Thank you for the article discussing homeowner associations (Are homeowners’ associations a good idea, a necessary evil or a power grab? July 22 issue). Certainly there are situations, as discussed in the article, where HOAs and CC&Rs can be used to protect one’s property and property rights, however in both aviation and non-aviation related communities, the HOAs are creating more problems than they are solving.
I am in the process of selling my dream home because of the actions of a few who managed to make living there unbearable. I planned this house since the 1960s while in college. A private area, with a runway, and located in one of the most beautiful spots in the northwest. After a long military career and retirement, we spent a great deal of our life savings in buying and building. I made sure that we met all the codes, CC&Rs, whatever, just to ensure we bothered nobody. The airpark is very sparsely populated most of the year. What happened was just what Dave Sclair described in his article. A small group that wanted things their way took over the board. Enforcement of the CC&Rs became a matter of who you were vs. what the rules were. Significant violations of state code were common. Large unnecessary projects were approved, expenses soared, questionable financial dealings arose, malicious vandalism appeared, threats were made. The place was turning from a quiet paradise to the “big city” environment that the part-timer residents migrated from on the weekends. The atmosphere became unbearable.
Who do we have to blame? Most people who own on an airpark for just a weekend or summertime residents are comfortable economically. What this allows them to be is apathetic towards the business of maintaining the community, particularly if the population is primarily part-time. They tend to not want to get involved and therefore the membership of the board goes to those who are looking for the power they cannot get elsewhere. The same apathy allows HOA boards to pick and choose how the business is run. The general membership was/is too lazy to look into the day-to-day operations. The secret is to keep the assessments in a range that is not too high so the individual budget bottom line looks good. Make the annual increases in assessments fairly small. My assessments doubled in the six years we spent in the development. The only thing that kept going up was the caretakers’ wages and benefits. Multiply the assessment by 100 and you will see that even a small increase will give the board plenty of extra change for new projects. I tried my hand at being on the board, but after a year of battling, being lied to on a continuing basis by other members of the board, and being totally ineffective in reasoning with the other members, I decided my best course was to work outside the board. What I found was that apathy was running rampant. Unable to stir the middle of the road group, I decided to sell. Your alternative is to sue. That is too expensive, as well as being a long, drawn-out process that depends on the whims of a judge. It doesn’t help when the president of the HOA of the airpark is a non-flying lawyer.
My hope is in the saying “what goes around, comes around” and that when the expenses of living (even part-time) in the community exceed those of living in a large city, people will start to take note and question in earnest.
It is a shame that the power needs of a few can ruin even paradise.