Tamarac plans to buy a community’s clubhouse, and it’s causing a stir

Tamarac officials have agreed to spend almost $2 million of taxpayer money to buy a neighborhood’s clubhouse and build anew, drawing concerns it’s the wrong approach to help a community, as well as a demand letter from the county inspector general’s investigators.

The move to purchase the clubhouse has angered some residents, who say it’s not their place to bail out the townhome community of Shaker Village, which has more than 350 homes. Some argue the move creates a precedent for City Hall to pay for new facilities for individual neighborhoods.

“Why is the city getting involved in a private community? This is going to set a precedent,” said resident Jackie Cowit, who lives in King’s Point. “If they (other communities) get real damage they’re going to go to the city, ‘You gave Shaker Village money.’”

Others say the community, off Commercial Boulevard west of Florida’s Turnpike, needs the help and it’s an “eyesore” for the entire city. “We’re all one city,” said Shaker Village President Jodi-Ann Reid.

The 1973-era community’s clubhouse, which was more than 4,000 square feet, was appraised at about $1.25 million. But city leaders voted to pay $1.94 million.

“The math doesn’t add up for smart spending on behalf of the city,” said Mayor Michelle Gomez.

Gomez blasted the plan, saying the city would be required to maintain the clubhouse, and even a new building would be small to accommodate too many people at once, estimated at 50 people upstairs and 50 people downstairs. And the city is buying from the Shaker Village “Association,” which is owned by each property owner.

“We are talking specifically about the city of Tamarac potentially buying a piece of property that is currently owned by a person sitting on the commission,” she said about Vice Mayor Marlon Bolton’s residency in the community. “It also doesn’t pass the sniff test. He’s also been involved in the negotiations of this.” She called out whether it raised “some commission ethical issues.”

The existing structure will be bulldozed and a new clubhouse — one that would be open to the city residents — would also both be funded by taxpayers. Construction for the new clubhouse is expected to be at least $6 million. Demolition is expected to cost another $75,000, city officials said.

On Friday, the county’s Inspector General demanded records surrounding the deal, including “any and all communications (ie. emails and text messages) between Vice Mayor Marlon Bolton and city employees discussing the city’s purchase of the Shaker Village Clubhouse and land.”

The nine-point, two-page letter sent to the city clerk and then distributed to the City Commission also requests dates of all meetings that the purchase was discussed from 2020 through 2022, and any cost-to-benefit analysis conducted by the city of the purchase. The deadline to respond is July 28.

In a 3-2 vote, Gomez voted against the decision. “It’s not the right public policy,” she said. “Other community clubhouses are in need. Why are we not helping them as well?”

The one-story structure came under disrepair in August 2017 when a windstorm, not a hurricane, blew through. The roof collapsed and the property has since racked up $3 million from 43 liens in common areas. Gomez said board members have reported that insurance shelled out $397,934.64 for the clubhouse, but the work was never done.

Tamarac’s Bolton said he has lived at two different locations within Shaker Village since about 2017, first renting from the association, then a private landlord.

He is a church pastor, and his North Lauderdale-based church bought his home two months ago. Bolton still lives in that home and now rents from the church. Property records show the home was purchased for $195,000.

Still, he said the city attorney ruled there is no conflict for him voting on the city’s purchase because “a church is not owned by an individual.”

He said the city’s involvement is for the good of the city because more public facilities are needed in the eastern area of Tamarac, where Shaker Village is located, and this would provide a new meeting place for the city at large. Still, the community’s pool and basketball court will remain closed to the general public.

“The residents always said they feel like the stepchildren of Tamarac, they’ve always said that,” Bolton said. “What better way to resolve the deficiency or resolve the (unequal) distribution of services in the east and the west.”

This is a photo of Shaker Village.
Tamarac officials have agreed to spend millions of dollars of taxpayer money to buy Shaker Village’s clubhouse and build anew.

Bolton said the 2.4 acres that will be purchased by the city includes the building, tennis court and a second pool. The fate of the pool and tennis court on the clubhouse parcel remains unclear.

Bolton said the money that Shaker Village will make from the sale will be “held in escrow to improve the drainage issues that causes flooding in the community.”

But Gomez said only $1.5 million of the $1.9 million is earmarked to go toward drainage to save each property owner from assessments “and they won’t have to pay insurance or upkeep and other items anymore on the clubhouse.” The rest will go to the homeowner’s association, which is made up of the property owners. The details are not yet known on how it will be spent, she said.

Commissioner Elvin Villalobos, who also voted against the deal, questioned if the Shaker Village community would properly spend the money they receive from the purchase.

“It doesn’t even fit in my head what we’re trying to do,” he said.

Lisa J. Huriash can be reached at lhuriash@sunsentinel.com. Follow on Twitter @LisaHuriash

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