POINCIANA – For the third time in a little more than a year, residents of one of the nation’s largest homeowners’ associations will have a chance to go to the polls.

Seven seats are up for grabs at this year’s Association of Poinciana Villages election. The results of last year’s February election were thrown out as part of an arbitration ruling handed down by the Department of Professional Business Regulation. A replacement election was then held Aug. 1.

“We’re anticipating people abiding by the rules,” said Keith Laytham, a spokesman for the civic nonprofit Friends of Poinciana Villages. “If they follow the rules, we should have a peaceful and close election. If they don’t play by the rules, we’ll appeal through the DBPR.”

APV is a community of nearly 27,000 homes spanning parts of Polk and Osceola counties. The HOA is made up of nine villages, each governed by a five-member board. One member from each village is chosen to serve as a representative on the community’s master board.

“We encourage all homeowners to cast their vote and become involved in the community in which they all live,” Mark Maldonado, general manager of APV, said in a statement. “We want to continue to work hard to make this the best place to live in all of Florida.”

The second election held last year came after an arbitrator ruled the HOA was “capricious” in the way it tallied votes. For undeveloped lands in the community, the developer, AV Homes – more often referred to as Avatar – gets votes based on the maximum number of homes that could be built on the lots.

During last year’s August election, about 9,900 block votes from the developer and a Canadian investment company were cast. That was a slight downturn from the more than 10,000 cast in February. None of the FOPV-backed candidates won a seat.

Litigation between the civic group, APV and AV Homes has been ongoing for more than two years. After getting the ruling from the DBPR, AV Homes sued AVP in the 10th Circuit Court to ensure a maximum number of votes was received.

Laytham said the Circuit Court ruling stated that the developer was given maximum-density votes “currently amended by the county." When APV was first platted in 1971, Laytham said, there were no land-development regulations in place, including for saturated lands or wetlands that are now ruled undevelopable.

“If you look at what the 10th district court and the DBPR said, they basically said the same thing,” Laytham said of his contention that rules were violated last August.

FOPV’s contention is that AV Homes uses the maximum-density regulations to keep control of the HOA, commonly appointing employees and executives to the community’s boards. Laytham also stated that the 1985 agreement between the HOA and development mandates that 40 percent or two members of each board be made up of community residents.

"We’re fielding a full slate of candidates for the positions available,” Laytham said. “Our candidates are actively campaigning.”

Seats are open for Villages Two, Three, Five, Seven and Eight. The only one running for a seat on Village Five, however, is FOPV-backed Victor Destremps.

Destremps is part of a trio of homeowners suing APV in Circuit Court. Destremps, who previously served on a village board, had an injunction filed against him by APV in 2015 for removing $1.6 million from the association and placing it into an account only he had access to. The majority of the money was paid back in September 2015.

The election lasts from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m. today at the Poinciana Community Center, 445 Marigold Ave. The election will be recorded. Voters must have a photo identification that matches the name on the home deed.

“Our election process is very important in a community of our size, and we look forward to having as many homeowners participate as possible,” Maldonado said in his statement. “The polls will close at 7 p.m. and the votes will be counted immediately. If residents choose, they are invited to watch the votes being counted.”

Mike Ferguson can be reached at Mike.Ferguson@theledger.com or 863-401-6981. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikeWFerguson.