As the Sun City Vistoso Homeowners Association Board of Directors moves forward with plans to build a multi-million dollar sports complex, some homeowners are concerned their voices are being muffled by plans to recruit new buyers.
Micheal Burk, a resident since 2002, said the signals for alarm are going off even though the board has not officially voted to build or improve current exercise facilities.
The board has, however, approved tentative plans to move forward with the proposed project, which could cost
Costs, changes to the retired community and a lack of communication with homeowners have many residents concerned about how the board is handling the plan so far.
Burk said when he first moved to Sun City, annual fees were $700. Now, annual fees are $1,555, and to pay for the proposed aquatic and fitness center, homeowners could be facing higher fees.
“This is a terrible time for SCV, an age-restricted retirement community, to be gambling with homeowner funds. Many residents are in fact elderly and living on a fixed income. Some residents with very limited incomes will likely have to sell if the board has its way on this project,” said Burke.
Burk stressed he is not a bitter homeowner, but wants to get the information out to the 2,800
homeowners before it’s too late and decisions that could financially hurt members are made.
Sun City board president Debra Arrett, SCV General Manager Bob Mariani and SCV Assistant General Manager Robin Coulter promise that while they are going forward with tentative plans, they cannot spend millions of dollars on a project without member support.
Due to the cost of the proposed project, which is estimated between $2.5 million and $2.9 million, Arrett assures it will have to go to a vote. If 50 percent plus one of residents do not approve it, the measure will not proceed.
Coulter said the project was not pulled out of thin air, pointing to surveys over the past few years where residents selected fitness center improvements as a priority.
Resident Greg Mattox said if the board is planning to take a vote he doesn’t understand why they are spending so much time and money to work with architects and create committees aimed at setting the financing, marketing the project and defining a set of plans to fit the area.
“I think they are really premature in talking to any architects or spending any money on these plans,” he said. “They shouldn’t spend any money until they know how we, the residents, feel about it. At this point, I don’t think the majority will approve it. But, I could see the board trying to hold an election when they know a lot of our residents aren’t even here.”
Besides residents wanting the improvements, Arrett said the reason for the proposed aquatic and fitness center would help Sun City be more competitive with other age-restricted communities. One of those is the nearby Heritage Highlands.
“Staying competitive is very important,” she said. “We have perspective buyers looking here, but they choose Heritage because of fitness.”
Coulter explained the focus is on marketing toward active buyers, meaning perspective residents who want to live in a community with full-fitness options.
“They want great workout facilities,” she said. “Our facilities offer some of that, but not at the level to be competitive.”
Mariani said the goal is not to become the “absolute premier facility,” but Sun City is a business and must be somewhat competitive in order to attract newer and younger buyers.
While the current facilities may appear adequate with tennis courts, racquetball, weight rooms and other exercise facilities, Sun City management feels there should be more of a welcoming atmosphere with a better use of space, a lobby, a wall of windows to take advantage of the views, televisions and exercise rooms for aerobic classes.
At the center of the debate is need. While board members argue the current facilities are in bad shape, others argue against the need for a multi-million dollar answer.
Burk asked why the board isn’t considering refurbishing current facilities?
Backing his argument is age. Sun City was originally opened as a private retirement community. It is estimated that 67 percent of the community population is over 70 years of age.
“Yes, the community has become older, but rather than denying it or attempting to change our demographics through this ill-conceived scheme, let’s embrace, accept and celebrate our aging community,” he said.
Aging facilities and homes is one obstacle to being competitive. Arrett and Mariani said they encourage residents to upgrade their homes. Updated home values are much higher than the originals, which were built in the 1980s, Mariani said.
Burk argues that the aging residents of Sun City won’t use the new facilities as much as incoming homebuyers will, but they will be the ones to pay for it.
Arrett stressed financing is still up for discussion. While assessment fees could be levied on current residents, the HOA may also consider financing options and getting some donations to support the cost of construction.
While promising to wait for a vote before making any final decisions, Arrett and Mariani have met with Ventana Medical to discuss becoming partners in financing the sports complex.
Fifteen-year resident Horace Sherman said he is not in favor of financing a new facility, nor is he happy with spending millions of dollars right now.
“I think the board has the attitude of telling us what we need, but doesn’t seem to be considering what we want,” he said.
Another resident speaking on condition of anonymity said, “The current concern is that the board is considering their wants instead of our needs. Certainly we want the sports complex to be well maintained, welcoming and useful for all. This could be done with minimal expenditures rather than the $2.9 million-plus estimate. Does the ceiling really need to be raised? Do new treadmills really need to be equipped with TV’s? Does a wall need to be replaced with glass so that there will be a view of the mountains while exercising? We only need to look out an existing window or walk outside to enjoy our lovely view of the mountains.”
Resident Sandy Santoro said a lot of board members seem to have the attitude that change is required. Homes must be updated, exercise facilities must become “premier” and younger residents are needed for success, she said.
“Homes are selling now,” she continued. “Sure we need to be competitive, but we already are. If (the current board members) don’t like what we have then they should move to Heritage or SaddleBrooke. They want to change everything, even our name, because it sounds too old.”
Santoro’s public expression of her views is also unwelcome by the board. After a letter to the editor printed in the May 18 edition of The Explorer, the resident was removed from serving on an association, and chastised by Mariana and Arrett for making a private issue public.
In a May 18 email to Santoro, Mariani said, “Negative editorials in a public forum about a private matter (in this case an SCV matter), especially editorials that are of one person’s opinion with little or no factual data to support the opinion, will only create more negativity. It’s sort of like dragging a marital dispute into the public which does nothing but harm the spouses and children and gives the public some smut to read.”
Anticipating a lengthy planning process, Mariani and Arrett could not say when the issue will be put to an official vote.
Residents with questions are encouraged to ask the board at the association website at www.suncity-vistoso.com.