By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
I know many of my readers are focused on state legislation at this time of year. But the truth is, local governments enable, strongly encourage, or even mandate common interest development with the establishment of mandatory homeowner associations. Many City leaders, notably Mayors and City Councils, go out of their way to entice developers to build condominiums as a so-called “affordable” path to home ownership.
Additionally, local zoning requirements perpetuate the division of the haves from the have-nots. Have you noticed, in your housing market, new construction for sale is primarily estate homes on large lots or luxury condominiums, unaffordable to 90% of households? At the other end of the spectrum, there might be a limited supply of small condos and townhouses that offer little privacy, no yard space, and the hassles of dealing with Condo Commando boards.
There are very few new housing alternatives. So existing home sales are up, but, due to a housing shortage in some markets, many buyers are unable to find a reasonably priced home to purchase.
Aside from these nationwide trends, there are countless examples of how local planning boards make serious mistakes and errors in judgment when approving new construction. Here are a few reports that illustrate pervasive problems caused by poor planning.
No consensus on fixing low water crossing problem near Georgetown (Texas)
By Claire Osborn – American-Statesman Staff
A proposal by Williamson County to connect two neighborhoods with a new road to help some residents get in and out during times of flooding has drawn opposition.
Some residents of the Lost River neighborhood don’t want the county to build a street connecting their neighborhood to the adjacent Cedar Hollow neighborhood. The road would give residents in Cedar Hollow a second way to get out of the area when a low water crossing on Cedar Hollow Road floods.
Cedar Hollow Road is the only street that leads from the Cedar Hollow and Lost River neighborhoods to Texas 29. Both neighborhoods are about five miles west of Georgetown.
Lost River residents won a court battle in July to stop a neighbor who owns property in both neighborhoods from building a road to connect them.
But county Commissioner Valerie Covey came to a meeting for both neighborhoods in January and proposed the same route for a road to help solve the problem of flooding at the low water crossing. She later said the county could get the land for the road by condemning it by eminent domain.
Here we have conflict between homeowners from two adjacent subdivisions. Lost River homeowners have an adequate access road that leads to Route 29. Cedar Hollow’s sole access to Route 29 floods when Texas experiences torrential rain events, stranding residents of 60 homes in their neighborhood until the waters recede.
The two possible solutions are to build a bridge over the low water crossing, or connect Cedar Hollow to Lost River subdivision so residents can enter and exit through their neighboring community. Adding a bridge at the low water crossing is costly, so the County would prefer adding a small connector road between the two subdivisions.
Williamson County officials probably didn’t count on the territorial nature of some owners in Lost River HOA. Because each of these private subdivisions is cut off from the others, it breeds an us vs. them conflict. How dare the County even consider using eminent domain to allow Cedar Hollow residents access to “their” road!
All of this could have been prevented in the planning stages. For one thing, Cedar Hollow and any other common interest community ought to have more than one way in and out. It is a matter of public safety. If one access road is blocked or inaccessible, there is another way for residents to escape, and emergency responders to enter. And if providing access to the nearest highway requires a bridge, then build it before you break ground on the first home.
Developer makes case for landing choppers at condo complex
by Rolf Parker, Deerfiled Valley News
Feb 10, 2017
DOVER- On Friday, commissioners from the Vermont Department of Environmental Conservation came to Snow Vidda Loop to see for themselves the site where Brady Sullivan Properties LLC is proposing to construct a helipad. The site visit was followed by a demonstration of a helicopter landing and takeoff at Deerfield Valley Airport, which is 4.6 miles away by car. The commissioners and the district two coordinator were joined by residents of the condominiums who are opposed to the idea of a helicopter landing near their homes.
Officials from the Vermont Agency of Transportation and Dover police chief Randy Johnson also came to the site visit and to the airport, and testified in favor of the proposal at a public Act 250 hearing that was held later the same morning at the town municipal building.
Read more: Deerfield Valley News – Developer makes case for landing choppers at condo complex
Yes, these unfortunate homeowners are in a construction zone. But it is doubtful that any of them anticipated that would include a helipad practically on top of their condominiums with multiple landings and takeoffs for at least the next four years.
Why not use the existing airport nearby? Because that would be inconvenient for developer Brady Sullivan. So local commissioners would rather inconvenience taxpaying homeowners instead.
All this to accommodate a developer that is embroiled in numerous construction defect lawsuits throughout the region. Not cool.
Rancho Palos Verdes wants more from Green Hills Memorial Park
By Cynthia Washicko, The Daily Breeze
POSTED: 02/01/17, 6:11 PM PST
In an effort to improve the often tense relationship between Green Hills Memorial Park and nearby homeowners, Rancho Palos Verdes officials Tuesday required the cemetery to meet more frequently with neighbors and address some of their long-standing concerns.
At Tuesday’s compliance review, which was the first since 2014, the City Council reviewed the rules governing the relationship between the city and Green Hills.
The memorial park has been the focus of resident ire for years, in particular over its construction of the Pacific Terrace Mausoleum in the northwest corner of the cemetery just 8 feet away from the property line. Mistakes by city staff years ago allowed the mausoleum to be built in violation of city code.
Last year, residents of the Vista Verde neighborhood, adjacent Pacific Terrace in the city of Lomita, filed two lawsuits seeking millions in damages from Green Hills and the city. The litigation was not a topic of discussion Tuesday because the meeting was designed to focus on the compliance review only, said Councilman Jerry Duhovic.
Residents along all sides of the park also have long complained of the sights and sounds of funerals just feet from their homes, which they say has created serious quality-of-life issues.
Hard to believe that this decision slipped through the cracks. Imagine having a mausoleum constructed within a few feet of your condo. Unlike a cemetery, Pacific Terrace Mausoleum and Green Hills Memorial Park are built above ground, blocking light and air flow to lower level condo units. Other unit owners have a direct view of each and every memorial service, significantly reducing their privacy.
It’s not that the condo owners are opposed to the purpose of Green Hills. It’s just way too close for comfort. Litigation is ongoing. I previously wrote about this egregious case.
Of course, all of this conflict could have been prevented with more careful planning. The condo owners were there first, so, at the very least, there needed to be a much larger buffer between Pacific Terrace Mausoleum and Rancho Palos Verdes. In fact, perhaps the mausoleum and memorial park were better suited for another location further away from residential property.