Monday, March 15, 2021

Florida's feral hogs: a pervasive pest – but a profitable one for some | Environment | The Guardian

Florida's feral hogs: a pervasive pest – but a profitable one for some | Environment | The Guardian
Florida's large private communities are getting visitors: feral hogs.
"Florida’s plight is especially severe because the state’s current housing boom, spurred by the pandemic, is rapidly turning the once rural stretches between Tampa and Orlando into a single conurbation. The same goes for the creeping inland sprawl in the rest of the state: wetlands, pine forests and vestigial orange groves that were recently hog habitats have become densely populated housing developments, strings of red-roofed tract homes and retirement communities. The majority of Florida’s new exurban residents, seniors in particular, are living closer to hogs than ever before. “The new houses go up, and the hogs leave for a while, but they always come back,” Pompi says. He mentions the communes for adults over 55 in central Florida like The Villages, the fastest-growing metropolitan area in the US from 2010-2017, and its smaller counterpart, Solivita, a planned community inhabited by 6,000 baby boomers – Xanadu for the “active adult”.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Saturday, March 06, 2021

Should Condominium Associations Be Permitted to Invest Operating & Reserve Funds? SB 1490 Says Yes! | CALL - Powered by

Should Condominium Associations Be Permitted to Invest Operating & Reserve Funds? SB 1490 Says Yes! | CALL - Powered by
"For years there have been significant legal constraints on a condominium association’s ability to use reserve funds. In addition to the statutory requirement to obtain membership approval for non-designated reserve usage, the prevailing school of thought was that association funds could not be invested since investments can and do fail. A newly filed bill by Senator Jason Pizzo, SB 1490, could create a significant change in terms of an association’s ability to invest the community’s operating and reserve funds in depositories other than a traditional bank or savings and loan. The bill provides as follows: “Unless otherwise prohibited in the declaration, and in accordance with s. 718.112(2)(f), an association, including a multicondominium association, may invest any funds in one or any combination of investment products described in this subsection.”
Wow. I think this bill is a terrible idea. Lawyers and managers are always trying to convince condo boards that they need to have adequate reserves. The temptation to under-reserve and spare owners higher assessments is strong and ever-present. Now this bill would add the temptation to try to make the money by riskier investments with potentially higher return than CDs. If they lose the reserves in the stock market, then where does the money come from to replace the roof? Answer: the owners' pockets, in the form of a special assessment that many owners might not be able to pay. And that can lead to foreclosures. So I think SB 1490 is a bad idea!

Monday, February 22, 2021

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Gave Out VIP Vaccines to rich people in planned communities

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis Gave Out VIP Vaccines
"But even as McPherson struggled to get an appointment, DeSantis funneled 3,000 extra doses to seniors residing in two targeted zip codes within Lakewood Ranch, a well-off residential community near Bradenton developed by the Uihlein family. The clan’s members include GOP and DeSantis megadonor Richard Uihlein, who gave $900,000 to the governor’s re-election effort in 2018 and 2019, according to the Florida Division of Elections. The Uihleins own Lakewood Ranch’s parent company Schroeder-Manatee Ranch, whose CEO Rex Jensen got a call from DeSantis about delivering the goods, as first reported by The Bradenton Herald. (A spokesperson for Schroeder-Manatee told the Sun-Sentinel Richard Uihlein was not himself a shareholder in the company.) Jensen then contacted Republican Manatee County Commission Chairwoman Vanessa Baugh to help set up the pop-up vaccine site, and she gave the final word on who would get the shots, according to local media reports. She even provided a VIP list to county staff that included herself, some of her friends, and Jensen."
DeSantis is expected to be a presidential candidate in 2024. He is after the Trump vote, and his loutish, cynical behavior will probably help him with the Republican Party's brainwashed, gubmint-hating, QAnon loving base. 

Friday, February 05, 2021

‘Innovation Zones’ promoted by Nevada governor would create semi-autonomous county at behest of Blockchains LLC | Carson City Nevada News - Carson Now

‘Innovation Zones’ promoted by Nevada governor would create semi-autonomous county at behest of Blockchains LLC | Carson City Nevada News - Carson Now
"A proposal created by Blockchains LLC and circulated in the Legislature describes the fantastical contours of a plan to create a semi-autonomous county that slowly assumes powers of the county it’s based in and is supported by a cryptocurrency known as “stablecoin.” The plan, obtained by The Nevada Independent, includes draft language creating “Innovation Zones,” a concept touted by Gov. Steve Sisolak in his State of the State address last month but that otherwise has not been described publicly in detail. Sisolak touched on the idea as one element of an economic development plan to create close to 200,000 jobs and help Nevada dig out of a crushing, pandemic-driven recession. It comes as the company argues existing rules governing municipalities are too inflexible for the kind of revolutionary project Blockchains LLC hopes to realize.The proposal by Blockchains LLC would create essentially autonomous districts that function as a county-within-a-county, taking over responsibilities such as tax collection, K-12 education and other services normally provided by county governments. Such “zones” could only be created by a private developer who owns more than 50,000 acres of land (such as Blockchains), promises to invest up to $1 billion in the Zone and agrees to levy an industry-specific tax on an “innovative technology” based in the Zone itself. The bill language has not yet been submitted to legislative bill drafters, and could change substantially between the initial version and whatever version is introduced in the Legislature."

Saturday, January 30, 2021

TARTER v. BENDT | No. 1 CA-CV 19-0703. | By MORSE | 20210128004 |

TARTER v. BENDT | No. 1 CA-CV 19-0703. | By MORSE | 20210128004 |
Wow. This is an unpublished (not to be cited as precedent) appellate court opinion from Arizona.  There was an HOA election, with the Tarters on the winning side and the Bendts on the losing side. According to the opinion, the Bendts then began attacking the Tarters online and in other ways, making the claims about the Tarters that are described below. The Tarters sued the Bendts for defamation. The eye-watering verdict against the Bendts:  over $1.5 million, including $1 million in punitive damages. In this opinion, the Court of Appeals of Arizona, Division One, affirms the verdict, meaning that the Bendts will have to pay, unless they appeal to the Arizona Supreme Court and win.   

The opinion has a number of interesting aspects. First is affirming a huge verdict against people who engaged in online verbal attacks against their HOA leadership, which is something that happens often. This verdict suggests that HOA dissidents need to think about the consequences of their rhetoric, stick to facts and issues, and avoid defamatory language. Second, the court found that as HOA leaders, the plaintiffs were "limited public figures," which raises the bar for them and requires them to prove "actual malice," i.e., that the defendants either knew their statements were false or acted with reckless disregard for the truth. But, third, the plaintiffs DID prove actual malice on these facts, which should be a sobering thought for people who are tempted to claim that they are just expressing personal opinions when they say things like this (see below) about their HOA leaders.  My final thought: In my experience, HOA and condo association disputes have a tendency to become nasty and personal. I have been involved in a number of disputes as an attorney or expert witness where that has happened, and I've heard or read about others. I'm not sure what to do about that, except to say that I continue to believe in the value of open but civil discourse in condo and HOA affairs.  
From the opinion:
"The Tarters' complaint identified many disparaging statements made by Mrs. Bendt in her July newsletter. The Tarters alleged that Mrs. Bendt's assertions were defamatory and caused her readers to falsely believe that: (1) Mr. Tarter lacked ethics and/or behaved unethically or illegally; (2) Mr. Tarter concealed material financial information from the HOA members; (3) Mr. Tarter misled HOA members and acted unlawfully; (4) Mr. Tarter conducted and facilitated "secret" Board meetings; and (5) Mr. Tarter wrongfully over-spent HOA funds which would cause an increase in monthly HOA fees. Based on our review, at trial the parties focused on: (1) whether Mr. Tarter was asked to resign from the Board; (2) an $8,000 payment to an exterminator; (3) a tree removal; (4) the Board's executive sessions; (5) $40,000 in alleged overspending; and (6) the monthly HOA fees. The Tarters introduced evidence that Mrs. Bendt called Mr. Tarter "idiot," "fool," "spineless," "disgusting," "chicken shit," "lowlife," "low-class sneak," "unethical," "lazy," "weak," and "a complete fake" in front of fellow HOA members. Additionally, Mrs. Bendt wrote emails calling Mrs. Tarter, whom she had never met, "a bitch" and a "drinking dog walker." Mrs. Bendt also disparaged Mr. Tarter's legal education, insulted his alma matter, referred to him as a habitual liar, and unethical. Mrs. Bendt accused Mr. Tarter of violating his attorney ethical obligations, and wrote that he could be disciplined by the Arizona State Bar and investigated by the Attorney General ("AG"). After an eight-day trial, the jury awarded the Tarters $150,000 for reputational harm, $350,000 for emotional harm, and $1 million for punitive damages. The superior court awarded a further $20,120.42 in taxable costs."

Saturday, January 23, 2021

The People the Suburbs Were Built for Are Gone

The People the Suburbs Were Built for Are Gone
"Previous mainstays of suburban life are now myths: that the majority of people own their homes; that the suburbs are havens for the middle class; or that the bulk of people are young families who value privacy over urban amenities like communal spaces, walkability, and mixed-use properties.  This mismatch has led to a phenomenon called “suburban retrofitting,” as documented by June Williamson, an associate professor of architecture at the City College of New York, and Ellen Dunham-Jones, a professor of architecture at the Georgia Institute of Technology. They have a new book out this week: Case Studies in Retrofitting Suburbia: Urban Design Strategies for Urgent Challenges".
There's no doubt that American households aren't what they were when the suburban model was developed. Look at all that real estate given over to parking lots, shopping malls, and golf courses. How do those land uses fit with the changes that are taking place in the way we work, play, and live?