The HOA now claims it’s not opposed to the playground, just the “tree fence” surrounding the homeowners’ yard
By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Since my previous post on a Prairie Creek Ridge’s homeowner dispute over a playground and arborvitae hedge, there have been some new developments.
First, following widespread publicity of the dispute, the HOA now claims it was never really against the playground, and that the board is just disputing the 12 foot tall hedge bordering the street-facing side of the lot.
Homeowner’s Association says family’s “12 feet trees” are the problem, not child’s playground
5:53 PM, Jul 1, 2018
10:41 AM, Jul 2, 2018
OCONOMOWOC — The fight continues over 6-year-old Ashlin’s playground in Oconomowoc.
The family says the playset is therapeutic for their daughter who is in and out of the hospital with kidney issues.
They say the Prairie Creek Ridge Homeowners Association told them they had to get rid of the playground — but the association says that is not true.
The HOA says the main issue is with the 12 feet arbor trees in the front yard, not Ashlin’s playground.
In a statement, the HOA says the trees should come down because homeowners have complained they don’t fit the harmony of appearance within the subdivision. The association says fences are only allowed to be 4 ft on the side yards and 6 ft in the rear.
They also say the trees lead to safety concerns such as children running out into the street from behind the trees making it hard for drivers to see them before stopping.
“This is the first that I’ve heard about their issues with our trees,” Kristi Hays, Ashlin’s mother said.
In the official STATEMENT FROM PRAIRIE CREEK RIDGE HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION ( Source: https://www.tmj4.com/news/statement-from-prairie-creek-ridge-homeowners-association), the HOA board claims its member were unaware of Ashlin Sanders’ illness (kidney disease warranting the need for a transplant, which took place on Fathers’ Day 2018).
But Sanders says that the entire community — which consists of roughly 78 lots, about 50 or so of them occupied by new homes — has been well aware of Ashlin’s illness and special needs, for about two years, as long as they have owned their home.
The board sees the hedge as the equivalent of a fence. Since the HOA has restrictions on fence placement and height, they believe the same restrictions should apply to the hedge. In their statement, they refer to a restriction against fences in the front yard of a property. The HOA has demanded the Sanders remove the hedge along the lot border that is closest to the sidewalk and street.
However, because the playground and trees exist on a separate lot adjacent to the lot that is occupied by the family home, it serves strictly as additional yard space. Therefore, there is no “front yard.”
And, in fact, a hedge is not a fence.
The HOA statement also claims that “neighboring homeowners” have complained about the “street-facing” tall street surrounding the playground. But Sanders has not yet been provided with a written list of his neighbors who have allegedly complained about the hedge surrouding the lot with the playground.
And, incredibly, the HOA attorney is now suggesting that the Sanders allow the playground to become the common property of the association, for use as a community park.
In other words, the HOA wants to take over the family’s private property!
Oconomowoc family in fight with HOA over playground and trees after daughter’s kidney surgery
By: Lindsey Branwall
Posted: Jul 7, 2018 8:33 PM CDT
OCONOMOWOC, Wis. (CBS 58) — A little girl Oconomowoc wants to play on her backyard playground after recovering from kidney surgery, but her fun is being threatened by the neighborhood homeowner’s association.
The Sanders family says they had gotten permission to put up trees and a playset by the previous homeowner’s association president, but they recently received a letter.
“We received a letter from the attorney for the HOA board of directors on the 17th of June,” said Tim Sanders.
The family opened the letter a day after their 6-year-old daughter had a kidney transplant. Sanders says the notice threatened legal action if the playground and trees were not taken down from their lot.
Statement from Prairie Creek Ridge HOA:
One thing the HOA may be interested in exploring, based on Mr. Sanders’ comments that he sees the playset as a “community playset,” is truly making that a reality by putting easements in place to allow all the children in the subdivision to use and enjoy the playset. Safety concerns come first, however, and must be addressed. All of this will be discussed between the attorneys in the coming week.
Ashlin’s father, Tim Sanders, contacted me after reading the article I posted on June 24, 2018, to clarify some facts.
Here’s a brief summary of our conversation:
Q: When did the HOA (former board) approve both the playground and the trees? How did the former board inform you of the approval for the playground and the trees?
A: In April 2017, soon after we purchased extra lot, Nelson Dos Reis (HOA President) gave verbal approval, in front of two witnesses, Brian Bauman, HOA VP and Dustin Kerschner, HOA Secretary. At the time, Prairie Creek was actively under construction, and the Architectural Control Committee (ACC) had not yet been formed, so the board of directors provided approval. Nelson said at the time that no fence would be allowed to surround the entire lot, but that a hedge is not prohibited by the covenants and restrictions.
By the way, the street-facing arborvitae are set in 15-18 feet from the road.
Q: When did the HOA board change?
A: Earlier this year (2018) Bryan Bauman, formerly Vice President, became HOA President. The board was increased to 6 members. The board then appointed 3 people to serve on the ACC.
Q: Did neighbors, including current board members, know about Ashlin’s illness, and, if so, when?
A: Shortly after the playground and trees were installed, in October 2017, we held a block party for the neighborhood. Many of the neighbors attended the party and their children played in our yard.
Tim’s wife, Kristi Hays adds, “we discussed [Ashlin’s illness] with past and present board members during various times during the last two years. Even more so the last three months as Ashlin’s illness progressed and we were searching for kidney donors within our community. Tim wore a kidney for Ashlin shirt every day for 30 days walking around the neighborhood.”
Q: What do you think prompted the new board of directors to reverse the HOA’s approval of your playground and trees?
A: According to some of my neighbors, Bauman has a history of approving landscape modifications, only to disapprove the changes later.
The HOA board also recently hired Bauman’s son’s landscape business to mow the common areas and take care of a retention pond, increasing costs from $1,700 to $5,000. Another former board member, Dustin Kerschner, who owns an insurance, mortgage, and financial services agency, sold insurance policies to the HOA. I and a few other homeowners started attending HOA board meetings and objected to these new contracts, and the conflicts of interest.
Not long after these issues were discussed with the HOA board, the ACC began discussing new rules and standards at a meeting in May. Then we received the June 16th letter, written by Prairie Creek’s attorney Lydia J Chartre of Husch Blackwell, demanding that we remove both the playground and trees within 14 days.
Sanders provided a copy of the letter below:
Q: How did you and your neighbors respond to that letter?
A: Within a week of receiving the letter from the HOA attorney, we obtained notarized copies of letters from Ashlin’s Physical and Occupational Therapy physicians, as well as her Educational Support Assistant. Both of these letters, which were provided to the HOA board, explain the necessity for the play structure and border trees enclosing the Sanders family lot.
The letter was discussed on Ashlin’s Facebook Page, and that caught the attention of TMJ4 News.
Another neighbor also distributed the notice below:
- Friends and neighbors also started a Change.org petition which now has more than 6,000 signatures. (Please Join Rebels on a Mission in helping the Sander’s family keep their play ground set.)
- The Sanders family also consulted an attorney. They are currently represented by Patricia Schober.
- Sanders also informed me that Prairie Creek Ridge HOA started a new contract with Elite Management Company as of July 1, 2018.
- Bryan Baumann’s personal attorney from Gruhl Lawfirm recently sent Sanders a Cease and Desist letter.
Ashlin’s recovery continues, and, despite all of her medical challenges, she remains in good spirits. Her family looks forward to the day she can enjoy just being a kid again, and fully enjoy her backyard oasis.