By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Here’s a story that should be getting widespread national attention, because, with aging storm water infrastructure failures across the U.S., anyone could find themselves in a similar predicament — especially if their home is located within the boundaries of a homeowners’ association.
Imagine how stressful and frustrating it would be if a storm water pipe failure caused a huge sinkhole to open up in your front yard, but no one was willing to take responsibility to fix the problem.
That describes Douglas Woods’ current nightmare.
Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) says that since the sinkhole is neither in the road nor the drainage ditch easement zone, it’s not responsible to make repairs.
Spotsylvania County says that, because there’s an HOA, it has no obligation to assist Mr. Woods.
The HOA attorney says the County does have easements to repair the storm water system, so it’s not their problem either.
In the meantime, while three layers of government blame one another for the storm water pipe failure and the sinkhole, and play their game of chicken, waiting to see who will reluctantly take action to protect public health and private property, the Woods family is at risk of losing their home.
Woods says this issue has gone unresolved for months. He was told it would cost $78,000 to fix the storm pipe and fill in the sinkhole.
How can the state, the County, and the HOA expect a private homeowner to pay $78,000 for heavy construction equipment and materials needed to repair community infrastructure?
It’s simply ludicrous. Outrageous!
According to comments posted in response The Free Lance Star article below, more than 400 Kingswood HOA members each pay $400 per year in HOA fees. Woods’ home is more than 20 years old. So Kingswood HOA has collected millions of dollars in two decades. The HOA should have money in reserve to repair and rebuild its storm water system.
But, either due to ignorance or wishful thinking, most HOAs fail to save adequate money for these costly but inevitable repairs. They spend all the money they do collect on other priorities, necessary or not.
And most County and municipal governments wash their hands of responsiblity for storm water system maintenance when they sign agreements with the common interest community developer, requiring the developer to create an HOA to collect assessments for future maintenance.
Never mind that Spotsylvania County has been more than happy to collect property tax revenue from Kingswood homeowners for the past two decades. And, during that time, no one from the County bothered to verify that the developer or the HOA was properly maintaining community storm water infrastructure.
Nevertheless, County officials feel no obligation to assist Mr. Woods, who has become nothing more than a pawn caught in the midst of political maneuvering to see who will ultimately pay up.
In HOAville, when a problem of this magnitude occurs, the HOA’s knee-jerk reaction is to see if they can pass the buck to the private homeowner.
Unbelievably maddening, but true.
GAP GROWING IN SPOTSYLVANIA YARD
Sinkhole puts Spotsylvania family in a bind
By SCOTT SHENK THE FREE LANCE–STAR Jun 27, 2018
The past year has been a rough ride for the Woods family.
Douglas Woods, a 46-year-old U.S. Army veteran, fell ill about a year ago and eventually needed a liver transplant. Complications ensued and he ended up on disability after having to leave his job as a network engineer in Quantico.
While he was in the hospital, the Woods’ then-13-year-old daughter was also hospitalized with a serious illness. The family is still coping with the teenager’s health issues.
Then, in February, a sinkhole opened in the family’s front yard. They live in the Kingswood subdivision, a 400-plus home Spotsylvania County neighborhood off Harrison Road.
The cause of the hole? A large, underground steel drainage pipe that had become corroded and separated. The drain pipe runs under numerous yards and streets in the neighborhood.
Woods had an estimate done in March and the cost of the repairs came to more than $78,000.
“That’s crazy,” Woods said. “You think I’ve got $78,000 sitting around to fix the neighborhood’s pipes?”
He has spent months trying to find out who is responsible for the hole and the corroded pipe. He has contacted his Kingswood Homeowners Association, county officials and the Virginia Department of Transportation.
His quest has proven fruitless.
“Nobody wants to touch it,” said Woods. “I’ve been very patient. It’s a bad situation.”