Marsh Landing is one of the most popular neighborhoods in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida. This gated community is located directly off A1A. It’s very close to JTB (the major thoroughfare to Jacksonville) and abuts the Intracoastal Waterway. Cabbage Creek, a tributary of the Intracoastal, meanders through the neighborhood. Many residents take advantage of the beautiful coastal and marsh views, onsite golf and country club, and location convenient to downtown Jacksonville and close proximity to Mayo. As real estate agents, we know this community appeals to buyers who are looking for gracious homes, large lots, beautiful landscaping, and excellent public schools.
Recently, there has been speculation circulating about potential changes in the community. In order to find out what’s happening, we went straight to the source and sat down with several members of the Marsh Landing Homeowners Association. We asked questions about the current state of the community and tried to get an understanding of future plans.
Right now there are several lawsuits pending against the Marsh Landing HOA. A few homeowners claim that the association was negligent in the handling of the community’s stormwater management system during a tropical storm which caused flooding to some homes in the neighborhood. A key piece of historical information is that construction in Marsh Landing began in the mid-1980s. Over the last 30 years, there have been updates to county building codes and the permitting process changing the requirements for residential construction, including raising the finished floor elevation standards. Several older homes in the community were built well below what’s now considered the current standard elevation and some of those homes experienced water intrusion during the last tropical storm.
HOA representatives tell us Marsh Landing has an extensive stormwater management system that includes pump stations to control the water levels for the many lakes and ponds in the neighborhood. According to the HOA, the current water management system is up to the standard of the Ponte Vedra Beach area, which is designed to withstand a 25-year storm or 8.6” in a 24-hour period. The system has been regularly maintained throughout the years, they say, including pumping water out of the ponds to reduce the water levels prior to a storm. The Homeowners Association told us they feel confident in the stormwater management system, and contend that any flooding to homes occurred due to a storm surge. They say most of the homes that experienced flooding were built in the early phases of the neighborhood and have lower finished floor elevation than more recent builds.
Until 2016, Ponte Vedra Beach had not been hit by a major storm since 1964, so storm surge had not been an issue until Matthew and Irma in 2016 and 2017, respectively. A storm surge occurs when excess water is pushed by the storm from the St. Johns River, down the Intracoastal Waterway, and by extension into the tributaries leading off the waterway. There is no real way to combat the excess water flow, officials tell us, and any property that is below the flood elevation (in the case of Matthew, 6.25 feet) is at risk for flooding.
Regarding the cost of the litigation, the HOA says it designs its annual budgets to be break-even and did not budget funds for this type of litigation, and legal fees have exceeded what was originally estimated. They say between the reserve and emergency funds, plus insurance, the impact on individual owners has been relatively minimal. The association did increase the legal budget in 2021 and there will be a one-time assessment to homeowners in April to cover the costs of the legal challenges against the association. While an exact amount is unknown, the anticipated assessment is between $300 -$400 per household.
The Marsh Landing community is also at a crossroads when it comes to the privately-owned Marsh Landing Country Club which has been for sale for some time. The Marsh Landing Homeowners Association is in negotiations with the club owner to purchase the facility. The HOA is proposing a plan to install a professional club management company that would handle the day-to-day operations of the club and golf course. While these negotiations are ongoing, there have been numerous steps taken to secure a better future for the club, including surveying residents to see what type of improvements can be made to both the club and the neighborhood. Several suggestions are being investigated for feasibility by an ad-hoc committee. Some of the suggestions include more family-oriented activities, a potential dog park, walking paths for the golf course during off-hours, and outdoor club dining, to name just a few.
These activities have sparked speculation that club membership would become mandatory for residents. However, the master association leadership assures us this is not the case. While they would like to have some level of club access available to the entire community, membership in the club will not be mandatory they confirm.
We’ve also heard a concern that there are plans to eliminate the award-winning golf course. The HOA assured us this is not their intent. Most homeowners understand that the club and golf course are assets to the community. However, the HOA believes improvements to the golf course should be secondary to other renovations. Adding functionality in other areas, including outdoor dining, refreshed fitness center, etc., may take precedence, but there are no plans to eliminate the award-winning golf course.
When the change in ownership and management occurs, there may be changes to the initiation dues as well as the monthly fees. However, the HOA is hoping that the improvements will prove to be valuable, and there will be a resurgence of memberships. They’re planning to offer discounted initiation fees to residents of Marsh Landing. They are also exploring opportunities to provide a discounted membership to an affiliated club with beach access.
We’re told all ideas surrounding the club and master plan improvements for Marsh Landing are still in the negotiation phases and will require approval by the residents prior to finalizing any action. We’ll provide updates on the progress in the next few months.