Frequently Asked Questions
What is Herons Glen Recreation District?
The Herons Glen Recreation District ("HGRD") is a Florida governmental entity called a Special District. Special Districts serve a specific geographical area and are governed by an elected board of supervisors.
The geographical boundaries of HGRD are equivalent to the boundaries of Herons Glen (1300 lots). The District is operated by five (5) Supervisors elected by popular vote for terms of three (3) years each. In their operation and authority, Special Districts are very similar to municipalities, though Special Districts are set up to perform more specific and limited functions. Examples of other special districts are: North Fort Myers Fire District, Lee County Mosquito Control and the Reedy Creek Community Development District (Disney World). HGRD is like numerous Community Development Districts which have been created in Southwest Florida.
Why was the HGRD formed?
HGRD was started by a group of concerned residents who wanted a way to purchase the Herons Glen recreation facilities (golf course, clubhouse, restaurant, pool, tennis courts, etc.) from the developer. The formation of the Recreation District was approved by a referendum in which 95% of the residents of Herons Glen voted in favor. Prior to the purchase of the recreation facilities in June 1999, the Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions for Herons Glen required that the homeowner association ("HOA ") pay more than $800,000 per year to the developer as rent for the residents' use of the Herons Glen golf course. That lease was for 99 years, beginning in 1991. The covenants at that time also required the HOA to purchase from the developer at Turnover all of the non-golf recreational facilities at the developer's cost, which amount was estimated to be an additional $8.5 Million in 1999.
The developer agreed in 1999 to sell all the recreational facilities including the golf course to the residents for $15 Million. The District was then formed to create a governmental entity capable of issuing tax free bonds to raise the needed $15 Million purchase money.
Does the District tax residents?
No, although it has the legal authority to tax, HGRD has never taxed any properties within its boundaries. Instead, the District utilizes assessments, also called "Special Assessments", to raise its funds to purchase, operate and maintain the recreational facilities. Because taxes must be paid on the basis of each property's individual value, the District chose not to use taxing power to raise funds.
Special Assessments have the same dignity, i.e. legal status, as taxes, but they are established on the basis of the benefit provided to the property assessed by the property being located in a community where those recreational facilities are available, rather than on the value (ad valorem) of each individual parcel in the District.
In 1999, HGRD assessed each of the 1300 existing or proposed lots within Herons Glen at the rate of approximately $1,127 per year for the purpose of raising funds to repay the bond money which the District borrowed for purchase of the recreational facilities. That $1,127 amount was a 30-year assessment which was placed on each property owners tax bill each year. In 2006 HGRD refinanced the prior Bonds, raised some additional capital, and used the funds to significantly add to or improve it recreation facilities. As a result the annual Bond assessment was increased to $1,294. In 2020 the District again refinanced the Bonds and raised an additional $13 million of capital for substantial additions and improvements to the golf course and the other recreational facilities, resulting in a small increase of the annual Bond assessment to $1424.58 per year.
It should be noted that each Bond issue – 1999, 2006 and 2020 – was presented to the Herons Glen residents for approval prior to its adoption by the Board. In each case, the proposed Bond was overwhelmingly approved by a majority of the Herons Glen owners.
Annually, HGRD imposes a 2nd special assessment (“O&M”) upon each lot for the purpose of operating and maintaining all recreational amenities. Those annual O&M Assessments are used for all other expenses of the District except maintaining the golf course for playability which is an expense paid for by golf memberships. Obviously, having created these amenities, they must be operated and maintained in order to provide value to the homes and residents of the community.
Does ownership of property within the District entitle one to special privileges in the use of the recreation facilities?
No, not as a matter of legal right. As a matter of law all the facilities owned by the District are public property and as such must be made available to the general public. HGRD, as owner, has established a fee structure which would allow members of the public to use its facilities.
As a matter of policy, however, the Board of Supervisors of HGRD has traditionally permitted Herons Glen property owners certain privileges not available to the general public. For example, owners and their guests are permitted to use the recreation facilities other than the golf facilities without fees. Some preference is also given to Herons Glen owners with regard to golf tee times.
The rationale for giving Herons Glen owners special privileges not available to the general public is that the owners are already paying, not only the cost for purchase and construction of the facilities, but also most of the operation and maintenance expenses for those facilities. The Board recognizes the owners’ O&M payments as a substitute for any fees that would otherwise be applicable.
Why is there a Golf Course Membership?
As a funding mechanism for golf course maintenance and in recognition of the golf course's traditional “Club” role in the community, the Board of Supervisors has established a golf membership program. Golf members pay annual prepaid greens fees for their golf course play, preferential tee times, and other benefits. Golf membership payments are used to repair and maintain the golf facilities.
The facilities and the recreation activities are to be used by Herons Glen residents. However, for a fee non-residents may make an application to the Board of Supervisors to be accepted as annual non-resident members for the purpose of access to and use of the recreation facilities.
Does payment of the assessments entitle one to special privileges in the use of the recreation facilities?
No. Before each annual Bond assessment was determined, the Board of Supervisors has engaged the services of a financial consultant, Dr. Henry Fishkind, to determine whether the proposed purchases, additions and improvements contemplated for the Bond would have an equivalent financial benefit to the residents/owners of properties in Herons Glen. In each case, Dr. Fishkind reviewed the development plans, the value of properties in the area, and the value to be added to the homes in the community because of the amenities to be purchased, constructed or improved by the HGRD Bond funds. His analysis determined in each case that the purchase of the recreational facilities by HGRD would increase the value of each parcel within Herons Glen sufficiently to warrant an assessment on each parcel in the amount necessary to refund the Bonds. In essence, he determined that the assessment was justified by the enhancement in the value of each resident's home arising from its location in a community in which those recreational amenities are available. His analysis concluded that a home in a community with a quality golf course, Clubhouse, recreational and social amenities, such as we have in Herons Glen, is a much more valuable home to a prospective purchaser than the identical home in an otherwise identical community, which did not include such facilities.
In other words, every lot or homeowner in Herons Glen has already received something of value in exchange for his or her payment of their annual Bond and O&M assessments, i.e., an increase in the value of their property. No other entitlement, such as any right to use the golf course without paying a fee arises out of those payments.
Why must I abide by the rules of the District?
All the recreation facilities/amenities are owned by the HGRD, which is a separate and distinct legal entity. As owner of those amenities, HGRD has the right to set rules pertaining to the use of its properties. As explained above, assessment payments provide specific benefits to each Herons Glen property and do not create in a Herons Glen resident any particular rights to use the recreation facilities. As the sole governing authority, the Board of Supervisors determines from time to time all rights and privileges to be made available to the owners, residents and the general public.