Monday, March 27, 2023

Parked in HOA hell

Staff Writer | November 3, 2021 1:36 AM


Photo courtesy of Jennifer McGuire

The long overdue playground in the Meadow Grove neighborhood was never finished properly and has been left in unsafe condition, residents said.

POST FALLS — For about two years, Meadow Grove residents have paid dues of $275 per household, per year.

The money goes to the Meadow Grove Homeowners Association, registered to Matt Afana of Coeur d’Alene.

Resident Ravan O’Toole closed on her home in July 2019 and was told that a community park and playground would be completed shortly after closing.

“The park remained nothing but a field of dirt until July 2020, when trees were planted and the hydroseed sprayed,” O’Toole told The Press in an email.

Shortly after, playground equipment was installed, but was not commercial-grade equipment appropriate for a park accessible to the public, O'Toole said.

According to a representative of the manufacturer, Tree Frog Swing Sets, the equipment is likely designed for a private residence, where use is more limited.

A year later, residents, including Jennifer McGuire, say the park has fallen into disrepair. The equipment is unsafe, has loose bolts and doesn't have adequate ground cover beneath the structure to cushion the falls of children or protect them from the concrete curbing surrounding it, McGuire said.

Residents also began noticing the trees and grass were dying. The grass grew to 2-feet high and was riddled with weeds, McGuire said.

McGuire said she spoke to the maintenance man, who had been mowing it, and was told he had stopped performing maintenance because he was no longer getting paid.

Neither was the water bill.

According to documents provided by McGuire, a lien was placed by Water Wizard Sprinklers, LLC, against Willamette Valley Real Property, LLC, out of Albany, Ore., for $22,208. Willamette was the original subdivision developer. Attempts to track down the company led to several defunct websites and two incorrect phone numbers.

Neighbors living near the park were dragging their hoses over, trying to keep the trees alive, McGuire said.

Residents typically reach out to their HOA to handle maintenance needs. Afana is nowhere to be found, residents told The Press. He did not respond to Press requests for comment.

Further investigation led homeowners to discover the HOA was not properly formed and the covenants, conditions and restrictions given to each homeowner were never signed or properly executed, McGuire said.

“My attorney found that the HOA that should have been created, per the PUD agreement with the city, was never created,” O’Toole said in an email. “Yet somehow it has been recorded with the county and provided in the homeowners' closing documents.”

Homeowners are trying to figure out where to get help with these issues, McGuire said. McGuire and O’Toole appealed to the City Council for assistance.

Councilman Steve Anthony said officials are looking into the issues.

Bob Seale, the city's community development director, said Meadow Grove was supposed to be completed in three phases and was “conditioned that the developer had to finish the park prior to phase three.”

The city could have said that no more homes could be built until the park was finished, Seale said. But by the time it came to the city’s attention, several “individual small builders owned many of the lots,” Seale said.

The agent registered to the HOA, Afana, is responsible for maintaining the park, Seale said. City staff have had past contact with Afana, Seale said.

In response to resident appeals to the city to take over the care of the park, Seale said the city typically does not take on parks smaller than 5 acres.

The city doesn't become involved in HOA activity, Seale said.

O’Toole has hired the law firm of Smith + Malek to help her navigate the situation.

Four of the total of 57 lots are yet undeveloped and there are several pending sales, McGuire said. Mariah Turrell, an agent for Windermere Coeur d'Alene Realty, said Meadow Grove property is sold out.

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