Letter: Royal Palm Administration Is Trying To Bully HOAs

Royal Palm Beach Village Manager Ray Liggins on Nov. 3 informed the Royal Palm Beach Village Council about the village’s strategic plan. (Liggins Updates Council On Progress With Strategic Plan Items, Nov. 11). In this speech, Mr. Liggins alleged that the irrigation system on the northern end of Crestwood Blvd. is not in place because it “is the responsibility of the homeowners’ association,” and he said the village has “been in contact with them over the last eight years, and there is still some confusion. I understand that code enforcement is giving them a courtesy notice.” Indeed, there is confusion — confusion on the part of the village, and it needs a response.

When Crestwood Blvd. was turned from a dirt road into a real street, the Saratoga at Royal Palm POA accepted the duty of irrigating the median and the swales. The village provided the permits to place the sprinkler heads to the right and the left of the concrete walkway, and hired a company to link the irrigation pipes through sleeves across the street, including the median.

Six years ago, the village decided to widen the walkways. Saratoga was ordered to replace the irrigation pipes and the sprinkler heads. The village received a big grant, but demanded Saratoga to pay fully for this work and offered to hire a company to do it. Two bids were provided, but Saratoga rejected the offer and found an alternative for half the price, $81,000. However, the two street sides could not be connected because the village was unable to show where six of the connecting sleeves had been placed. It took a major effort and time to force the village engineer to solve the problem. The new irrigation system was finally fully installed in 2014.

One year later, the village approached Saratoga to buy a strip of its land (Tract C). The village needed this parcel in order to sell the area of the former wastewater treatment plant. With it, the village was in a better position to get a good price for the otherwise practically landlocked village-owned real estate. The two sides negotiated for about a year, and the land (Tract C) was finally sold last January directly to the new developer, Lennar Homes Inc. The village received $35 million, and Saratoga roughly $700,000.

With this change of ownership, the irrigation system had to be divided into three parts, namely Lennar and Saratoga’s two subdivisions. Saratoga hired companies for its share of the work. However, the village was slow in providing the permits. That’s why 11 months later, the new systems are not fully installed yet.

In the meantime, the village renewed Crestwood Blvd. between the two Saratoga subdivisions. The base of the street was bulldozed, and the irrigation pipes and some of the irrigation sleeves between the median and the two sides of the street were damaged. Although those sleeves never belonged to Saratoga, and one side of the street, including the old well and pump, now belonged to Lennar, the village demanded that Saratoga repair the sleeves, arguing that originally they had not been placed deep enough in the ground.

Due to the mismanagement by the village, there is still no irrigation on this part of Crestwood Blvd. Instead of cooperating with Saratoga (and Lennar), the village engineer sent a “courtesy note” of “inaction” not to the Saratoga POA, but to the two subdivisions that had nothing to do with the whole affair. The president of the Pines HOA replied and pointed out the village’s confusion. This was taken as an insult and might explain the obstructionist behavior toward Saratoga.

The delay in granting permits for the new wells resulted in the delay of discovering where the road construction destroyed the irrigation pipes and the sprinkler heads. Without water flowing through the system, there was no way for the POA to locate the damaged sprinkler heads. This is now used by the village to not fulfill its obligation to insist that the road construction company pay for the damage.

Mr. Liggins is fully aware of the situation but omits to see his own part of the “confusion.” Instead of threatening an association that helped him to rake in $35 million he should better send a note to his own staff.

Guenter Langer, Secretary, Saratoga at Royal Palm POA

Editor’s note: Mr. Langer wrote this letter on behalf of himself and two other Saratoga community presidents, Toby Siegel and Doris Wolman.