Originally Posted by Tom Williams 9
I heard La Ventana resolved water dispute with developers yesterday
is it not one of the best areas in the SW of Austin to buy?
That dispute ("water company lawsuit") was between the past and current developers. There is another lawsuit ("variance lawsuit"), however, between a number of residents and the declarant-controlled ROA ("Ranch Owners Association").
The water company lawsuit only determined ownership as between successive developers and not with respect to others. In addition, the declarant must obtain approval from TCEQ before the transfer is legit.
The water company lawsuit has no impact on the variance lawsuit, but the position taken by the ROA and the outcome of the variance lawsuit should concern you. The declarant would like to ensure that everyone in this subdivision is held captive to their water company in order to maximize the value the declarant can get by flipping the water company. The declarant controls the Board of the ROA.
Here's a list of "must have" issues that the La Ventana ROA Board must address to ensure that it is a great place for the residents and not just the Board members and vendors who for the most part do not even live here:
1) honoring the deal that mandatory members made when purchasing here
2) open elections
3) open meetings
4) open records
5) open voting
6) dumping Alliance Association Management
1): The recorded CCRs identify the restrictions applying to the properties in La Ventana. Unfortunately, the Board members have engaged in conduct to try to effectively create more restrictions that no one agreed to. Through manipulation of the Architectural Committee, the Board members are trying to force members to use vendors with which the Board members own or have self-serving financial arrangements with. The Board members operate primarily to protect the interests of the Board members - not the residents.
There is no restrictive covenant requiring residents to purchase all or any gas from the "central gas system". Similarly, there is no restrictive covenant requiring residents to purchase all of their water from the declarant-owned water company. Nonetheless, the Board wants to tie your lot purchase to the mandated purchase of water and propane from vendors they own or have self-serving financial interests in. The Board has attempted to achieve this in part through a campaign of threats, intimidation, and defamatory proclamations for more than a year.
A number of residents sought and obtained approvals from the Architectural Committee which give permission from the ROA to install a residential well and/or buried propane tank. Residents still need the approval of other regulatory authorities, but these approvals were required to avoid the threat of being fined and foreclosed upon. Despite having followed every requirement in the CCRs and despite the fact that such approval is the "sole and absolute discretion" of the Architectural Committee members (who were previously elected from among the residents and are now appointed by the Board members), the La Ventana Board members refuse to honor the agreement residents made when purchasing lots here.
It's bad enough to have to beg for approvals from an Architectural Committee as if you want to destroy your investment out here. It's worse that even after you have subjected yourself and obtained the requisite approval that the ROA would then ignore the restrictions that apply to IT and engage in such conduct.
Heck, the CCRs for "the Preserve" expressly permit buried propane tanks, upon written authorization from the Architectural Committee. Don't believe it! There would not be a lawsuit today if the Board intended to honor the representations in the CCRs. That is an illusory representation.
The Board will conduct themselves to restrain trade for the benefit of the Board members and their affiliated vendors - NOT the homeowners who live here. The currency of trade for the declarant Board members is money. The currency of trade for the homeowner Board members is at least ego and control and perhaps more.
A number of residents got fed up with these Board members and filed a petition for declaratory judgment in Hays County. Discontent with allowing the court to decide the matter, the Board has engaged in a litany of tactics to try to prevent this case from seeing the light of day in the courtroom. A motion for sanctions has been filed against the ROA attorney for his unethical conduct. The next hearing in the case is March 2008.
For the past year, the Board and the president have engaged in a variety of tactics to disenfranchise and marginalize numerous residents in the subdivision. The Board intimidated numerous residents into yielding by filing lis pendens on the properties of these homeowners and threatening them with legal fees.
Be aware that the attorney for the ROA has taken the position that the ROA Board can revoke approvals as it choses after granting them regardless of the investment you made in reliance upon representations of the CCRs or the authorized Architectural Committee. There is no authority for that oppressive position in the CCRs, but yet again the ROA Board continues to expand its "authority". You might think about that before plopping down $500K-$1.3 million and living in that environment. This is but one reason that the outcome of the variance lawsuit should be important to ALL homeowners.
Of course, if you are primarily investing there are a lot of properties that may be had for far less than the owners paid for them at this time.
2-5). Open meetings, records, voting, elections
Due to the nature of the mandatory (i.e., involuntary) membership in the ROA you subject yourself to "rule by ROA". Unfortunately, you realize the importance of these things when the Board gets out of control.
You might want to look at the La Ventana Bylaws recorded by Board members.
Last year's "election" only permitted named homeowners to "serve". These named homeowners made numerous representations in support of their "deal" which was coupled with requiring the rest of the subdivision to pony up $600 per member. Members who stated that they cast their ballot in reliance upon the truthfulness of the statements made by these "candidates" had their ballots invalidated.
The Bylaws were then amended by the Board members to make sure that directors and officers have to be "qualified" by these homeowner Board members. They actually NAMED THEMSELVES in the Bylaws. We can only speculate as to why these homeowner Board members view themselves as superior to the rest of the members or exactly what the "qualifications" are.
The declarant controls the total vote, but you can see that these ego-challenged homeowners couldn't resist creating their own fiefdom with respect to the other homeowners who are now reduced to mandatory "funders".
This last "election", residents were not permitted to cast ballots, but rather were only permitted to give a proxy to an agent of the Board. Of course, there is no authority for the Board to mandate proxies, but that didn't stop the current homeowner Board members from doing just that.
Not surprisingly, the incumbents approved of their own qualifications and all "qualified nominees" were unopposed.
These Board members also established a "Finance Committee" and staffed it with their comrades to the express exclusion of all other members of the ROA via Bylaw amendment.
The management company advertises that Board meetings are open to the public. In fact, Board meetings are not even open to other residents of La Ventana. These Finance Committee meetings are also closed to all other members.
6) The subdivision is "managed" by Alliance Association Management - which most homeowners would probably like to dump. Alliance is one of Texas Sen. Carona's management companies and he consistently promulgates legislation to make more money for his management companies at HOA resident's expense.
Carona's organization usually moves in and tries to switch out a number of HOA vendor contracts to use, for example, his insurance and banking affiliates among other vendors. They also convince Boards to adopt a private "fining" policy and a "priority of payment" resolution. The priority of payment resolution re-characterizes your assessment payments to be applied to fines, management company fees, etc. The management company then roams the neighborhood proclaiming residents to be in violation of various CCR provisions. No court, no appeal. In this manner, the management company threatens homeowners with the loss of their home in order to extract monies. La Ventana residents discovered this scam early on and put an end to it in this subdivision. However, be very, very wary of ANY other subdivision managed by Alliance Association Management because you will almost certainly find this extortive provision.
Forgive the pun, but there is usually an unholy alliance between Alliance and Board members wherever Alliance operates. Board members and members of the Finance Committee are inherently immune from Alliance, but the rest of the subdivision is open season. When examining those Bylaws, you might note that the Board members granted Alliance a monopoly on being the management company for the subdivision.
When the La Ventana ROA Board corrects the listed items above, then it will be habitable for people other than Board members (only one of which lives here). Are the above really too much too ask for, or minimum expectations of individuals compelled to fund a mandatory HOA?
Last time I looked, the Bylaws were not provided at the webiste maintained by the marketing company. The restrictions posted by the marketing company are not the restrictions currently applicable.
On lots purchased from the declarant, there will be a "release from declarant" transfer fee, propane tap fee, and water tap fee. You won't have any of these fees for existing homes.
Only about 13 homes presently have granted approvals that assure independence from the Board's preferred vendors. Although anyone can request an approval, the lawsuit and the Board's tactics make it pretty clear that the Board will act to prevent anyone else from having alternatives to vendors with which those controlling the Board have self-serving financial arrangements with despite the representations in the CCRs. If you are looking for resale homes, you might want to think about.