By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Once upon a time, there was a creek on Virginia farmland. Around 1981, the landowners decided to develop part of their land, and, in doing so, to build a dam across the creek in order to create several communities around the man made lake, named Ivy Lake.
In this case, owner retained title to the land containing said lake, providing easements for adjacent and nearby homeowners to use and enjoy the lake and to access their properties by way of a road built over the dam.
Homeowners enjoyed the lake for many years, not only for its view, but also for its recreational purposes.
Fast forward 27 years, to 2008, when the landowner decided to gift the lake and its surrounds to Liberty University.
Also in 2008, Virginia’s Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR), amended its construction requirements to ensure dam safety. Shortly after Liberty University took title to Ivy Lake, DCR informed Liberty University that the dam and spillway were never constructed propertly, were insufficient to prevent casualites in a catastrophic flood, and officially classified the lake as “high hazard potential” for flooding of surrounding and downstream properties. DCR ordered the lake level to be lowered substantially, pending extensive required repairs to make the dam and spillway safe.
DCR also ordered that if repairs were not completed, Ivy Lake Dam would have to be removed, draining Ivy Lake and eliminating Ivy Lake Dam Road access for many of the homeowners – in many cases the sole method of access to their homes.
Ivy Lake turned out to be one heck of a gift.
When Liberty discovered repairs would exceed $1 million, it created Ivy Hill Recreation LLC (IHR) and transferred the deed for Ivy Lake to IHR. Then IHR began conversations with homeowners, seeking their agreement to contribute substantially toward the costs of repairs and ongoing future maintenance of the lake.
The issue has remained controversial since discussions began in 2009. Less than a majority of homeowners are willing to bear the costs of repairs and ongoing maintenance and liability. It has become clear that owners will not willingly agree to take Ivy Lake.
In response, IHR has filed a lawsuit against over 400 defendants (property owners and trustees), hoping to force homeowners around Ivy Lake to fund repairs and ongoing maintenance through the creation of a homeowners association.
Here’s the applicable section of court documents:
In other words, Liberty University, through its subsidiary IHR LLC, wants the Virginia court legitimize dumping responsibility for Ivy Lake, its dam and spillway, and its access road, onto homeowners, whether they like it or not.
The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that homeowners would then be forced to pay $300 – $700 annually to the HOA for use and maintenance of Ivy Lake. (One can assume that’s just the initial estimate, with high potential for costs to increase in the future.)
The alternative, if the court does not agree to this proposed “solution,” is to permanently drain the lake, leaving many homeowners without an access road.
Can the Virginia courts mandate the establishment of a Property Owners Association? If so, talk about an unfunded mandate.
At least one homeowner has filed a written response to the lawsuit, objecting to assuming financial responsibility for Ivy Lake. The response speaks volumes.
Apparently Bedford County, where Ivy Lake is located, is not interested in preserving and maintaining the dam and its lake, although it may consider using the land for recreation purposes if the lake is drained. But it seems clear that if the dam is removed, the County will have to make arrangements to provide road access to existing homeonwers, as a matter of public interest.
Left unsaid in all of the articles referenced below: not only would establishment of an HOA force cost sharing for Ivy Lake upon owners against their will, it would also potentially subject property owners to HOA enforcement of exisiting covenants and restrictions, and all of the unwanted baggage that goes along with putting volunteer homeowners in charge of policing the appearance and use of private property.
And that’s something most owners were not expecting when they purchased their homes.
Articles and Video coverage of the Ivy Lake controversy:
Liberty University sues Ivy Lake property owners over dam repairs
Liberty University’s LLC Sues Over 400 Homeowners (Video and access to Court Documents)
Paying for Needed Improvements to Ivy Lake Dam in Forest (2013)
Ivy Lake water level to be lowered during repairs (2014)