Category Archives: Owners’ Rights

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.

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.

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.

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.