Well we’ve reached a turning point for the Carolina Lakes community. When we all purchased property here we had an agreement, a contract with our neighbors and a non-profit corporation called the Carolina Lakes Property Owners Association (CLPOA). We had no choice, but we had a contract which we thought created a trusting relationship between “us” the property owners and the CLPOA run by a board of other property owners just like us. Unfortunately this trust has been broken and badly abused. Our Reservations and Restrictions state clearly that we are obligated to pay “an” annual assessment which provides funds to manage and maintain our facilities. Our founding documents also stipulate that we the membership, not the board of directors, are the only ones who have the authority to raise the amount we contribute. This is a safeguard against abuse and a simply principle of good association type management of shared resources. This right is about the only thing we control within the hierarchy which manages our community.
Several years ago the board attempted to raise the annual assessment and the membership voted not to provide additional funding. Normally this is no problem; the board would cut back expenses and services. If and when the people felt the cuts were too much, then they would vote to raise how much we contribute. But some devious thinkers thought of a way around our legal right, written in the contract we agreed to when we purchased our homes and lots. They decided to create, out of thin air, without any legal justification, FEES. A fee to register your. A fee to register your watercraft. A fee to register your golf cart. Now most older residents didn’t care to much because all those items where already registered. New residents didn’t know any better and didn’t know there was no legal justification for these fees, so they just paid.
Normally this would be no big deal, pay a few bucks and go on with your life. But when the new gate system was proposed, the individual who wanted it knew that the board would not spend $30,000 to put in a whole new system, when the old system could have been fixed for $3,500. So he devised a plan which required everyone to re-register their vehicles. Remember there is no legal reason to register them in the first place. Since it wasn’t taking money out of the normal revenue stream, the board went along with it.
A group of concerned property owners have assembled and agree that the principle of charging property owner “again” for maintenance and services already paid for through the annual amenity payments, combined with the fact that there is no legal basis for allowing a non-profit corporation to charge for goods and services was wrong. Many attempts to get the CLPOA to correct this situation failed. In fact the Property Manager and the board went so far as to refuse to cite any legal reference allowing the CLPOA to charge illegal fees when formally asked to do so by association members.
Since there are no legal authority within the state of North Carolina to resolve HOA issues (being addressed separately) , and the CLPOA refuses to cite their authority, the only option is to bring suit against the Corporation for violation of the Reservations and Restrictions and bylaws. This group has retained a legal firm and the initial evaluations by our attorneys have been conducted. It is the opinion of several lawyers that the POA has overstepped it’s authority. All we need are a few more individual to help with the cost of going forward. The more the better. It worked for the Golf COurse purchase fiasco, it can work here.
I know this is seen as waste of the CLPOA’s money and a waste of our neighbor and friends money, but there is no other way to force the CLPOA to follow our founding documents and principles of common decency or site their legal authority for bypassing our annual voting rights.
The question now is – is it worth the money to proceed with legal action.
Individually no. But for the community and as a group Yes. For the communities future I believe it is imperative. Consider this scenario. The CLPOA is still short of funds and they again ask for the membership to raise the annual assessment. I for one, and many like me, will not vote for an increase as long as the POA is operating outside the founding documents and agreements. So if more feel this way, the membership continues to vote down any increase attempt, the board will probably consider more fees or an increase to the fees already being charged. Remember also that the current fees are a VERY SMALL contribution to our overall income.
This is essentially working around the annual assessment to which we all agreed to pay, with the understanding that we would have some say in how much is put into maintaining our community property. If we could always assume a reasonable board, then this again would not be a big problem. But, we have proof that the board and our management company sometimes don’t make real good financial choices. An example is paying what one board member has reported as being “$300 a square foot” for the security building, 3 times what it should have cost.
The principle is sound – the CLPOA requires “us” to abide by the RandR’s while they ignore them. This is not right. To protect our community and keep a reasonable set of check and balances in place we must stand together and regain control over our association. There are pages and pages of discussion on this and other topics of interest to property owners and residents in the Forum. History back more than 10 years is there for your reading and analysis. You can easily register and participate. I know the Board has pushed their Facebook page as a way to share information but they also have admitted to censorship and banning people who bring up controversial or opposing opinions so we provide this Forum where you can speak freely.
As a side note – people often say – we have control through the annual election of board members, but that too is not correct. For one this, our bylaws require the CLPOA to provide online voting capabilities. For those longer residents you may remember using the system where ballots were barcoded for accuracy and efficiency and where you could vote online. This freely provided capability has been taken away because of personal reasons on part of our elected board members in complete disregard of the bylaw requirements and the efficient service it provided to our membership. Our most recent election pointes this out also. Most didn’t even know that an election was upcoming because the election committee (loosely named, because I have found no proof that an election committee was actually appointed in accordance with our bylaws) did not make any effort to find individuals to run for the board. There are 3 positions open this year and 3 people running. NO REASON TO VOTE. When some of us found out there were only 3 running for 3 positions we started looking ourselves, found a couple more and although it was a week before the ballots were printed, they refused to add the names. Most likely because 2 of the individuals running (board favorites) would probably not have gotten to many vote. I know “if I were voting”, I’d never vote for Vople or Hausfeld, both of which have set this community back many years.
So the only alternative is – hope no one votes and a quorum is not obtained and the process will need to start over. By the way, one other note: the arbitrary deadline set for submitting names the board, was also not in accordance with the bylaws which specify when the cutoff will be. Shows most of our board has no idea what the founding documents say and if they do, choose not to follow them.
Bottom line is – Carolina Lakes is a great place to live “physically” but unless we can get the Board of Directors back operating within the founding documents parameters -we are heading for more problems in the future.