A CDD (Community Development District) is a special tax district and you will find many CDD communities in the Tampa Bay area. CDD's have become very popular with developers and many of the newest, nicest and best communities in the state and the Tampa Bay area are CDD's. A CDD is a local governmental body with taxing authority.
Developers petition the County to get permission to form a CDD. By forming as a CDD the developer is allowed to take out bonds to pay for building and preparing the development's infrastructure and amenities. Repayment of these bonds is passed along to the homeowners of the community. The bond repayment may last for many years and will be collected from homeowners who live within the CDD boundaries in their annual tax bill.
Usually the CDD will own all of the common areas and amenities (pool, clubhouse, tennis courts, etc) and will be responsible for assessing an annual fee to maintain and repair all the common areas and amenities.
When you pay your CDD assessment through your annual tax bill, a portion of your assessment will be budgeted to pay back the bond, and the remainder will be budgeted to pay for the repair and maintenance of the community.
CDD Boards are usually controlled by the developer initially (often for many years) and are gradually turned over to the residents. Resident CDD Board positions are elected positions. To run for election for a CDD Board, a candidate must register with the County's Supervisor of Elections Office to have their names on a Ballot. The homeowners within the CDD Boundary will vote for their CDD candidates at the same time and polling place that they vote for other elected officials. Homeowners must be registered voters to vote for their CDD candidate.
One of the best aspects of a CDD community is that often a homeowner can afford to move into a more upscale community with nicer amenities than they might otherwise be able to afford if they had to pay for the full cost of the home and improvements at closing. CDD's allow you to spread out your payment through many years via annual bond repayments.
I think the most important issue to be aware of when you buy into a CDD community is that these 5-member CDD boards are very powerful. They do not operate in any way, shape or form like a homeowners' association. A CDD Board can vote to make substantial changes to a community both physically and financially without permission from the residents.
Often communities will have BOTH a CDD Board and a Homeowners' Association (HOA) Board. When a CDD Board is present that board will normally be responsible for all the maintenance and repairs of the common areas and amenities, such as landscaping, pool cleaning, etc. In this case the HOA Board will have control ONLY of the individual homeowners' lots, landscaping and issues relating to the general appearance and upkeep of homes only. The HOA will not own any of the community land or amenities and will have no responsibility or control of any common areas.
The above is only intended to be a very brief and simple description of what CDD's are and how they operate. They are true governmental bodies with taxing authority. They operate in the same way and manner that County Commissioner's operate and CDD Boards are subject to Florida Sunshine Laws and the Public Records laws.