02 January 2011

Happy New Year 2011!

As this is the first post of 2011, I would like to take the time to say Happy New Year to all of my Edward Ringwald Blog visitors! Don’t forget, on Tuesday, 4 January 2011 our 45th Governor of the State of Florida, Rick Scott, will be anointed into office at 12 Noon; right after that, let the “let’s get to work” games of Rick Scott begin: The unraveling and the eventual destruction of the State of Florida as we know it.

Right after I watched the ball drop in Times Square in New York City on TV, I went back to my computer doing more surfing on the ‘net. I stopped by the St. Petersburg Times website and there is a story that caught my attention:
Tampa community tests limits of homeowner group’s power.

The residents of a Tampa community that is testing the limits of the power of its homeowners association is a community called Westchase. For those of you out there that don’t know where Westchase is, it’s located in the northwestern part of Hillsborough County located on West Linebaugh Avenue roughly between Sheldon Road and Race Track Road (after all, Race Track Road forms the boundary between Pinellas and Hillsborough Counties for part of its way before it turns in a northeasterly direction). After all, Westchase is an upscale community which includes Westchase Elementary School and a whole lot of other amenities.

Unfortunately, living in Westchase has major responsibilities. While Westchase is mainly single family homes like you would see in a traditional neighborhood, Westchase is governed by a Homeowners Association – called an HOA – and the documents that authorize this governance are called deed restrictions.

Let’s stop for a moment.

In a condominium, you have what is called a Board of Directors who is responsible for setting policy and enforcing the rules and regulations. The day to day operation of a condominium is done by a property manager. The governing documents of a condominium are contained in the Declaration of Condominium. Condominiums are heavily regulated in Florida, and the statutory authority is codified in Chapter 718 of the Florida Statutes.

On the other hand, in a deed restricted community it operates similar to a condominium but it is the less regulation under Florida law under its own statutory authority, Chapter 720, that is the difference. A deed restriction is items that a homeowner can or cannot do to his or her home. The responsibility of enforcing these deed restrictions comes under the power of a community’s Home Owners Association. Unlike the rights and obligations granted to condominium associations as far as their powers are concerned in Florida Statutes Sections 718.301 to 718.303, the power of Home Owners Associations in Florida is practically unlimited.

So, what we’re talking about is the unlimited power of Home Owners Associations in deed restricted communities. Westchase in northwest Hillsborough County is very notorious as their Home Owners Associations enforce the deed restrictions to the letter. It has created quite a controversy that Westchase’s uber enforcement of deed restrictions limiting the activities of Westchase home owners have been profiled in the St. Petersburg Times. According to the recent St. Petersburg Times article I came across, Westchase has a long reputation of deed restriction extremism.

Given Westchase’s record of deed restriction extremism over the years, I wrote this comment on the recent St. Petersburg Times article on Westchase: Is Westchase still part of the United States of America and the State of Florida? Or did Westchase secede from the United States of America and the State of Florida?

Well, for everyone of you out there including those St. Petersburg Times readers who gave me a thumbs up on the comment I made on the recent Westchase article, here is a satire parody of an article that we won’t get to see in the St. Petersburg Times – or any other Tampa Bay area media outlet including Bay News 9 – when it comes to Westchase and its Home Owners Association that harasses its residents:

TAMPA – Residents of Westchase, the upscale community northwest of Tampa, gathered in the auditorium of Westchase Elementary School for a different kind of New Years Eve celebration. A celebration that celebrates the spirit of being a community.

At 11:58 PM, Westchase residents stood at attention for the final playing of The Star Spangled Banner while the flags of both the United States and of Florida were lowered for the final time. At precisely 12 Midnight, the president of the Westchase Community Association read a declaration which declared the Westchase community a sovereign and independent nation, no longer under the control of the United States, the State of Florida and Hillsborough County.

Then at 12:01 AM, the new flag of Westchase – patterned after the flag of the Moldovan breakaway republic of Transnistria – was raised for the first time, accompanied by a performance of the National Anthem of Westchase which was sung to the tune of We Sing the Praises of Transnistria.

Right after the new flag raising and new national anthem performance, which was sung by the Westchase Elementary School Choir, the President of the Westchase Community Association became the sovereign head of state and the head of government of Westchase. The first decree that was signed immediately was that the flying of any flag other than that of Westchase – including the American flag – was prohibited, as well as singing The Star Spangled Banner as well as the display of any American patriotism while upon the territory of Westchase. Then it was on to a discussion of priorities that would make Westchase the premier sovereign community anywhere.

Several residents interviewed were pleased that Westchase is now able to control its own destiny and its future, without the interference of Washington, Tallahassee or even the Hillsborough County Board of County Commissioners in Tampa. On the other hand, some residents were disappointed in how Westchase went to a new kind of extremism, which was secession from the United States.

Think secession from the United States could happen? With the way our federal and Florida governments are now run, it could be a theoretical possibility.

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