Rules and Regulations which cannot be added to, removed from, or amended without being voted on by the Owners and getting a 2/3 majority vote of the Owners.

The Declaration of Restrictions protects the individual Owner/Member’s rights by establishing that any future restriction on individual Owner/Member’s rights can not be done without being voted on by the Owners and getting a 2/3 majority vote of the Owners.

The Declaration of Restrictions Article XII – General Provision; Section 3. says: “The Club, by two thirds (2/3) vote of approval of the membership, may modify, amend or add to this Declaration of Restrictions.”

The 2019 Florida Statutes 720.306; Section (b) says: “Unless otherwise provided in the governing documents or required by law, and other than those matters set forth in paragraph (c), any governing document of an association may be amended by the affirmative vote of two-thirds of the voting interests of the association.”

The Declaration of Restrictions only gave the Board of Directors the authority to create Rules and Regulations relating to administration and management, as long as those Rules and Regulations are not in conflict with the Declarations of Restrictions.
Only such Rules and Regulations can be voted in by the majority of the Board of Directors.

Is there an enforceable “25’ Buffer” in Indian Hammock?

This argument is NOT about if “25’ Buffer” is good or bad Idea.
This argument is about is there is an enforceable “25 Buffer” in Indian Hammock or not.

The assumption of an enforceable “25’ Buffer” is based on Rule 11 in the Book of Rules.
Rule number 11 says:
11.1 The Club’s Land Clearing, Landscaping and Building Guidelines, adopted as Rules regulating clearing and construction by the Board August 19, 2007, are incorporated herein by reference as a rule.

I was told that Rule 11 was voted on by the BOD and added to the Book of Rules in 2010.
I was told that the current version of the Land-clearing/Landscaping packet is identical to the August 19, 2007 version.

Page one of the Land-clearing/Landscaping packet contains the following statement:
“…The land-clearing/landscape packet was produced in accordance with the Declaration of Restrictions of Indian Hammock…”          
This statement is not true.
Rule 11 and the Land-clearing/Landscaping packet are in violation to the Declaration of Restrictions.

The Land-clearing/Landscaping packet violates the Declaration of Restrictions in the following  two paragraphs:
On page 3 paragraph 8. – the land-clearing/landscape packet says:
“A natural buffer of twenty-five feet must be left around all property lines. Property lines that have a utility easement in use should have a natural buffer of twenty-five feet beyond the easement.”

On page 4 paragraph 1. – the land-clearing/landscape packet says:
“…A buffer of twenty-five feet must be left around all property lines. Property lines that have a utility easement in use should have a natural buffer of twenty-five feet beyond the easement. It is the responsibility of the land owner/Member to ensure these buffer zones are kept intact during clearing.  Fines and/or the requirement to replace the vegetation can be imposed. Should this area be void of vegetation on your lot, additional landscaping material may be needed. It is preferable that this be the natural vegetation of Indian Hammock. If a fence is proposed, this buffer should work to complement the design of the fence.”

These two paragraphs must be rephrased to what they used to be, a guideline of what is desirable, not to be stated as if they are the “Law of the Land”
The Declaration of Restrictions does not contain a Deed Restriction that takes away the Owner’s Rights, or controls the vegetation in the “25’ Buffer” and gives this control to the BOD.

The Declaration of Restrictions already has a Deed Restriction that covers the Owner’s land near the lot’s boundaries; it is the 50’ No Build Zone.

Article VIII Section 3 says:
“No building shall be erected on any Residential lot closer than 50 feet to the front, side or rear lot line thereof…”

Nowhere in the Declaration of Restrictions is a “25’ Buffer” incorporated into the 50’ No Build Zone.

A 25’ Buffer Zone with vegetation restrictions can only be added to the Declaration of Restrictions by amending the Declaration of Restrictions, requiring a 2/3 majority vote of all Owners/Members

For more about Restrictions, Rules, and What is this fight about:

What is this fight about?

Let us start with definitions:

Restrictions – Individual Owner’s Rights that Owners agreed to sacrifice in order to create a livable community. Restrictions should be kept to the bare minimum; only 2/3 Majority of Owners’ vote can add, remove, or amend a restriction.

Restrictions are part of the Declaration of Restrictions.
Example of a Restriction is the “50’ No Build Zone” in the Declaration of Restrictions, Article Viii Section 3:
“No Building shall be erected on any Residential lot closer than 50’ to the front, side or rear lot lines…”

Rules – Managerial, Administrative and Operational Regulations that do not take away Individual Owner’s Rights.

Rules can’t be in conflict with the Declaration of Restrictions or the By-Laws.
Rules are suggested by the BOD to the Owners for discussions and are voted in by the BOD. Rules are part of the BOD Book of Rules.
An example of a Rule is the “Establishing of Committees”  in the Book of Rules 1. General paragraph 2.1
“The Board shall at its first meeting of the New Year, establish by written resolution its committees for the coming year (“Committee or Committees”) and the role of each Committee”

What are we fighting for and why.

Over the years when the BODs did not believe they would get the required 2/3 Majority Owners vote, chose to pass Restrictions disguised as Rules, and incorporated them in the Book of Rules.
This practice illegally shifted Power and Rights from the Owners to the BODs.
The goal is to restore this power and rights back to the Owners by forcing the BOD to cancel those illegal Rules; alternatively, the BOD can try to get the required 2/3 majority vote of the Owners.

The goal is to Restore power and rights back from the BOD to the Owners.

It will require time, effort and perseverance as the BODs will fight back using all their assumed power to maintain the gain in power they have achieved.
With time, using information channels that were not available when Indian Hammock started, we will be able to get transparency and information that is not easily available now, share it, and get enough Owners involved in order to shift the power and Rights back to where they belong.

The Notorious Buffer Restriction #4

Indian Hammock’s BOD, in violation of the Declaration of Restrictions, put a 25′ Buffer Deed Restriction into the Book of Rules.

The process was slow and took many years, and it was carried out in stages by a few BOD.

The following information was obtained from longtime residents of Indian hammock.

Sometime in 1998 the idea of a 15’ Buffer was put by the BOD, as a non-enforceable Guideline and recommendation to the Owners/Members.

Over the years from 1998 to 2007 this non-enforceable Guideline was extended from 15’ to 25’.

In 2010, the BOD chose to add these Guidelines as “Enforceable Instructions” to the Book of Rules via Rule 11; creating a “25′ Buffer Deed Restriction”.

One may suggest that this was an “Honest Mistake”.
Others suggested that the BOD was aware of the fact that getting a 2/3 majority vote from the Owners/Members, in order to add a 25′ Buffer Deed Restriction to the Declaration of Restrictions would be a “mission impossible”.
The BOD decided to change the 25’ Buffer idea from a non-enforceable guideline to something they might be able to enforce.
The BOD put it to the Owners/Members “consideration” and then voted it into the Book of Rules, to become Rule number 11.

Rule number 11 in the Book of Rules says:
11. Building
11.1 The Club’s Land Clearing, Landscaping and Building Guidelines, adopted as Rules regulating clearing and construction by the Board August 19, 2007, are incorporated herein by reference as a rule.

This is all the information I received in my 2017 “welcome package”.
This is all the information the new owners are receiving today.
The details of the above mentioned “2007 Guidelines” do not appear in rule 11, or anywhere else in the Book of Rules.

Some Board Members tell me that they are the same Guidelines that are included in the current Land-clearing/Landscaping packet.

A 25′ Buffer Guidelines were just established in February 2020 by the Ad Hoc Buffer Committee and if they are going to become part of the Land-clearing/Landscaping packet they will be, according to the BOD, enforceable instructions, not just Guidelines.

Apathy – The biggest Danger to Indian Hammock

A community of apathetic Owners/Members will breed Boards of Directors that will ignore their Fiduciary Duties to the Owners/Members and will overstep their authority, infringing on Owners/Members’ rights.

Unfortunately, that is what happened in the past, and is happening now in Indian Hammock.

In the January 19, 2020 Election of BOD, as per the Hammock Herald:
Voting members in attendance: 81
Proxies voted: 109
Not Voting: 103
Unused proxy: 6
Total voting: 299

Let analyze these numbers:

  • Not voting at all – Zero interest, by 103 of 299 being 34.5% of voting power.
  • Proxies Used and Unused – Leaves to others to decide, 115 of 299 being 38.5% of voting power.
  • In Attendance – 81 of 299 27% of voting power.

These numbers mean:

  • 73% of voting power don’t have a personal interest in choosing the BOD.
  • 27% of voting power has a personal interest in choosing the BOD.
  • A few individuals, being the holders of a large number of Proxies, dictates who will be on the BOD.

This can, used to, and will be, exploited by the BOD, and not for the benefit of the Owners/Members.

Safeguarding and Restoring the Rights of Indian Hammock Owners/Members requires a major increase in Owners/Members participation and input.

The voting system can be updated to include early voting by Owners/Members, this may reduce the number of “Not Voting” and I believe will switch users of the Proxies, especially those who are not full time residents, to personally vote.

Your comments and opinion will be highly appreciated.

BOD (Board of Directors) and Owners/Members

A Nation of Sheep Breeds a Government of wolves.
It is unavoidable, It is simply the “Nature of the Beast

Any governing body, be it as big as the USA Government or as small as Indian Hammock’s BOD, must be watched, or it will become renegade and will overstep its authority.

There will also be a power Struggle between “Government” (BOD) and “Citizens” (Owners/Members) where the BOD will try to gain more power and some Owners/Members will resist it.

Apathetic Owners/Members will eventually be ruled by Boards of Directors that will overstep their BOD authority, ignore their Fiduciary Duties to the Owners/Members, and infringe on Owners/Members’ rights.

Each Board Member is, first and always, an Owner/Member.
They are, in most cases, friendly and trustworthy individuals, members of Indian Hammock’s community.

The “Nature of the Beast” comes into being only when these individuals put on their “Board Members’ Hats”.
It is like an “automatic switch” was turned-on and “the beast” reveals itself.

The moment a Board Member is out of his/her seat on the board, in most cases, it is like the “plug was pulled out”, and the friendly trustworthy friend shows himself again.

It is essential for each of the Owners/Members to remember the above, and not to get involved in a personal “account settling” with a Board Member, as tomorrow, this Board Member may be a regular Owner/Member “brother to the cause”.

The same advice goes to any Board Member, as your BOD seat may be taken from you and given to the Owner/Member you are currently tormenting.

It all comes back to two golden rules:

  • Live and let Live.
  • Do unto others as you would have them do unto you

These rules are accepted by all, but unfortunately many times they are not followed.

The Notorious “Buffer Restriction” #3

I ask the Chair of the Buffer Ad-Hoc Committee, the Committee Members and the Owners/Members to consider the following:

Declaration of Restrictions
Article VIII – Building Control
Section 1:
“Refusal of approval of plans and specifications, location and plot plan, by the club may be on any ground, including purely aesthetic grounds, in the sole and absolute discretion of the club.”

Section 2:
“The plans and specifications shall contain a plot plan with adequate provision for landscaping, including the planting of trees and shrubs and the preservation of uncleared, natural areas.”
“Landscaping as required shall be completed at the time of completion of the building, as evidenced by the issuance of a certificate of occupancy by Okeechobee County

In this last paragraph, the Club granted the Policing and the Approval of the landscaping and “buffer” to the Okeechobee county.

The Certificate of Occupation issued by Okeechobee County is the Owner’s proof that the Owner fulfills all of his/her Obligations to the Club in regard to Landscaping and Buffers, as done by the certificate date.

As per Article VIII; The BOD has a lot of power and authority to enforce Landscaping Plans, but only in the early stage when the Owner/Member submits his/her Building application package for approval.

After the Building application package is approved by the club, with or without any of “the good stuff”, it is a “done deal”.

The BOD has no Authority to say: “We don’t like your Landscaping and Buffer, as done on the date of your Certificate of Occupation, and now you need you to redo it”.

The BOD can’t change Article VIII of the Declaration of Restrictions “on the fly” and “at-will” whenever it wishes to.

Having a discussion about “what plants should be included, how large they should be, how they should be placed, how many plants should be replaced, etc.” and submit “recommendations” to the BOD, is practically suggesting Rewriting/Amending the Declaration of Restrictions which describes in length how the Landscaping including the Buffer is handled.