To make a long story short, this is about Harmony Development Company's
apparent contempt for the residents of Harmony. While we've been clamoring
for years for quality amenities in Harmony, what we get instead is smoke and
mirrors, pabulum and mediocrity. We pay extraordinary sums to live here yet
when a preeminent cultural offering finally comes to Harmony, its residents
are not only shut out, but we are also kept totally in the dark.
This is the long story.
If ever there was the perfect example of what the developer really thinks of
Harmony residents, this is it. Forget the fake lobster and the phony photos,
this one takes the cake. (as in, you know, "Let them eat cake!" ;0)
Harmony Development Company recently put on another "Dark Sky Festival". It
was basically a video presentation on astronomy in the town square along
with a handful of telescopes and a hodgepodge of street vendors. Sadly, in
place of last year's many science related exhibits inside the Harmony
banquet facilities, this year we had the "Dark Sky Buffet" for $10 (free
This is what the developer puts on "for Harmony residents". Of course we all
know that the "Dark Sky Festival" is really just a marketing campaign for
drawing prospective home buyers to Harmony. But anything is better than
nothing when you live in Harmony - out in the middle of nowhere - or so the
The day before the Dark Sky Festival and directly across the street from
Harmony, something else was going on, something much bigger, an event of far
Before continuing I would like to express my hope that at least some of you
have already heard of Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. But just in case, here's a
Dr. Tyson is considered by many in the world of popular science to be the
successor to Dr. Carl Sagan. Before his death, Carl Sagan appeared regularly
on the "Tonight Show" and other talk shows to discuss the latest fascinating
goings on in cosmology and the sciences in general. Carl Sagan was famous
for the phrase "billions and billions of stars" and also for his wonderful
PBS science series "Cosmos" (not to mention his novel "Contact" which became
a popular movie starring Jodie Foster and Matthew McConaughey). So being
compared to Carl Sagan is a big deal.
Since Carl Sagan, Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson has become arguably the most
famous living cosmologist in America, if not the world (after perhaps
Stephen Hawking). Dr. Tyson is best known for his PBS series "Nova
ScienceNow" (which my sons are quite fond of).
Ok, Tyson sounds like a great guy, but what's the point?
The point is that a visit to Harmony by this eminent figure was withheld
from Harmony residents. We were not informed and we were not welcome to
Did you know that Dr. Tyson was in Harmony on the night of the Dark Sky
Festival? I didn't know. I am guessing that you didn't know either. Dr.
Tyson actually did a full presentation to hundreds of people at Harmony High
School the day before. But of course you wouldn't have known this either
unless you or someone you know was fortunate enough to be invited to this
As far as I know, the only public announcement about Dr. Tyson's visit
appeared on the Harmony Institute website (as of this writing, it is still
there). The announcement appeared as a press release (see the attachment
below). Needless to say, since Harmony residents are not in the habit of
visiting the Harmony Institute website, we were kept totally in the dark (so
to speak) about what was really going on for the Dark Sky Festival. It was
only by chance that I know anything about it.
After it was brought to my attention, I asked Stephanie at the Harmony
Institute about this important event, one that was never announced to
Harmony residents. Here is the response that I received, not from Stephanie,
but rather from Martha Lentz, director of the Harmony Institute and wife of
the former developer of Harmony:
Stephanie has informed me that you had a question about
the sponsor luncheon for Dr. Tyson. While it would
have been nice to be able to have a public lunch, we
had to raise money in order to have him as a speaker
for the kids at the science competition. Because it
was a privately sponsored lunch, the list of invitees
is not available to the public. The attendees at the
high school presentation were students and educators;
all at no charge.
The Institute did have a free forum, open to the public
on Saturday immediately prior to the dark sky festival.
Bill Fife sent an e-blast on our behalf to all Harmony
residents to register. I believe only two Harmony
residents attended. Disappointing as we had six good
speakers and the discussion was terrific with lots of
Hmmm, this sounds like the residents of Harmony weren't paying close enough
attention! Was Martha suggesting that Dr. Tyson was actually part of the
free forum on Saturday? And we all just missed it?
I can understand Martha's disappointment after apparently inviting all of us
to hear Dr. Tyson speak on Saturday (the 17th) in Harmony and then having
such a poor turnout. But I am sure that we saw the announcements about the
activities on that day. We surely don't remember reading any references to
Dr. Tyson. My boys and I certainly would have been there if we had.
You can see the "seesaw" flyer that residents saw below. What's funny is
that this image was actually delivered by email blast in 3 pieces. This
makes me suspect that the flyer was actually composed by Bill Fife
(Harmony's activities director) rather than the Harmony Institute. It is my
understanding that much of Bill's time is actually spent making marketing
materials rather than organizing activities in Harmony.
But before following with Bill Fife (just to be sure), I had a follow-up for
Thanks for the response Martha. I will direct future
inquirers to you directly.
Please let me know which representatives of the
developer (ie. anyone affiliated with Harmony
Development Company, Birchwood Acres, Starwood, etc.)
were invited. Which members of the Harmony CDD or
Harmony HOA were invited? Where any students of the
Harmony Community School invited?
BTW, how does one go about becoming a member of the
Harmony Institute? Does this require a $1000 donation
This was Martha's second and final response:
The answer to your first question is "information
The answer to your second is the Harmony Institute does
not have membership.
Don't bother trying to dig deeper. No further
responses will be forthcoming.
Wow! Martha seemed a bit testy there, no? One can't help but wonder "Why?"
So I asked Bill Fife. Martha indicated that Bill sent out the emails about
Dr. Tyson's visit among the myriad email blasts to residents that are sent
out by the developer weekly. This was Bill's response:
The flyer for the Forum on the 17th was included in the
April Lifestyle Guide that was sent out to residents
and posted on the eventsatharmony.com
website on April 1.
Then a separate email for the event went out April 8th.
However, Dr. Tyson was not at the event on the 17th,
and he is not mentioned on the flyers.
"Dr. Tyson ... not mentioned on the flyers"
Hmmm again, this was all starting to smell kinda fishy (like Brock's seafood
buffet ;o). So naturally I had no choice but to dig deeper, contrary to
In so doing, I discovered that Dr. Tyson WAS indeed in Harmony on the 17th
of April (the day of the Dark Sky Festival), contrary to what Bill wrote.
So I did a follow-up with Bill:
"he is not mentioned on the flyers"
That's what I thought. FYI, the word "tyson" does not
appear in the life style guide either.
But Dr. Tyson was in Harmony on the 17th, is that
correct? If so, in what capacity was he here on the
Thank you for your prompt and responsive feedback Bill.
It is appreciated, sincerely.
And a few minutes later Bill wrote back:
No, he was not here on the 17th.
Then suddenly - out of the blue, like a shot in the dark - Shad Tome chimes
If he was in Harmony on the 17th it was on his own
accord, and had nothing to do with DSF or the saturday
That said... Bill, me, and every other development
employee is finished with this discussion and
questioning. Don't waste any further of my people's
time. We have jobs to do.
"he [Dr. Tyson] was in Harmony on the 17th ... and had nothing to do with
DSF or the saturday forum discussion"
To which I responded:
Thanks for your response Shad. I happen to know that
Dr. Tyson was here on the 17th and I think that there
is more that you know about the 17th. This means that
an opportunity was missed on not just one day but on
two days for Harmony residents to interact with Dr.
Then Shad wrote this (which included Bill and Martha):
You are out of your mind and are way off base. Quit
wasting my time and my people's time. That includes all
Development and Golf Preserve and Tavern employees.
Your disrespect for the Institute is repulsive.
You are one email away from being banded from all of
our private, corporate email addresses. Send any of us
another email on this topic or any other time wasting
topics and I will band your email address from our
exchange server immediately.
To which I replied:
Fair enough. I will accept this [as] a denial. Thank you.
To which Shad replied:
Stop. You are killing me. There is NO denial. PERIOD.
We have nothing to hide. I invite dignitaries and
famous people to Harmony that I know all the time.
So here we have it. The president of Harmony Development Company apparently
volunteers a direct contradiction of the director of Harmony Institute as
well as his own activities director.
Martha implies that Dr. Tyson was here for the free forum open to residents
on the 17th. Yet Shad wrote that Dr. Tyson wasn't here for that. Martha
implies that Bill emailed Harmony residents about Dr. Tyson. Yet Bill wrote
that he didn't. Bill wrote that Dr. Tyson wasn't even here on the 17th. Yet
Shad hints that he was. This sounds like a fish tale if ever there was one.
Since these folks appear to have real trouble getting their stories
straight, I can certainly understand why the developer would want all
further communication to cease.
This is why I was "band" from further email communications with developer
employees. This is what I alluded to in my post "Communicating with the
Developer" (see http://tinyurl.com/37qhrfh
). This is also why I was
subsequently threatened with Shad's lawyers. He wanted to keep me from
sharing the above email exchange, among others (see
). This story is not pretty, but it is all true.
Yet this is just one example. It epitomizes what happens when a resident
questions the developer of Harmony on an important issue. This is all very
reminiscent of when the original developer of Harmony, Jim Lentz (Martha's
husband) said the following during a public CDD orientation meeting several
years ago: "I will buy your house if you're not happy here" (see
Will we ever have sincere quality management in Harmony? Or will we be
saddled forever with contempt and mediocrity from the people who run this
You should know that the primary purpose of Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson's visit
to Harmony was the "Nature of Science Conference" held at Harmony High
School on April 16th, 2010 (ie. the day before the Dark Sky Festival in
Harmony), as the news release says. This conference was presented by the
Harmony Institute and sponsored by Harmony Development Company with Dr.
Tyson as the headliner. I don't deny that Harmony Institute and Harmony
Development Company deserve to be commended for at least making it possible
for some science students from across the county to hear Dr. Tyson speak, as
well as some Harmony High School students and some Harmony Community School
What I find shameful is the developer's apparent lack of concern for the
other children of Harmony. Yes, some Harmony children were included at this
event by virtue of their attendance at schools in Harmony. But there are
other children who also live in Harmony who, for various reasons, attend
schools elsewhere. These kids were excluded through no fault of their own.
And what about the parents of Harmony children? Many Harmony adults would
have appreciated hearing Dr. Tyson too.
Given the opportunity, I have no doubt that we would have been told by the
developer that "Space was limited. There was no room for any more people."
But I have serious doubts about this. So I called Diane McAlister, Ed.D.,
Secondary Science Curriculum Specialist and District IB Resource for Osceola
When asked, Dr. McAlister indicated that the Harmony Institute selected the
venue for this event. It was not chosen by the school district. Any larger
Osceola school district venue could have been chosen instead. I also heard
from someone who was in attendance that there were actually several seats
unused and available at Dr. Tyson's presentation at Harmony High school.
I then learned the most distressing thing of all. I asked Dr. McAlister what
would have happened if any other Harmony child had asked to be included in
this very special event? Dr. McAlister said that any Harmony child would
have been included if the request had been made. By the same token, the
parents of any Harmony child would have been given the opportunity to attend
If only we had known. If only this information had not been withheld from
us. What a momentous occasion this could have been for so many more people
of Harmony. If only the developer had the slightest bit of concern for the
residents of Harmony, a way might have found. But of course such thoughts
must first cross the minds of those in charge.
So what thoughts did cross the minds of Harmony Development and Harmony
Institute? Who in Harmony should be included in this special event with Dr.
Neil deGrasse Tyson?
While Bill Fife is friendly enough, he isn't even an employee of the
developer. He is a contractor who actually works for WTS (ie. I mean no
disrespect, but he's a temp, like Bob Evans). This status also applies to
Brock Nicholas who works for Troon. Yet these folks were invited to attend
Dr. Tyson's presentation.
Here's the developer's list of invitees:
Shad Tome works for the developer. He was invited.
Bill Fife works for the developer. He was invited.
Brock Nicholas works for the developer. He was invited.
Greg Golgowski works for the developer. He was invited.
Martha Lentz works for the developer's "institute". She was invited.
Jim Lentz used to be the developer (Martha's hubby). He was invited.
Bob Evans works for the developer. He was probably invited (but no one would
say for sure).
Did the developer even bother to invite Harmony board members (other than
Bob Evans)? Apparently not. In fact, a CDD board member who wishes to remain
anonymous wrote the following about his impression of Dr. Tyson's visit:
Wasn't everybody in Harmony invited and informed about
what activities were going on? Given the 4 of 5 board
members live here we all had the chance to go.
This confusion is certainly understandable considering what we've seen
Even if there was insufficient space at the high school on the 16th, how can
the developer explain the opportunity lost on the 17th? Shad told me that
Dr. Tyson was paid $45,000 for his visit to Harmony. If Dr. Tyson had to
take a quick flight out of Orlando on Friday night, what transpired might be
somewhat understandable. But if Dr. Tyson was actually here into the evening
of the 17th, don't you think that he could have been persuaded to hold at
least a short afternoon Q & A session for interested residents in the
Harmony banquet room? To the people who brought their lives and souls to
Harmony, what a gift it could have been. But instead it was just another
slap in the face.
This sums up my frustration (from my last message to Shad before he started
blocking my emails):
I hope you can understand my extreme disappointment as
someone who has contributed $42,000 in taxes to live in
Harmony (so far) with a son who was excluded [from Dr.
Tyson's presentation] who also aspires to be a
And this was Shad's final email response:
This wasn't a county funded deal. Tax dollars nor cdd
dollars were used. Private corporate funds were used.
Life ain't fair every day George. I pay $10k/year in
taxes, $4k/year in cdd, and $1850/year in hoa and I get
a fraction of the activities and events and special
enrichments that residents of Harmony get.
Sucks, but it's true. Hell, I even developed my
community, served as an original cdd board member and
hoa board member. BUT now 5 other residents run the cdd
and 5 others run the hoa. Developer (my company)
finished development, built all of the homes, and moved
on. They were done.
Life ain't fair.