Hidden liabilities of HOA ponds, lakes can wreck property values

By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities



Home buyers are often tempted by the natural beauty and recreational value of ponds and lakes. But condo, HOA, and lake association members should consider the hidden risks and liabilities of life near the water.



The case of the disappearing pond

Homeowners in the Auburn Hills subdivision of Caledonia, Wisconsin, are angry and disappointed, now that they’ve learned that their view of an unattractive mud pit — developers call it a dry pond — isn’t going away.

According to the The Journal Times, owners of homes in the upscale community have enjoyed a tranquil pond view for 17 years. Residents remember when the pond was filled with fish, and they could observe birds and wildlife from the comfort of their homes. That’s exactly what Auburn Hills they expected when they purchased their homes in this “conservation neighborhood.”

After all, when buyers purchased their homes from Korndoerfer Homes and Newport Builders, developers gave them sales brochures depicting a plan with homes surrounding a pond.

But here’s what home buyers didn’t know. The town of Caldonia approved development plans for Auburn Hills in 2002, and those plans always called for a dry pond, not a permanent body of water.

Had buyers looked more closely at the flashy sales brochure of a neighborhood map including a pond, they would have seen the words, “for illustrative purposes only” in fine print.

As explained previously here on IAC, the only true purpose of most ponds in planned communities is storm water management. Storm water ponds are used to control the flow of contaminants and prevent damage to property from flooding. As long as they fulfill their purpose, state and federal regulations don’t require ponds to be ornamental or “attractive.”

The truth is, it’s much less expensive to maintain a dry retention basin that a “wet” one. So, now that the developers are done selling homes in the early phases, they’ve decided to drain the pond for good.

As one current homeowner puts it, they “got screwed.” An occasional giant mud puddle in their back yards certainly doesn’t enhance their property values.

As for new home buyers in the next phase of Auburn Hills, they won’t have to look at the unattractive dry pond surrounded by 17-year-old homes.


How a pond got drained: Developers accused of misleading neighborhood
ADAM ROGAN, The Journal Times, adam.rogan@journaltimes.com | Oct 21, 2019



Retention ponds pose serious safety hazard

Residents of the Water Works condo community in Mesa had a major scare last month, when a 2-year-ol boy nearly drowned in its retention pond.

According to local reports, the boy had been visiting family members, when he apparently wandered off and ended up in the middle of the pond. Fortunately, the boy’s frantic mother realized what was happening, before it was too late.

Local firefighters pulled the toddler from the pond and rushed him to the hospital. At the time of this post, no further details on the boy’s condition were available.

The reports serve as a reminder that most retention ponds in HOA-governed communities and rental apartment communities are not surrounded by safety fences.

Small children may be drawn to play in or near the water, unaware of the hazards.

The lack of a barrier around storm water retention ponds also increases the risk that any resident or guest could enter the water, either intentionally or by accident, and suffer injury or death by drowning.

But even dry ponds pose safety hazards.

Last July, a 5-year-old boy drowned in shallow water that temporarily filled a dry retention basin near his home following heavy rainfall. Three boys were playing in a kayak on the water, when it capsized. Two of the children survived and ran to get help, but, sadly, the third child was found dead in the pond.

In addition to the human tragedy of personal injury or death, homeowners and condo associations face a substantial risk of litigation filed by surviving family members.


Near drowning call: 2-year-old found in a Mesa condominium complex pond
By Justin Lum | FOX 10 Phoenix
Published October 19 | Updated October 20

FD: Child rushed to hospital after near-drowning in Mesa
Posted: 7:27 PM, Oct 19, 2019
Updated: 3:18 PM, Oct 20, 2019 By: abc15.com staff

5-year-old boy dies after watercraft capsizes on retention pond at Oley Township farm
The boy was found unconscious in the pond by his parents. WRITTEN BY READING EAGLE | FRIDAY JULY 12, 2019 12:52 PM



How much are you willing to pay for your lake lifestyle?

Many homeowners living near recreational lakes in Guadalupe County enjoy the privilege of swimming, fishing, and boating just steps from their homes. But after nearly 90 years, these manmade lakes aren’t aging well.

State and local officials say that the dams and spillways on several lakes are worn out and prone to failure at any time.

Someone has to pay for repairs to make these lakes safe again. But who will pay, and how much will it cost?

Independent experts hired by four lake homeowners’ associations recently evaluated their 90-year-old dams and spill gates. Now experts recommend limiting recreational activity at Lake McQueeny, Lake Placid, Meadow Lake and Lake Gonzales.

The evaluations follow a court order instructing Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) to delay for twelve months, its plan to drain all four lakes.

Areas upstream and downstream of dams on the lakes will be off limits for swimming and boating activities. Now homeowners must consider their options for making expensive repairs.

Although GBRA has been collecting a portion of its revenue from hydroelectric generation for nearly 50 years, the Authority says it dose not have enough money to cover the full cost of dam and spillway repairs.

Meanwhile, property owners surrounding Lake Dunlap have already hammered out a solution with GBRA. They have chosen to create a special tax district to cover the additional cost to restore their lake, which was drained when its spill gates failed in May.

It seems that the best way for owners of lake front, lake view homes to protect their property values is to tax themselves for the next 30 years. It’s the only way they can afford to repay millions of dollars needed now for new dams and flood gates. ♦♦


Draining Guadalupe Valley Lakes could cost homeowners $500 million-plus
Community Impact Newspaper
By Ian Pribanic   |  2:23 am Oct. 20, 2019 CDT   |   Updated 9:47 am Oct. 25, 2019 CDT

Guadalupe Valley Lakes Reopen Following Release of Report Determining “Unsafe Zones”
By Stacy Rickard Texas | Spectrum News | PUBLISHED 6:38 PM CT Oct. 22, 2019

Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority

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