|Indian Spring in West Boynton A Monument in Declining Values |
By STEVE FRIESS, STAFF WRITER, THE SUN-SENTINEL, South Florida
It stands atop a short hill, a 50,000-square-foot monument to country club lifestyle with its tanand-taupe décor and plush new furnishings.
And yet, as elegant and airy as the months-old, $10 million clubhouse at Indian Spring Country Club in West Boynton maybe, it also could be responsible for a stunning drop in single-family home values suffered by the area’s homeowners.
A review of two years of county assessments by the Sun-Sentinel shows 67 homes in the Indian Spring region lost the most in valuation compared to other subdivision in Palm Beach County, losing an average 19.7 percent and dropping an average of $34,639 between 1998 and 1999.
The public records show the average home in the subdivision was assessed at $146,071 in 1999, down from $180,710 a year earlier. The area is roughly bounded by A Military Trail and Jog Road between Woolbright Road and Piper’s Glen Boulevard.
Such a precipitous one-year drop is very unusual, especially in booming Palm Beach County, as illustrated bythe fact that only two other subdivisions fell by more than 10 percent in the same period.
Many involved with Indian Spring blame the lavish new clubhouse, which replaced a more modest 28,000-square-foot center with half the dining space that was built in the 1970s by the original developer.
In voting during the spring of 1997 to bulldoze the old and raise the new, club members agreed to tax themselves a total of $8,550 in assessments. Yet a vocal minority didn’t want to pay that and about 170 members resigned from the club, dropping membership to an all-time low of 1,000.
More important to property values, many quitters decided to try to sell their homes and condos, too. “We had some turmoil in the country cluiThecause they decided to build a new clubhouse,” said Al Proujanski, 83, president of the Indian Spring Maintenance Association Board, who opposed the assessment but opted not to flee. "I thought the idea of a new clubhouse was unwarranted. As a result, a lot of people are selling their houses and having some trouble at that.”
Among those is former country club board member Sidney Greller, who has been unable to sell his Indian Spring three-bedroom villa in 18 months despite knocking the price down to $159,000. That’s $10,000 less than he bought it for and down considerably from the $180,000 it was worth before the selling spree, Greller said. Greller moved on nonetheless, buying a new $220,000 home in Cascades, a community across Piper’s Glen off Jog Road.
“No question about it, the cost of the clubhouse is a factor in my case,” Greller said. “It’s a double-edged sword. It’s an asset when it’s there and it’s pretty. On the other hand, it’s an additional expensive investment for those who live and care to buy a home there.” Defenders of the clubhouse —more than 80 percent of members voted for it— insist the goal was to enhance property values and the allure of Indian Spring. Once a premier golfing community far enough west to avoid the hubbub of urban traffic, the subdivision now finds itself squeezed between established growth to the east and new homes to the west. More than 23,000 new houses are being built within a five-mile radius, club board president Jay Weitz said.
“Any older communities will drop when they have to compete with all the new development,” Weitz said. “The old clubhouse could not accommodate our members anymore, and this one will become a source of pride.”
Still, Indian Spring now faces yet another change that real estate agents expect to further depress land values, opting to officially become a 55-and-older community. That decision, made by Proujanski’s maintenance board, was lambasted by Greller, who called it “the dumbest thing they ever did” because it limits the field of potential homebuyers.Proujanski said the decision was made because a new school will soon open nearby and residents feared young families would move in and disrupt their lifestyle. Indian Spring now disallows homebuyers with kids under age 18, and requires that more than 80 percent of homeowners be 55 or older. “I’m more concerned about the well-being of the residents than! am about the pocketbooks of those who want to leave,” Proujanski said.