Pickleball Fatigue.

Welcome to Celebration!

Michael Eisner’s Fever Dream, the exquisite product of an age when anything was possible for Disney, or so they thought at the time. Do you remember when we were SO identified with Mickey that, like any modern marriage, our names were, sort of, “hyphenated”? That was the period where the media only referred to us as “Disney’s Town of Celebration”. Right now it is only realtors who cannot write a listing without assigning the Disney ownership.

Well, that was before somebody (and by “body” I mean human person, resident) smacked the Celebration Company right out of it, introducing various culture wars, battling teaching methods, school locations, and revealing a fact unknown to Page Pierce, that the residents had ideas of their OWN about how our converted swampland should be organized. This turned out to be a vexing problem for which the TCC, accustomed as they were, to absolute control, had grown accustomed to calming dissatisfaction with a comped meal, OR a cunning little Mickey figurine. (I still have a small collection) This method operated SO successfully in the parks. It was only then that the Celebration Company began their quest to shoehorn in a respectable distance between Disney and, not so much The TOWN of Celebration, but the residents of Celebration. They had real estate left to sell, which meant our little arrangement was still on, but in a now lukewarm way.

One cannot blame Disney for this. All along the way, The Celebration Company openly confessed that they were only providing the infrastructure, that it was the GUESTS- I mean residents-who would fill this wonderful place with actual substance, and would make their wishes known through our almost-democratic form of governance.
I have fiddled around with the ways of condominium associations, and picked up an opinion, in some cases more than opinion, yes, actual FACTS about how they function. Most-in this case, say, 97 out of 100 owners, did NOT move into a condominium to learn how condominium “sausage” is made. They want to be cared for. Many are quite startled to learn the bare bones of the rules. And the governance. AND they only do this when something such as a roof collapse, or worse, a new ASSESSMENT appears.

The hands-off approach is somewhat less pervasive for our HOA. Yet, still, it seems that the majority of residents receive their information from a variety of “Porches”, where CROA-NON like truths can blossom.
At long last, I am arriving at my thesis, which is that I find the Pickleball location controversy an encouraging signal of greater interest, greater participation in the process, and greater appreciation for the Wagnerian efforts of so many, struggling to sort out the winding path of Celebration and its politics.
Voter participation is embarrassingly small. The current referendum requires 362 signatures, 8% of our population. In the latest CROA election, the top vote getter loped into office with 769. No math expert here, but my fourth grader grandson tells me that is 17 percent of the 4,524 eligible household votes. Not exactly a mandate.
I’d like to think that a FAR greater percentage of Celebrites choose to understand these issues, and a referendum is a dandy way of engaging, and educating our own huddled masses.

And I don’t care who wins, I care who votes. Maybe Pickleball IS the fastest growing sport. Or maybe, as quoted in the Washington Post, “Everytime a new Pickleball court is built, an orthopedic surgeon gets a swimming pool”. Either way, it is all of us, newly informed and involved residents, who will be winning.


Power Broker for a Small Town

It appears that the new end run for Celebration Hall is to sign on with Lexin JUST for a little bit, one short year, so that we may all be impressed with our enhanced quality of life, so much so that we are willing to joyously fork over an estimated $500,000 annually. What we will receive for major contribution to Lexin Capital’s bottom line and how deep OUR pockets really need to be, all of that remains to be seen.

I have been re-reading Robert Caro’s stunning biography of Robert Moses, The Power Broker, and am fascinated by the art of public mind-bending employed by Governor Al Smith and Robert Moses. They KNEW that if you got the Public to commit to spending SOME amount of money, then you had won. The concept as presented did not have to be valid-or even mildly REALISTIC. Because once you SPENT the money, well then, you were LOATHE to walk away from your investment.

And THAT is how the slippery slope begins.

Moses was in the business of legacy/monument building. The roads and bridges which epitomize his massive achievements buried BILLIONS of wasted dollars, suppressed a whole lot of information, and trampled the rights of many, many regular people. No one can compete with Moses for sheer scale, yet in our own little town the actual NEED for this kind of venue is being subjugated to the DESIRE for some small scale MONUMENT BUILDING right here in Celebration.

I am opposed to any lease in Town Center. And it’s NOT simply because it is Lexin, it could be anybody, Voldemort, Darth Vader, ANYBODY. It is self-proclaimed PRIME RETAIL SPACE. Why would Lexin not want to utilize The AMC Theater to strengthen their retail chain rather than breaking it? And why do we, an HOA, NEED Prime Retail Space?

Perhaps, to Lexin, finding a qualified tenant has become tedious. As a community I recommend we avoid becoming emotionally involved with such a needy partner.

Not Our Town Center

The truth about Celebration- One SO often missed while reading (you ALL read them, right?) the many Declarations and Recorded Documents and Such, is that the really iconic photogenic, Celebration, the one stuffed with highly touted architectural masterpieces, the views of the lake, the margaritas and vente-lattes, the area which made you CONVINCED you wanted to live RIGHT HERE, RIGHT NOW, in NO way belongs to you, Celebration Homeowner, HOA fees payer, and concerned citizen that you are. THAT Celebration belongs, FEE SIMPLE, to Lexin Capital, a For-Profit Private Equity firm, which purchased it from Disney in 2004.

CROA has no say, no votes, no equity, in the real estate donut in the center of OUR Celebration.

OUR Celebration is a series of tandem ”villages”, with no commercial areas except a small Home/Business District. We are but a SUBDIVISION. Our relationship with Lexin owned Celebration Town Center might be described as symbiotic on any given day. Parasitic on others.

The looming Towers of the Cesar Pelli designed AMC Theater glow warmly in the night sky, keeping up an illusion that ALL IS WELL in Town Center, despite ten-plus years of darkened screens and empty lobbies. Lexin has been content to collect significant income from AMC, all the while either never actively CONSIDERING qualified replacements, or perhaps unable to SECURE a tenant which might satisfy the stringent underwriting requirements of a LENDER. (Should Lexin need to refinance their significant Town Center debt in, SAY, for example, the next year. Back of a VERY big envelope, my all-in-estimation of annual costs to commandeer this architecturally significant white elephant add up to $500,000. To start. Change my mind.

Town Center has 163,000 leasable square feet, making the AMC Theater a numerically important part of Lexin’s Big Picture, vis-a-vis Town Center. Securing CROA as a tenant would certainly be a coup for Lexin, after all the HOA is not about to default, rather our HOA might just let the frog water simmer as unexpected expenses rise like scum to the top. This is business as usual in a For Profit Corporation. CROA is most definitely NOT a for-profit-entity.

Why NOT selecting ANY Business Partner for an HOA Amenity is debatable, theres a plethora of history available which would support NOT selecting Lexin.

It’s Been a Quiet Day in (your location here)


Not sure if anybody has missed ME, but I sure have missed engaging in a one-sided conversation with inhabitants in my small part of the world in where-in my MIND anyway-I am AN INFLUENCER. An influencer without smokey-eyed make-up or kicky shoes, to be sure. Yet here I am, sheltering on this tiny piece of land which remains forever Disney, forever magic, and forever ready to share messages of hope with all the yet-to-be-identified survivors of this difficult time.

The above picture was taken this morning in Manhattan, home of Dread Pirate Metin Negrin, its mood strikingly similar to an image of Town Center Celebration. While Dread Pirate Metin is forbidden to appear on the shores of Lake Rianhard without an obligatory  14 day quarantine, his ill will travels over non-restricted band-width, allowing him to impose nastiness from afar, counting on the Coronavirus to provide a handy assist in his crippling dirty work.

The world is so awry that one can almost feel its axis tipping dangerously. With only the briefest of warnings,  millions of us have found our lives tossing in a virtual tornado of change. Watching episodes of “A Year in Space” I share Scott Kelly’s perspective, the Earth becomes our ceiling, no longer the solid floor where we held an illusory toehold on life.
All of us on planet earth are similarly anxious, and serially giddy with concern for those we love. It a never before experience, this having to worry about the entire world at one time. It is a puzzlement.

What is wonderful to see is the world-wide rise up of goodwill and publicly-distanced displays of affection. I could cry at the persistent small kindnesses encountered while navigating looping circles in the so artfully designed streets of Celebration.

In the midst of all this, we exist at one of the epicenters of unemployment and non-essential businesses, and many Town Center residents are economically gutted for an indeterminate amount of time. Which brings us back to Dread-Pirate Metin Negrin. The milk of human kindness by the quart in his every vein. Rather than put his onerous assessments on hold (definition of onerous-the average Town Center resident will have paid $15,000 in assessments this year) Metin fired across the residents bow, refusing to delay payments for work which cannot even be performed under the current circumstances. Cleary he would like to Coronavirus to save him the work of liening and foreclosing.

It’s a Wonderful Town Center Life

img_9349It will come as a surprise to many that we, The Town Center Condominium Association, do NOT own Town Center. While we noisily-and somewhat invisibly-occupy our modest condominiums, for Metin Negrin we are but a forgotten cipher in the Celebration Town Center financial profit center which belongs to LEXIN CAPITAL. We simply provided him with plus or minus 20 MILLION DOLLARS in Empire Building Capital. And following(metaphorically)his Medical School Graduation, he ditched us.
It’s an old story.
Back in ’04 when Disney made what we now think of as Its Deal With the Devil they-OF COURSE-protected THEIR interests, and in doing that we ASSUMED that well, OURS were protected as well. It certainly read that way as we all reviewed our PURCHASE OPPORTUNITIES.attachment-1
What happened here? How did it come to pass that TCCA, a small voluntary militia weighted down under POUNDS of oppressive Developer-Created governing documents and NO budget, has  been assigned TOTAL responsibility for carrying the Town Center Battle Flag (A shredded blue tarp) while Disney, The Celebration Company, CROA, CNOA and CCMC collectively  observe from a SAFE DISTANCE through HEAVY LENSES/Attorneys?
 Frighteningly enough, it is even not clear if we are all rooting for the SAME side.
ALL the DEED RESTRICTIONS in the World do not function without ENFORCEMENT. CROA understands this and operates-in most cases-accordingly. In Town Center both TCC AND CNOA (a Double-Team) were invested with a BROAD Brush of Enforcement techniques, which remain boldly, monolithically UN-enforced.
And I say, what is the FUN of POWER if you can’t use it? Or WON”T?attachment-1-1-copy
Should we Town Centerites stumble during our Long March for Justice,Celebration Residents-at least all those who understand that their Property Values are symbiotically LASHED to the bow of the very EXISTENCE of Down Town Center “You’ve Got to SEE This Place”Celebration should hope that “The Declarant” gets his game on, as Disney/TCC will have become the last line of defense between the water intrusion, the bugs, and gravity. WE who live here would OFTEN like to pretend that WE do not exist. Like Jimmy Stewart in “It’s a Wonderful Life”, we imagine a future in which our actions are erased and what I like to call The Metin Negrin Lexin Capital Annuity Profit Center operates in capitalistic free fall.
Because it is not just our homes but ALL  161,943 square feet of Lexin’s Premium Commercial Real Estate which are seriously compromised. Unlike residences, Commercial Real Estate derives its market value from Net Operating Income, NOT FROM how well the structures are maintained. Show him the money, NOT the maintenance. In his world Cardboard or Granite, makes no difference. It is the INCOME. Clearly Mr. Negrin appears to have mastered living “In The Moment”.
On a side note Lexin property values dropped this year, hence his property taxes. GOOD for him, as, KA-CHING there is another $200,000. moved to HIS side of the Balance Sheet.

Every Picture Tells a Story 5/No Visible Means Of Support


The Osceola County Building Commission has been noticing code and dangerous building violations for 660 Celebration Avenue for-and I am not making this up-YEARS. In a LOOOONG report our engineers noted a “danger of imminent collapse” which sounds scary to ME yet does not appear to be of any particular concern to LEXIN, whose Top-Notch team installed court ordered shoring as a STOP-GAP measure.

We ALL know just what a MAGICAL town this is, yet do not always fully appreciate  just how strong that magic IS, as Lexin-Powered-Warm-Air is currently holding up the balconies. Lexin ASSURED the County this is “safe”. Screen Shot 2016-11-27 at 9.19.19 AM.png

Every Picture Tells a Story/4-TC Weekend DIY Project


WHO does not love to fix up their place. Today this Town Center owner embarked on just such a merry adventure. It turns out that SOMETIMES a new coat of paint is just not going to help. Sometimes drywall just refuses to be REPAIRED, preferring to disintegrate. And NOW you are in trouble, because NOW what you are looking at does not BELONG to you, THIS part belongs to LEXIN.


Every Picture Tells a Story/3. Happy Thanksgiving.


It is truly a most spectacular morning here in Celebration, and there is a great deal to be thankful for-The courts are closed, the attorneys all off duty AND there is NO rain in the forecast, allowing Town Center residents to relax and work on capturing one of the neighborhood turkeys instead of focusing on re-arranging plastic sheets over their bedding.

And I have begun my holiday decorations, this year using a “Shabby Chic” theme as I am repurposing some of Lexin’s disintegrated roof tarps-pieces of which have been deposited all over Town Center thanks to Time, the Florida Sun and Prevailing Breezes.

This is the THIRD set of tarps by the way. Lexin must REALLY care about us, can you imagine paying for them THREE times? It must have used up the funds for the missing spire over the Market  Street Cafe (in the background) scheduled to be replaced on 7/1/2016.

Every Picture Tells a Story/2


Residents and visitors alike often assume that just because you can’t SEE a problem, it isn’t REAL. Lexin does not seem eager for us to get a GOOD look at just how our “structural elements” are aging. The TRUTH is, not too well. This was a support column in 611 Campus Street. The termite have moved on, they ate everything they could.

It’ s Complicated.

Me on my porch with image of beloved Town Center Jig Lift on the left. (All Town Center Residents share in the lift’s approximately $1500 monthly rental cost although I have never had a turn driving it.

Laurel Rousseau, our real-life hero, leaning on end of 709 Bloom Street as a “structural assist”-temporary, but then what isn’t?

The Wall Street Journal published an article about the Town Center Implosion/Explosion/Brouhaha/Debacle/Travesty/Ticking Time Bomb/Who Struck John Story/Boschian Situation this morning, and I am grateful for their attention, although the excruciating technicalities of our story can hardly be explained in one brief article, even if it does include a photo of me. (pretty nice one too.)
Therefore, as so often occurs in ANY Town Center Discussion, the introduction of,say, TEN FACTS results in (at least) 187 three part questions, and an equal number of comments, generally divided among the following three groups; #1-The hopelessly self-congratulatory who would NEVER buy a wood house, especially in, whatareya nuts?, Florida, #2-Those who always FORCE THEIR Condo  Board to bury copious reserves in the swamp for safekeeping, and #3- The ones who VISITED Celebration but, being VISIONARIES saw the highway of problems laid out before them like the yellow brick road, and ran for their lives. This group inevitably references either “The Stepford Wives” or “The Truman Show”. (Noting their choices also allows them to be clearly identified as “Boomers” or “Millenials”, information which may well come in handy for the algorithm I am constructing)
 And to responders one and all I say THANK YOU! And good try. LIFE in Town Center is, sigh, COMPLICATED. It is SO COMPLICATED that rather than us settling in at the Court House in Kissimmee for a lengthy, HOMETOWN kind of trial-picture Clarence Darrow perspiring, fan in one hand in the high, high ceilinged old courthouse, fighting for OUR side I am confident-TCCA will be trucked off to the Big City, to the Orange County Complex Business Court. Because, as I have said, we are COMPLEX.
MEANWHILE, up in the BIG APPLE, Metin Negrin stores the Lexin Mantle of Perpetual Victimhood  in a convenient desk drawer, slipping it on over his head whenever a performance as the Managing Director of Lexin Capital AND President of the Town Center Foundation threatens to be evaluated in a LEGAL sort of way. Mantle in place, Mr Negrin cries out loudly that HE is the true victim here, after all WHO KNEW?
To which all Unit Owners, like the frogs in an Aristophanean chorus call out in one voice, YOU!
YOU are the one who was supposed to know.
YOU are the one who read the contracts,
YOU are the one who performed the inspections,
YOU are the one who made the budgets,
YOU are the controller of every decision.
And I apologize as we Unit Owners have not yet fully mastered the “chorus meter” but I believe our point remains obvious.
We excited future owners had NO IDEA he was SUCH a victim. WE all thought he was a skilled business man with PLENTY of  the expertise and advanced organizational skills required to assume his rightful place as Our Leader. We had confidence that Disney MUST have vetted him, performing Due Diligence Extraordinaire regarding his intentions as well as his abilities, so detailed that it examined him right down to his mitochondria before handing over the keys to OUR part of the Magic Kingdom. Disney had to KNOW, to rest assured that Mr. Negrin possessed the chutzpah and grit to identify, obtain and oversee a top-notch team skilled in property management and asset preservation, in accurate and anticipatory budgeting and planning and RECORDKEEPING as these basic fundamentals of Property Management  were ALL to be in his wheelhouse. Being in CONTROL was the job which he coveted, and which none of us asked him to take. His selection as the Dalai Metin was memorialized in Osceola County Documentary Stone before the first person bought the first Town Center Condominium.
Indeed, every word of the historical documents which govern Celebration Town Center, The Town Center Condominium Association and The Town Center Foundation were created under his direction, and crafted to remain under his direction in perpetuity.
So TCF exists, Metin is a Member (Class B), AND TCCA Unit Owners are ALSO Members (ClassA)and we exist on an imaginary Level Playing Field, with consensus just a friendly vote away.
There has been far too much talk about VOTES around here lately, which makes me hesitate to even bring it up. But I believe you will find that voting in Town Center comes with absolutely NONE of the  contentious, Facebook unfriending possibilities  which have been problematic in other elections. I have made a little CHART here which I believe illustrates just how SIMPLE Lexin has made the often tedious tabulation process.screen-shot-2016-11-17-at-10-29-59-am 

And while every one of these documents was written by Lexin employed attorneys, and artfully designed to give Lexin 100% control over the FOUNDATION, which in turn has 100% control over the Residential Owners.
He appears to LOVE and NEED the implied control,while-in my opinion-ignoring the corresponding statutory OBLIGATIONS.
When the nights are chill and the rain is pouring through the roof we find comfort simply reviewing Florida Statutes which GOVERN 617 Not-For-Profit Corporations-which is how The Town Center Foundation is defined by Lexin and its attorneys.
Because when you READ Florida Statutory Law, you feel GOOD. TCF is looking out for us, in every way on every day, after all Metin and his Board-mates have all sworn to
Act in Good Faith
Accept the Duty of Care and show
Good Faith and Loyalty in the BEST Interests of the Corporation.
How can this go wrong, right?