Family-friendly feel dissolves

Tension in Meadow Pointe had lead to plans for a locked gate at a recreation area.

Published May 11, 2007

WESLEY CHAPEL - When Evy Schwartz moved to Meadow Pointe in 2003, a big selling point for the then expectant mother was the family-friendly feel.

The growing development, which now stretches 9 miles, had multiple clubhouses with pools, playgrounds and tennis courts where young families could socialize.

But lately, the neighborhood has gotten a lot less, well, neighborly. Tension between local governing boards has become so palpable that one group declared it will lock a gate to a fence around its recreation facilities starting in June, prohibiting other residents from using them.

"This lockdown is completely against what 99.9 percent of the people in this community moved here for, " said Karyn Colon, a mother of two who attended a homeowners association meeting Wednesday evening full of mothers angry about the decision. "How do I teach my kids unity when we are not united?"

From the outside, Meadow Pointe looks like one big community. But the area is actually four distinct community development districts - governing boards originally created by developers. They can levy taxes for infrastructure needs and oversee community issues.

The districts are responsible for their clubhouses and pools, and for years have had agreements in which residents could go to any of the facilities. The agreements were signed when the developers still controlled the boards, but residents were elected as the population grew. That's when conflict crept in.

Meadow Pointe II recently built a new fitness room and started demanding IDs for admission, and wouldn't allow residents from Meadow Pointe I. In turn, Meadow Pointe I sent a notice this winter telling Meadow Pointe II they were going to let their 10-year reciprocal use agreement expire in March. Meadow Pointe II then decided to bar Meadow Pointe I residents from all of their facilities.

Meadow Pointe I and Meadow Pointe III still have a joint use agreement, and Meadow Pointe IV's clubhouse is yet to be completed. While most of the neighborhood has the same aesthetic feel, there are some differences. Meadow Pointe II is mainly comprised of gated communities, and Meadow Pointe III has some townhouses.

Evy Schwartz is a member of a Meadow Pointe mothers group, and after hearing other angry mothers talk about the proposed lockout, she decided to do something about it. About 25 of them gathered Wednesday evening in Meadow Pointe II to voice their frustration.

Brian Shahin, the supervisor of the Meadow Pointe II community development district, told the mothers they should have been at earlier meetings.

"If these people would have been here months ago, it never would have gotten this far," Shahin said after the meeting.

However, several residents gathered at a joint meeting of the governing boards of Meadow Pointe I and Meadow Pointe II in February to express their desire to use all of the facilities.

Shahin pointed out that residents who wanted to use Meadow Pointe II's clubhouse could if they paid a fee. An individual can join for $500 a year, a family, $800. Mothers at the meeting said that none of the clubhouses are ever over capacity. Now, Meadow Pointe I is intending to require resident cards for admission, said Dennis Smith, a representative from Meadow Pointe I's community group.

Schwartz said that she knows it seems silly to be spending so much time worrying about a playground.

"But we are moms," she said. "And when our kids are affected we are like lions protecting their young."

Gina Pace can be reached at gpace@sptimes.com 352 521-6518 or toll-free at 1-800-333-7505, ext. 6518.