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South Beach Property Owners group wants to be player again


South Beach Property Owners’ Association meetings once were a place where neighbors who live south of 17th Street gathered to discuss utility issues, road projects and other matters important to their communities.

Then a bitter dispute broke out among members of the board, and the core of the organization all but collapsed.

Last March, then-SBPOA President George Lamborn filed a lawsuit against four other board members in circuit court in Indian River County. He said at that time he was taking the "unprecedented measure" to prevent the "illegal takeover" of the association by a "group of dissident directors who are acting at the behest and with the active collaboration of a public official."

Though he was not named in the lawsuit, the public official was County Commissioner Bob Solari, who represents the south island on the Board of County Commissioners and who is reported to have met with the dissident directors after clashing with Lamborn’s faction over short-term rental regulation.

The lawsuit was eventually dropped, but in the meantime, many members bailed out.

As the organization declined, there were no more informative speakers or large crowds of 100 or more people to listen to them. Gone, too, were the politicians who once courted the support of the Association and its members come election time.

Now, though, the South Beach POA says it’s rebuilding. Quality of life is the overarching mission. Specific goals for 2017 relate to the Indian River Lagoon, unreliable cable television service, public safety, and high Vero electric bills with no representation in setting rates.

The new leadership has been getting “out there,” speaking from public podiums about issues, especially President Dr. Miles Conway.

“The threats to the South Beach quality and way of life have never been greater than the present. Lagoon pollution, high speed train invasion, destructive rental businesses in residential neighborhoods and rising electric costs need to be tackled by an energetic, aggressive and proactive organization,” Conway said. “The only organization in Indian River County that is up to the task is the South Beach Property Owners Association and its board of highly qualified directors.”

Conway has also spoken at length on his desire to see South Beach annexed into the City of Vero Beach to benefit from police protection – an event unlikely to happen unless residents suddenly feel inclined to pay city taxes and become part owners of Vero’s costly electric, water and sewer utilities.

Despite a roster of directors with decades of professional experience and expertise in a number of subject areas, Conway and his fellow officers are looking for savvy people to join their ranks.

Board Secretary Jose Lambiet, a 12-year South Beach resident and journalist who got involved in SBPOA after serving as president of his homeowners’ association at Treasure Cove, has been tasked with promoting the organization to potential members. South Beach residents can join as individuals, or as a delegate from their respective community organizations.

“We are re-explaining, basically door-to-door, to everyone why their homeowners’ associations should be joining and why they [personally] should belong to the South Beach POA,” Lambiet said.

The SBPOA’s main annual meeting will take place at 6 p.m. on May 1 at the boathouse of the Quail Valley River Club. The board will present the slate of officers for the coming year and go over the group’s priorities.

South Beach residents and business owners interested in joining are welcome to sit in, but voting is open to paid and elected members only.