As Lewes Library fights HOA fines, homeowners may elect new board

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

Will an upcoming homeowners’ association election at Villages of Five Points end the HOA war against a Little Free Library?

Carl Frampton, president of Town Center West townhomes at Five Points, tells Cape Gazette that there’s a community movement to elect two new at-large board members at the June 15 annual meeting.

Frampton criticized the current board and its President, John Eikrem, for fining the library $6,000, shutting down fun outdoor community activities, and generally making decisions behind closed doors.

Frampton says he expects a strong turnout for this year’s election. The homeowner says he’s mailed out 125 proxies, in hopes of shifting the balance of power on the current HOA board.

Eikrem reportedly wrote a letter to HOA residents, complaining that the Little Library is “cheaply made.” He says that, although Lewes Library owns the 2-acre parcel of land, the library didn’t get approval from the HOA board before setting up the book box and some benches.

The HOA donated the land to the Library several years ago, subject to Covenants and Restrictions. But the current HOA board now wants to take the land back, because, it says, the land was gifted under the condition that it would become the site of a new library.

Lewes Library was eventually built in a different location.

See previous post for more information:

Delaware Village of Five Points HOA bullies local library

 

Opposition to the Free Little Library

Mark Hanson of Lewes wrote to Delaware State News on April 20. In his opinion letter, Hanson explains that the developer donated the 2-acre parcel in 2016, agreeing that the land would revert to the HOA after ten years, if not used as the site of its new library.

Hanson accuses Library officials of placing the book box on its land — without permission — in order to continue its ownership of the property.

But the dispute over the land parcel goes back to late 2012 and 2013, when the Lewes Library acquired the land, but then decided to build its new facility elsewhere.

At the time, Village of Five Points HOA residents were fighting against construction of a CVS pharmacy on the site adjacent to the library’s 2-acre parcel.

According to a report in the Cape Gazette from April 2013, the deed restriction only allows the donated land parcel to revert back to Villages at Five Points, if it’s established as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization.

That’s the catch. Homeowners associations almost never qualify as IRS 501(c)(3) charitable organizations.

The Villages at Five Points HOA is no exception.

HOA members were not pleased that Sussex County approved conditions that made it impossible for the land to revert to Villages at Five Points HOA.

 

Future development plans unknown

Lewes Library hasn’t made any recent public announcements about its future intention for the land.

However, in 2013, the Library had announced it would set up a “reading garden” and sell the remainder of the parcel to raise funds for its new construction project.

Their attorney advised then Director, Ed Goyda, that providing “library services” on the site would give Lewes Library the right to sell the land.

For several years, the legal dispute over the developer’s land transfer has simmered. But, so far, no land sale.

Then Lewes Library set up its book kiosk, to fulfill the deed’s condition of using the site for “library services.”

That’s when the HOA decided to fine Lewes Library.

 

Homeowners react

A couple of homeowners interviewed by WRDE news in April expressed concern that Lewes Library intends to sell the land for commercial development.

That’s ironic, because Villages at Five Points boasts about being a walkable community with its own downtown, full of commercial properties such as restaurants, a pub, a bakery, retail shops, and more.

If residents move to the Villages at Five Points master planned community for the convenient location, what difference would it make if one more commercial property were placed at the busy intersection?

I have a hunch this dispute is also about the money, since the developer-donated parcel is now worth more than $3 million.

Lewes Library doesn’t want to give up its nest egg. And who knows what the Villages at Five Points HOA plans to do with the land, if it ever regains ownership. ♦

 

References:

Library Kiosk Creates Controversy in Lewes
Updated: Apr 3, 2019 8:33 PM
By Madeleine Overturf, WRDE

Five Points homeowners seek to halt CVS
Group says land donation to library violates agreement

By Ron MacArthur, Cape Gazette | April 19, 2013