Many residents of Charlotte County who moved here from other parts of the country are not familiar with deed restricted communities, or with homeowners associations. Deed restricted communities are rare in New England, and in much of the Midwest, where many of our families originally came from.
Here in Charlotte County these communities range in size from those with a dozen or so homes, to places like Deep Creek which has thousands of homes, apartments, condominiums, and dozens of businesses. Across the county, we see many communities that are gated, and many that are open to the public. In gated communities, the roads are private, and the county is not responsible for their upkeep. In open communities such as Deep Creek and Rotonda, the roads are public and are maintained by the local government.
A number of communities also contain lakes. The lakes also are owned and maintained by their respective communities, and the use of the lakes is generally restricted to the residents or their guests. Most lakes do not allow motorized vessels with the exception of small electric trolling motors. Of course, most of the lakes are quite small, and many were created as part of the infrastructure construction within those communities. One exception is Lake Zappa in Deep Creek which is nearly two miles long and existed prior to that development. I actually met people who used to water ski on the lake in the 1960s and 1970s and hunt in an area now filled with homes.
Other parts of these communities are their homeowners associations. These are manned by volunteer elected boards. The homeowner association board sets and enforces rules and policies that are approved by a vote of the general membership. These might include rules for minimum home size, construction type, landscape requirements, exterior paint colors, mowing requirements, exterior home maintenance requirements, etc. The homeowners association usually prohibits commercial activities in areas limited to single family homes.
All of these restrictions are filed with and approved by the state, and may be far stricter than local county rules. A homeowners association is required by the state to enforce the rules, and may at times be forced to go to court to accomplish this. Failure to enforce their restrictions may cause a court to throw them out! This has happened in other parts of Florida.
Folks always ask why they should live in a deed restricted community. One answer is that in most cases the restrictions maintain and increase the property values in them. People moving into the area look for neighborhoods where the infrastructure is well maintained. They look for communities that are safe for themselves and their children.
No one is forced to move into a deed restricted community, but if you are considering this, make sure you know what you are getting into by reading all of the restrictions and documents before the closing!
Harvey Goldstein, PhD, is a member of the Charlotte County Curmudgeon Club.