Frequently Asked Questions About the Recreation District
- What is Herons Glen Recreation District?
- Why was the HGRD formed?
- Does the District tax residents?
- Does ownership of property within the District entitle one to special privileges in the use of the recreation facilities?
- Why is there a Golf Course Membership
- Does payment of the assessments entitle one to special privileges in the use of the recreation facilities?
- Why must I pay user fees and abide by the rules of the District?
- Does the developer pay its fair share of assessments?
- What about the developer's use of the golf course?
- The Herons Glen Recreation District ("HGRD") is a governmental entity. Florida law calls it a
Special District. Special Districts serve a specific geographical area and are
governed by an elected board of supervisors or commissioners.
The geographical boundaries of HGRD are equivalent to Phase I of the Herons Glen development (1300 lots). The District is operated by five (5) Supervisors elected by popular vote for terms of three (3) years each. In their operation and authority, Special Districts are very similar to municipalities, but Special Districts are set up to perform more specific and limited functions. Examples of other special districts are: North Fort Myers Fire District, Lee County Mosquito Control and the Reedy Creek Community Development District (Disney World).
- HGRD was started by a group of concerned residents who wanted a way to purchase the Herons Glen recreation facilities (golf course, clubhouse, restaurant, pool, tennis courts, etc.) from the developer. The formation of the Recreation District was approved by 95% of the residents in a vote to form the District. Prior to the purchase of these facilities from the developer in June, 1999, the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions for Herons Glen required that the homeowner association ("HOA ") pay more than $800,000 per year to the developer as rent for the residents' use of the developer owned golf course. That lease was for 99 years. The covenants at that time also required the HOA to purchase from the developer at Turnover all of the non-golf recreational facilities at the developer's cost, which was estimated to be approximately $8.5 Million.
The developer agreed in 1999 to sell the recreational facilities including the golf course to the residents for $15 Million. The District was then formed to create a governmental entity capable of issuing tax free bonds in order to raise the needed $15 Million purchase money.
- No, although it has the legal authority to tax,
HGRD has never taxed any properties within its boundaries.
Instead the District utilizes assessments, also called "Special Assessments",
to raise its funds to purchase, operate and maintain the recreational facilities.
Because taxes must be paid on the basis of each property's value, the District chose
not to use its taxing power to raise funds.
Special Assessments have the same dignity, i.e. legal status, as taxes, but they are set on the basis of the benefit provided to the property assessed, rather than on the value (ad valorem) of each parcel assessed.
In 1999, HGRD assessed each of the 1300 existing or proposed lots within Herons Glen Phase I at the rate of approximately $1,127 per year for the sole purpose of raising funds to repay the bond money which the District borrowed in order to purchase the recreational facilities. That $1,127 amount is a 30 year assessment which shows up on each property owners tax bill every year. Annually, HGRD imposes a 2nd assessment upon each lot and on each lot anticipated to be created during the ensuing year; for the purpose of operating and maintaining the recreational facilities. Those annual O&M Assessments are used for all other expenses of the District except maintaining the golf course for playability which is an expense paid for by golf memberships.
Does ownership of property within the District entitle one to special privileges in the use of the recreation facilities?
- No, not as a matter of legal right. As a matter of law, all of the facilities
owned by the District, a governmental entity, are public property and as such must
be made available to the general public. HGRD, as owner, has established a fee structure
for the public to use those facilities.
As a matter of policy, however, the Board of Supervisors of HGRD has traditionally permitted Herons Glen property owners certain privileges not available to the general public. For example, owners and their guests are permitted to use all recreation facilities other than the golf facilities free of charge. Some preference is also given to Herons Glen owners with regard to tee times.
The rationale for giving Herons Glen owners special privileges not available to the general public is that since they are already paying most of the operation and maintenance expenses of those facilities some portion of their 0 & M payments could be allocated in a manner which offsets the user fees which would otherwise be applicable. Although the Board of Supervisors does not actually make a specific allocation of those offsets each year they certainly could make such a determination.
- As a funding mechanism for golf course maintenance and in recognition of the golf course's traditional role in the community, the Board of Supervisors have established a golf membership program. Golf members pay an annual prepaid greens fees for golf course play, preferential tee times, and other benefits. Golf membership payments are used to repair and maintain the golf facilities. Other than such golf memberships, there are no "members" of the District.
Does payment of the assessments entitle one to special privileges in the use of the recreation facilities?
- No. Before the annual $1,127 assessment was determined in 1999, the Board
of Supervisors engaged the services of a financial consultant, Dr. Henry Fishkind,
to determine whether the proposed purchase of the recreational facilities from the
developer would have a financial benefit to the resident owners of properties in
Herons Glen. Dr. Fishkind reviewed the development plans, the value of properties
in the area, the value of the golf course and other recreational facilities, and the
aspects of the then-existing declaration of covenants. His analysis determined that
the purchase of the recreational facilities by HGRD would improve the value of each
parcel within Herons Glen sufficiently to warrant an assessment on each parcel in the
amount of$1,127 per year for 30 years. In essence, he determined that the assessment
was justified by the enhancement in the value of each resident's home arising from its
location in a community in which all of those recreational facilities were available.
This analysis was that a home with a golf course near it or around the comer from it,
is a much more valuable home to a prospective purchaser than the identical home would
be in an otherwise identical community without such facilities.
In other words, every lot or homeowner in Herons Glen has already received something of value in exchange for his or her payment of that annual $1,127 assessment, i.e. an increase in the value of their property. No other entitlement, such as any right to use the golf course without paying a fee arises out of that annual $1,127 payment.
Similarly, no specific legal rights are created in a resident or homeowner as a result of their payment of the annual O&M Assessment. The justification for each annual operation and maintenance amount is that the recreational facilities, having been purchased for a good reason, must be operated and maintained in a proper manner. Otherwise, the benefits of having those facilities in the community would be lost
- All recreation facilities are owned by the District which is a separate and distinct entity. As owner of those properties, it has the right to set rules pertaining to their use. As explained above, assessment payments provide specific benefits to each Herons Glen property and do not create in a Herons Glen resident any particular rights to use the recreation facilities. As the sole governing authority, the Board of Supervisors determines from time to time all rights and privileges to be made available to the owners, residents and the general public.
- Yes. The Purchase Agreement between the developer and HGRD established that the Purchase Price ($15 Million) would be spread evenly across all 1300 lots proposed for Herons Glen Phase I. As lots are sold by the developer, each buyer assumes the obligation to pay future assessments on that lot. The developer is obligated to pay the bond assessments on those lots which it still owns or which it will eventually create. An annual O&M Assessment, however, is directly related to actual wear and tear on the recreation facilities. The Purchase Agreement allows the developer to pay on lots which it Owns or which are expected to be created during that particular year
- In the negotiations which led up to the 1999 purchase of the recreation facilities by the District, the developer required, as a condition of the sale, that the District agree to provide it with a fixed number of golf rounds each year. The agreement sets the price of each round at a reduced but fair amount based upon the average of what others are paying. The purpose of the agreement was to allow the developer to continue effectively marketing Herons Glen, a goal which all concede is of significant benefit to all residents of the District.