HOA President’s warning: ‘buyer beware’ of nearby dams

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities


The HOA industry is fond of touting that association-governed neighborhoods protect property values and promote a “sense of community.”

But, it appears those claims are simply marketing hype.

For example, consider Wellington Park HOA, Cary, North Carolina. The conveniently located, leafy subdivision contains 250 homes, most of them constructed in the 1980s and 1990s.

However, according to one report in the The News & Observer, homeowner Marshall Dietz experiences chronic stormwater management problems in the subdivision. He says his backyard floods every spring. Other owners say the playground floods when it rains.

Property owners blame new development in the area for increasing storm water runoff. But Wellington Park is also the site of old dams creating small ponds, all of which are the maintenance responsibility of the HOA.

The city of Cary has a stormwater engineer that periodically inspects dams, but it takes no responsibility for maintaining or repairing small, privately-owned dams.

As for the HOA, its board President takes a matter-of-fact stance: ‘buyer beware.’

In other words, as a home buyer and property owner, it’s YOUR problem if you happen to be one of the unfortunate residents that has to deal with property damage due to improper or deferred maintenance of common infrastructure in your association-governed community.

In theory, a homeowners’ association is supposed to work for the common good. But, in practice, the HOA board will usually avoid addressing or even acknowledging your problem.

It does’t seem to matter that stormwater management infrastructure is common property of your HOA. The board will often resist spending collective assessment dollars on necessary repairs or maintenance, even if necessary to alleviate health, safety, or nuisance issues, if it only affects one or a few homeowners — unless, of course, those affected happen to serve as board members.

From the perspective of Dietz, Wellington Park HOA does not protect his property value.

And the ‘buyer beware’ statement effectively dismisses Dietz as a member of an inclusive, supportive community.

Note that the City of Cary has washed its hands of the issue, by deferring to the HOA. This is another very common complaint of homeowners in association-governed communities. Homeowners face resistance not only from their HOA, but also from their city, county, and state regulatory agencies.


New development prompts concerns about flooding in Cary neighborhood (NC)

April 03, 2018 04:03 PM

Updated April 03, 2018 04:23 PM



The backyard of Marshall Dietz’s home has flooded every spring for the 20 years he’s lived there. Sometimes, only the back of the property is affected; other years water has risen up to the crawlspace.

Dietz lives in Wellington Park, a community built in a gully southwest of the Crossroads shopping plaza in Cary. The area already receives runoff, and Dietz worries new development up the hill will make for even more flooding.

“Each situation is unique in regards to building and residing near dams, streams or other impervious surfaces,” said Ruth Merkle, president of the Wellington Park Homeowners Association. “The approach I would take is ‘buyer beware.’ Any potential developer or homeowner should check with their town, HOA, or previous owners regarding any potential flooding issues.”

Billy Lee, the stormwater engineering manager for Cary, said he inspected the Lake Wellington Pond dam and others last year. While he saw no red flags, he said he encourages all property owners to be aware of the dams in their area.

The state keeps close watch over the nearly 3,500 North Carolina dams included in the Army’s national dam inventory. Of those, 2,770 are privately owned and almost 1,500 are considered to have high hazard potential.

But those numbers only reflect the medium to large dams. Some dams are too small or too old to be on official lists.

Many of the small dams now near subdivisions were originally built as part of family farms, and a few date back to before the Revolutionary War. The age of a dam can lead to more problems than just its materials breaking down.

“There are a lot of dams, and one of the challenges that comes up a lot is when it’s an old farm dam,” Munger said. “Some of them have been there as long as anybody can remember, and it can be a jolt to people when they find out they’re responsible for it.”

Many privately owned dams, both old and new, are now under the purview of homeowners associations.

The Lake Wellington Pond dam only holds back 6 to 8 acre-feet of water, and is too small to be included on the official N.C. Dam Inventory. Other nearby dams are also too small to be listed.

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