EAST MANATEE -- Homeowners associations sometimes get a bad rep.
Too critical, too uptight, too strict.
But Rick Greendonner, president of the HOA at Braden Crossings, is trying to change that stigma, beginning with how he treats residents in his own neighborhood.
Supportive, not scolding.
"The board does not run this neighborhood. The community is run by the community members. I've got 110 bosses in here," the retired law enforcement officer said. "That's the smart way of doing it. We've all read the HOA horror stories."
When a resident wanted to paint his house a shade outside of the neighborhood's acceptable color palette, Greendonner helped add striping to the paint and assisted him in choosing a different color.
When a woman was hos
pitalized for cancer and couldn't pay her HOA dues, the board simply told her to pay when she could.
"You don't want an evil board," said Greendonner, 64. "I call them 'ego boards.' "
The first homes in Braden Crossings were built in the late 1990s when Lockwood Ridge Road, the main street running parallel to the community, ended half a mile south of State Road 70 near the neighborhood's entrance. Before Lockwood Ridge became a main artery to Sarasota County, and before S.R. 70 widened from a two-lane to a six-lane road, Braden Crossings was tremendously quiet.
Mark Pelea, one of the neighborhood's first residents, says the increase in both roads has exposed the community to a little more noise.
"We liked it because it was secluded," said Pelea, 47, adding that the new developments that have taken place have helped cut down on noise.
Pelea, now an IT manager at SaraPath Diagnostics in Sarasota, bought in Braden Crossings for its close proximity to work. The houses, all new at the time and built by Atlanta-based Pulte Homes, were selling in the $150,000s -- just the right price for a young family.
A newer resident, Frank Briandi, bought his three-bedroom home with a pool after his divorce three years ago.
"There were a lot of properties I did look at, but they were out of my price range, and I needed to get into something right away," said Briandi, a retired pressure washing contractor. "It was a foreclosure. I had cash. I got it real fast."
A few times a month, Greendonner and his right-hand woman, Janice Hill, sit on his back patio drinking coffee and puffing cigarettes. Hill, the association's office manager, updates Greendonner on all neighborhood issues, of new residents moving in and the ones moving out.
"We're a background community," said Hill, a resident since 1998. "If you're a sex offender, you can't live here."
One, however, managed to slip through the system when his parents intended to buy a home at 4659 56th Terrace E. and then switched names on the title last minute.
James M. Goodbrad, a former first-grade teacher at McNeal Elementary School in Lakewood Ranch, pleaded guilty in September 2007 to one count of felony lewd and lascivious molestation after admitting to molesting the 15-year-old boy.
After Goodbrad was able to purchase a home under the wire the following year, the HOA rewrote its documents prohibiting last-minute substitutions. Now, on Halloween nights, Greendonner hands out color flyers warning parents to avoid the home.
Lower HOA fees
Aside from its strong HOA board, Braden Crossings, a 111-home community, prides itself on its lower association fees. Because the neighborhood doesn't have the amenities of most planned developments -- a pool, a clubhouse, tennis courts -- dues are lower than most surrounding deed restricted communities: $619 per year, or about $50 per month.
The neighborhood entrance facing Lockwood Ridge Road saw $10,000 in renovations last month. All invasive plants were removed, and new flowers were installed.
"We're always trying to improve ... We're always trying to keep home values as high as we can," said Bryan Morgan, the secretary and treasurer of the board. "There are other communities who charge people a lot more and do a lot less, in my opinion."
To keep the neighborhood a residential community and not an investor community, the board put a limit on the amount of rental homes allowed: only 10 percent, or 11 homes.
"The way we do business is for the homeowner," said Hill, the office manager. "We don't need the Sunshine laws or the statutes to tell us that."
Sabrina Rocco, East Manatee reporter, can be reached at (941) 745-7024. Follow her on Twitter @sabrinarocco.