Durham Park residents divided over Bylaws, neighborhood amenities

Some residents in the Durham Park subdivision want the Property Owners Association to insure a neighborhood swimming pool and clubhouse so that it can be used by residents this summer.

However, members of the governing board and their supporters say it isn’t that simple and they disagree with some of the tactics being used by some who want change.

About 45 residents attended a special called meeting of the Property Owners Association Board Monday hoping to convince them to use annual assessment fees to maintain and insure the pool, a clubhouse and playground that has in the past been maintained by a separate entity — the Durham Park Social and Recreation Association. When a quorum of the Board failed to attend and the meeting could not be convened, homeowners asked questions, expressed concerns, and left angry. According to residents on both sides of the issue, very little was accomplished, and those who want change have retained an attorney.

“We want open elections of Board members,” said Sandy Johnson, a leader in the effort. “They aren’t listening to us. This is a situation of taxation without representation.”

She said at the heart of the matter is that property owners were promised access to certain amenities that are now in poor repair, uninsured and virtually abandoned. They want the Association Board to step up and make the amenities usable again.

But Treasurer Rocki Witmer and others say the documents that govern the association of homeowners do not allow assessment fees, which are $45 per year, to be used for those purposes.

Mrs. Witmer, who said she does not speak for the Board, moved into the subdivision on RR 1869 six years ago and chose not to join the social club. Prior to 2006, she said the funds remained separate and believes that’s the way it should remain.

The DPSRA charges $150 per family per year to be members of the club, which has a separate IRS designation. According to the group’s website, www.dpsra.com, a paid membership entitles residents to the use of the pool and clubhouse.

“We are five years into this fight,” said Sam Detweiler, a homeowner since 2008. “Sometimes, I would like to spend this money (assessment fees) to make things better there, but if we follow the rules, it can’t be done.”

Detweiler, who was recently appointed interim chair of the Assessment Committee, said there is about $10,000 in the account that collects assessment fees, which are supposed to be used to maintain “common areas.”

“We pay our dues to them (HOA) on a regular basis and with good faith that the money will be used for its intended purpose — maintenance of common areas,” she said.

Detweiler explained that the pool and clubhouse area, although accessible to residents who pay club membership dues, are not defined as “common areas.”

He said the Association owns the title to the 18.49 acres where the pool and clubhouse are located, but in 1983, the social club was given rights to the improvements on the land. He likened the relationship to someone renting an apartment — the renter is responsible for caring for and insuring the contents of the apartment.

“These are two separate entities, each one has their own bank accounts,” he said.

Ms. Johnson, who says an electronic petition being circulated among property owners shows 95 signers want the Board to step up and pay, believes the majority of residents share that view.

Mrs. Witmer, who was present at Monday’s meeting, said her opinions of the conflict are her own and she does not speak for the Board. She said that a survey of the neighborhood completed in February showed 15 percent of respondents did not want their assessment fees to be used to maintained the social club property. Only 25 percent of the estimated 190 property owners responded to the survey, and 11 percent of those answered yes to the question, she said.

Fritz Scheutzeberg, a resident of the neighborhood since 1985, said he held a protest sign and braved triple-digit temperatures two days this week because he wanted residents to know what was happening.

“This is all about the kids,” he said. “The pool was open for years and everything was fine until about five years ago. We just want it to be functional again.”

He added that bridal paths, which many consider common areas, had been fenced in by property owners who had over the years received permission from an Architctural Control Committee.

R. S. Atkinson said he is one of the property owners who fenced in a portion of the bridal path behind his home because it was not being used for the intended purpose. He said it was used by motorcycles and other motorized vehicles and was a disturbance to his family. He said he sought permission from the committee to enclose it and many others have taken similar action.

“The assessment fees were supposed to maintain paths, but they were neglected and never cleared,” he said. Atkinson said he has lived in the neighborhood 32 years.

Ms. Johnson said she and others signing the petition want the Bylaws changed so that members of the Board can be elected. Currently, members are replaced by outgoing members and there are no open elections.

Atkinson said he agrees that an elected Board would be beneficial, but believes that the dispute should be settled before that occurs. He said the Board attempted to rewrite the Bylaws in the spring, but failed to get a quorum in April where the issue was set for discussion. Nothing has been done since that time. The Board is schedule to meet again on July 21.

“In this time of record heat, the families of our subdivision are left to look at a perfectly functional pool that is currently filled with stagnant water and small dead creatures,” Ms. Johnson said. “It is especially difficult to explain all this to the children.”