City Councilman objects to his own developer-controlled HOA

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities

Today’s post reveals another reason for the waning popularity of HOA-governed communities: Local politicians now have their very own HOA-horror stories to tell.

After decades of local governments blessing or mandating HOA-governed common interest communities, it was just a matter of time before the politicians got caught in the snares of their own dysfunctional communities.

Owners have no say in Lake Forest HOA

Hebron, Ohio city councilman Wayne Carruthers and his wife are fed up with their homeowners association.

After 14 years, Pulte Homes continues to control Lake Forest HOA. Carruthers says the developer keeps raising HOA fees, but doesn’t have to answer to homeowners in the community.

Pulte recently increased annual dues from $360 to $420. And more increases are coming.

Here’s why.

Approved plans for Lake Forest call for 218 homes, but only 80 homes have been built and sold since the community’s establishment. Ohio state law allows Pulte to pass on the cost of HOA fees for its unsold lots to current homeowners.

But, for all the money they pay, Lake Forest homeowners aren’t seeing the value of their HOA fees. For example, several cul-de-sacs and turn arounds haven’t been completed, and a large borrow pit breeds mosquitoes and poses a health hazard for residents.

Homeowners also complain that some of the common green spaces haven’t been mowed for years, resulting in unsightly and overgrown trees and brush.

The HOA has a contract with OMNI Community Association Managers to oversee maintenance services in Lake Forest. The manager for Lake Forest HOA, Jamies Schmittauer, claims to be an advocate for homeowners.

But she’s obviously works at the pleasure of the Pulte-controlled board. Therefore, how much “help” can the homeowners really expect in this situation?

There oughta be a law?

Wayne Carruthers thinks that state law should create a deadline for the developer control period of HOAs. He said it’s the only way to give homeowners a voice in their own communities.

Well, DUH. Why has it taken decades for some local government leaders to draw these conclusions?

And talk about bad karma.

More than a decade ago, Hebron’s city council voted to approve Lake Forest, with its developer-controlled HOA. Now city council members like Carruthers are reaping the havoc they sowed more than 15 years ago.


Hebron couple seeks help from lawmakers to address homeowners association concerns (OH)
Michaela Sumner, Newark Advocate | Published 6:25 a.m. ET Sept. 19, 2019

Notable excerpt:

Wayne Carruthers, who also serves as a Hebron councilman, said state laws need to be changed. He added state legislature needs to look at laws regarding HOAs and ask why they didn’t put a time limit on how long developers can run HOAs.

“I’m a (village) councilman. I have to answer to the people of the village. These people answer to nobody,” Wayne Carruthers said. “We can’t get anybody in here on their board to tell them we don’t want this or that.”

More HOA news briefs and commentary:

City will accept private road as a “public way,” but HOA must maintain stormwater drainage system (MA)

Here’s a report that highlights a personal pet peeve. Local governments throughout the U.S. repeatedly dump responsibility for stormwater infrastructure on private HOA-governed communities.

For example, in West Bridewater, Mass., a development plan accepted in 2011 calls for transferring Pearl Road to the city, but requires the HOA to maintain the storm drains.

The problem is, storm water drainage is an integral part of a roadway — either private or public.

Think about this for a moment.

Roads and storm drains should work together

If a road isn’t sloped the right way, stormwater runoff won’t be funneled to catch basins, detention areas, or retention ponds. Instead, rushing waters from a downpour of rain, or a sudden spring thaw, will erode portions of the road or adjacent private property.

The results: potholes, crumbling roads, soil erosion, and possibly sinkholes.

Likewise, if stormwater culverts and channels aren’t properly designed or maintained, where will the stormwater go? Drainage systems with blockages will inevitably back up, flooding roads and private property.

Or water might be diverted onto private property, saddling home and business owners with costs to repair the damage.

Looking at the big picture, it’s nearly impossible to guarantee that every drop of stormwater will be confined to one property. State and local regulators like to pretend that engineers can design drainage systems that don’t impact neighboring subdivisions or property owners.

In reality, despite best efforts, at least some stormwater is bound to travel downhill and downstream, with the potential to wreak havoc.

This is the folly of assigning responsibility for stormwater infrastructure in a piecemeal fashion.

On a slightly positive note…West Bridgewater’s town council accepted Pearl Rd as a public way, despite its previous inclinations against doing so.

Slowly but surely, local governments are reconsidering the wisdom of putting private HOA governing boards in charge of maintaining expensive infrastructure such as community roadways.


After uncertainty about process, West Bridgewater accepts private way as public
By Mina Corpuz
The Enterprise
Posted Sep 9, 2019 at 4:00 PM
The process to accept Pearl Road came into question after the June town meeting.

Notable excerpt:

Town counsel said that the final step to accept the street was to acquire land in the layout, which the Pearl Road homeowner’s association owns. It has given the deed of the layout to the town and it is in the process of being recorded.

The deed outlines drainage and sewer infrastructure obligations that the Pearl Road homeowners association will retain even when the street becomes public.

Illinois Supreme Court Commission suspends Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit condo attorney

Regular readers of IAC will recognize the Kovitz, Shifrin, & Nesbit (KSN) law firm as the legal home of condo association attorneys in Illinois.

For instance, KSN attorney (Diane Silverberg) has provided legal representation for 111 East Chestnut Condominium Association, where state judges ruled against the Association and in favor of protecting free speech and due process for condo residents.

Now, another black eye for the KSN law firm. One of its former attorneys — Michael Shifrin — will be suspended as of Oct. 7,  for fudging financial records for his own personal enrichment.

As reported in Loop North News, the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission (ARDC) suspended Michael Shifrin after he admitted to altering records to inflate the amount of revenue he generated for the firm. He says he did it to increase his personal income.

Shifrin has since repaid the money, but, obviously, the ARDC wants to discourage “stealing” from one’s legal partners.

Private practice

Last year, Michael Shifrin left KSN to open his own practice, where he specializes in representation of condominium associations. According to his website, Michael Shifrin’s services include defense of HOA boards, as well as pursuit of collections and HOA foreclosures.

As a member of Community Associations Institute (CAI), Michael Shifrin has reportedly conducted seminars and workshops for volunteer board members of HOA-governed communities.

But, considering his ADC suspension, perhaps Michael Shifrin would not be considered an ideal role model for volunteer condo-HOA board members. ♦


Kovitz Shifrin Nesbit condo attorney suspended over billing scheme
By Steven Dahlman | Loop North News |29-Sept.-2019

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