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Veteran says he's being banned from fitness center by his HOA is 'absurd'

On July 11 he apparently failed to toe the line.

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Chris Novello, a decorated disabled combat veteran, lives in a Julington Creek Plantation. It has a Home Owners Association (HOA) and a Community Development District (CDD.) 

"They can make life very difficult for you," he said. "I'm a victim."

On July 11 he apparently failed to toe the line.

Novello told On Your Side he was in the fitness center with his 12-year-old. The fitness center has a 13-and-up policy. 

He said it lead to a confrontation with staff, and he unleashed an argument laced with expletives.

Novello said he knew he was wrong and quickly followed with an apology.  

"I wasn't Christian-like acting the way I did but at the same point when you say you're sorry I expect a response back," he said.

The next day he received a response and it was not what he expected. The CDD sent him a letter banning his privileges at all facilities in the plantation for a year.

"I was a little flabbergasted," he said.

The veteran said he is still trying to understand the harshness of his penalty. He said it was more than going to the fitness center.

"Working out is part of my therapy," said Novello.

On Tuesday, July 23,  the CDD board meets and Novello was told he could appeal his ban then. He said he plans to fight it.

"I have a lawyer," he said. "I was told I could not be there."

His HOA and CDD fees total $1,200 a year, which he must still pay. 

"I think it is absurd," said Novello.

Next week he finds out but said he wanted to share his HOA/CDD experience to say buyer beware.

"When you buy in an HOA you have to walk a straight line," he said.

The CDD had the following response to questions that the On Your Side team asked:

Was the punishment justified?

  •  Mr. Novello's amenity privileges were suspended based on written witness incident reports and statements deemed by management as clear violations of the District's amenity policies.  The public record of the incident reports, witness statement, and notice of suspension outlining the specific policy violations are attached. 

Why was such a lengthy suspension necessary?

  • The alleged statements attributed to Mr. Novello were deemed particularly extreme and threatening.  Staff furthermore filed a police report with the St. Johns County Sheriff's Office and Mr. Novello was also issued a trespass warrant by the police.  The District takes the safety and security of its residents, children, employees, and guests seriously and will take all necessary actions to protect the well-being of all who enjoy our amenities.

Can he attend the board hearing to plea his case?

  • Yes. Mr. Novello reached out to the District Management by email in response to the suspension letter, informing Management that he would be attending the meeting to object to the suspension.  He was advised of the process and his right to appeal the Suspension Letter.  Subsequently, in response to his email, the District Manager informed Mr. Novello that he was able to attend the meeting on Friday, July 23rd which begins at 6:00 p.m.  The Board will make the final decision to uphold staff's recommendation or recommend a longer or shorter suspension based on the information available.

Does this also restrict his other family members from using the facility?

  • No, the suspension only impacts Mr. Novello's amenity privileges, not those of his household.

Is this suspension unusual or within the norm?

  • The alleged conduct of Mr. Novello is highly unusual and outside the norm for our community.  The suspension reflects the severity of the facts provided.  

If he can’t use the facility is he required to continue paying CDD fees?

  • Yes. The District is a unit of special purpose local government.  Landowners within the District pay debt and operation and maintenance (O&M) special non ad valorem assessments to fund various services, facilities, operation and maintenance activities of the District.

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