Paradise Lost

For many residents, the luster of Williams Island is long gone

Houtkin ran for the board after his maintenance fees began climbing. "In every aspect big money is being spent without much accounting," he says. "That's why the people running the community have to have impeccable integrity." Florida's condo laws, he added, are a "toothless tiger."

"It's the homestead state," he concluded, referring to the Florida constitution, which exempts homestead property from judgment creditors in cases of bankruptcies or liens. "It's almost impossible to throw people out of their homes here. They're judgment-proof. So Florida attracts a lot of shady people. Go to Boca Raton. They could drop a net over the whole city."

For all the bickering, every resident of Williams Island interviewed remains fond of the community even if they dislike some of their neighbors.

"They were hoodwinked when they bought the island from the Trumps," said Henry Kramerz, an elderly resident who serves on the board of his building. "We pay almost $1400 a month in fees. When I first got out of the army [in 1949] I paid $1100 a year for my house. We don't use the spa, we don't use the cafe because we weren't happy with the food, the island club is still being rebuilt."

He sighs. "The problem is, it's such a nice place."

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