Storm drain burst two years ago, issue still unresolved
Homeowner Sue Horne tells ABC 13 Eyewitness News that the sound of rain puts her in “panic mode.” According to the homeowner, she noticed a frightening problem two years ago, when portions of her back yard began to sink and shift downhill toward Lake Conroe. She reported the issue to Grand Harbor Property Owners Association, but while she was waiting for the association to correct the problem, a sinkhole opened up when a storm water pipe burst. The resulting earth movement has allegedly damaged Horne’s pool and back patio, clearly visible in the video linked below.
A recent attempt to repair the storm drain has only made matters worse, with multiple sink holes opening up along the length of the newly installed storm pipe. (See video below)
Horne is fearful that her home is at risk, and worries about the safety of children or pets that might fall into one of the sinkholes surrounding the botched storm drain replacement.
Horne recently filed a lawsuit against the POA.
Lake Conroe homeowner says HOA caused huge sinkhole
By Kaitlin McCulley
Updated 2 hrs 15 mins ago
LAKE CONROE, Texas (KTRK) — A homeowner who lives along Lake Conroe filed a lawsuit against her property owners’ association, alleging their negligence contributed to the growing sinkhole that sits partially on her property.
Sue Horne moved to a home next to Lake Conroe in 2002, a peaceful escape from Houston city life.
“But since this has occurred, I hear rain falling and immediately I almost go into a panic mode because I’m wondering how much more of my property is going into Lake Conroe,” Horne said.
Horne said the sinkhole saga started in 2015, that her pool lines broke, her patio foundation cracked and her yard sank by about 9 inches.
She said she contacted the Grand Harbor Property Owners Association and that they found the 24-inch drainage pipe next to her home had burst. She said they tried to cut corners in repairing it.
“They rented a backhoe, came in and ripped out the 24 inch drain pipe and put in a 36 inch drain pipe,” Horne said, “Within a month after that happening, this is what we have.”
No sturdy fencing blocks the sinkhole. Short metal stakes in the ground and orange plastic surround the area instead.
“I can’t imagine a child or animal falling in there,” Horne said.
Horne’s lawsuit alleges the POA did not regularly inspect the 24-inch drainage pipe, promptly replace that pipe, hire competent contractors or promptly replace the improperly installed 36-inch drainage pipe.
Greg Holloway, the attorney representing Grand Harbor Property Owners Association, declined an interview with Eyewitness News because of the pending litigation.
Source article, Watch Video:
About Grand Harbor POA
Grand Harbor POA governs a gated community of estate homes with lakeside and interior lots. According to its website, annual assessments for 2017 are $1,200, plus a special assessment of $115. In 2016, the association imposed a $235 special assessment.
Construction in Grand Harbor began in 2000, and remains ongoing. In 2011, the POA enacted their rather complicated and onerous deed restrictions and enforcement policy. Violations are classified into four categories with fines that start at $100, increasing up to $1,000 for “major” or repeat offenses.
Note the $30 administrative fee for each and every violation notice, a fee that most likely goes directly to the Community Association Management firm.
In 2012, Grand Harbor POA also enacted a Forced Correction Policy, whereby if the property owner fails to correct a violation or request a hearing within 10 days, the association may enter the property, make corrections, and invoice the owner for immediate payment. Unpaid invoices for forced corrections can become a lien against the property.
Contrast between POA powers and homeowner powers
Contrast the POA’s strict violation policy to a homeowner’s rights when the association violates its duties as spelled out in the Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CC&Rs).
In this case, the homeowner says she has been waiting two years for the POA to correct a potentially dangerous condition, deferring maintenance and repair to the common areas, as well as compensating Horne for damage to her personal property.
Why can’t Horne send a violation notice to the association, and impose fines for the POA’s failure to act?
Instead, the homeowner is forced to hire an attorney, spend thousands of dollars in legal fees, and potentially endure several stressful years in litigation, simply to force the POA to uphold its end of the CC&Rs “contract.”
What’s more, because the inoperable storm water drain system is considered common property, Horne cannot force the POA to make timely and adequate repairs. Nor can the homeowner hire her own contractors to do the work, and then bill the POA for the costs.
In fact, state law does not even allow Horne to withhold assessments, despite the fact that Grand Harbor POA appears to be unreasonably delaying corrective action for a very serious issue.
Such is the typical reality for homeowners in association governed, common interest communities.
Costs for POA most likely going up
To buy into Grand Harbor at Lake Conroe, a new homeowner must pay $1,950 for an initiation fee, $200 for a resale certificate, and $150-$300 in transfer fees.
But that’s only the beginning of the POA’s drain on a homeowner’s budget.
Given the current storm water and sinkhole situation, it is doubtful that the 2017 special assessment will fully cover all pending costs to repair the storm drain pipe, fill in the sink hole, stabilize the slope, and compensate the homeowner for damages to her private property. Don’t forget, there will also be legal fees and possible increases to insurance premiums for the POA going forward.
Privatized storm water maintenance does not benefit homeowners
Today’s article is yet another example of privately maintained storm water infrastructure that has failed miserably, increasing costs for all homeowners in Grand Harbor at Lake Conroe.
And, although the statute of limitations has most likely passed, the reader is left to wonder if the original design and construction of Grand Harbor’s storm water system met code requirements or standards for best practices. The fact that the POA made an unsuccessful attempt to replace a 24-inch diameter pipe with a 36-inch pipe seems to indicate the perceived need for greater storm water capacity.
In all fairness to Grand Harbor POA’s board, it is unreasonable to expect homeowner volunteers, with little to no no expertise in civil engineering, stormwater management, or construction to have a full understanding of what type of maintenance is necessary for their storm water system to operate effectively.
But Horne’s lawsuit also agues there is little excuse for the POA failing to seek out appropriate experts for advice, direction, and a workable corrective action plan.