Developers of the Country Club of Arkansas have set another meeting for Thursday at 6:30 p.m. to try to establish a property owners association for the 1,300 homeowners who live in the area.
The first meeting, on June 28, never got off the ground because of misinformation homeowners received, John "Tommy" Wright of Maumelle, one of the two developers, said during an interview.
Wright said the first meeting was interrupted by a few people who never gave his partner, Jack Wilson of Sherwood, a chance to get started.
The second meeting will be in the gymnasium of the Jess Odom Community Center at 1100 Edgewood Drive, which should have ample seating for those attending, Wright said.
The first meeting was scheduled in the developer’s offices, which had limited seating and residents standing in line outside in 105-degree heat.
Wilson was "shouted down" Wright said, and never got a chance to begin the meeting.
"That won’t happen this time," Wright said.
He said he had hired Maumelle attorney Pam Roberts to moderate the meeting and that Maumelle police Chief Sam Williams would be there to keep the peace.
Williams also attended the first meeting, but just observed from his police car, he said at the time.
Although those attending the first meeting could be heard outside the room shouting, there never was any suggestion that anything illegal, criminal or improper occurred.
Wright said he just thought by having Williams there, people would act better.
With 1,300 homes, the Country Club of Arkansas is probably the largest single development in Arkansas, Wright said.
If there was a lack of communication at the first meeting, it was because the developers sent only a small three-inch by five-inch post card announcing the meeting, one resident said.
Homeowners said at the time that they were afraid the developers wanted them to pay for sidewalks, which are missing, from most of the country club area.
Wright said that’s not the case and this time the developers have created a flier to be handed out that outlines what the property owners association would do.
The reason the developers pay for the electric utility bills for lighting the Country Club Parkway — the west entrance and major thoroughfare through the development — is because the owners bought "special lighting that Entergy won’t do the maintenance on," Wright said.
Wright said the developers have spent a "ton of money" keeping the area up — primarily mowing the medians and the open areas.
He estimated that the cost to each family within the proposed POA would be between "$20 and $50" a year, but closer to $20.
Originally from North Little Rock, Wright said, he moved to Maumelle in 1979.
In fact, Wright said he was the first elected official in Maumelle.
He was elected as the first Maumelle Resident’s Association board member, Wright said.
The organization was the forerunner of today’s City Council.
Wright said the establishment of a POA is specified in the Bill of Assurance for each home sold in the area, once the build out of the development reaches 90 percent and he said developers have reached that point.
Many residents said they had no idea they even had a bill of assurance, much less one that required them to do something, until the issue came up before the first meeting in June.
However, outside that meeting, John Todd, who lives in the development, said homeowners knew about the POA because they signed the bill of assurance when they purchased the property. Todd is the chairman of the Maumelle Planning Commission.
"Everyone agreed to establishing a POA when they signed their bill of assurance when they bought their home. They signed the paper, so they had to know."
Several homeowners said at the time that when they closed on the purchase of their homes, they depended upon the real estate agents to decipher the mountain of paperwork involved in buying a home and no one told them anything about a bill of assurance.
An out-of-area developer said that bills of assurance are primarily designed to ensure that homes built within a development conform to the agreed-upon required standards, mostly aesthetics, the developers wanted. But they can contain legal requirements, he said.
Several property owners are organizing through a conservative political group known as the Maumelle Residents Coalition.
Steve Mosley said the coalition was the result of the merger of three different groups with converging interests.
A recent coalition web post described the June 28 meeting.
Steve Gershner, attorney for the developers, "took the podium and was met with a good degree of hostility from the residents," the post states. "Residents were shouting that they didn’t want a [Property Owners Association] POA and were told that they were required to have it and could let everything get run down and then property values would go down. With that, the crowd took off. Residents, with cooler heads, asked that the meeting be rescheduled at a time when they could furnish larger quarters and with more information to be given before the meeting."
Later, the developers shared some of the information outlining their annual costs:
• Mowing — eight months a year for the Country Club of Arkansas Parkway;
• Electrical — paying for the street lights on Country Club of Arkansas Parkway;
• Water — except in water conservation times, six months of sprinkler use on the parkway;
• Bush hogging — four months out of the year in open spaces;
• Phase 17 expenses — installing a telephone line, electricity and water sprinklers at the main gate.
Many homeowners asked for a breakdown of the open spaces for which an association would be responsible in maintaining.
Those open spaces include: private drives; Auriel Circle — 2.5 acres and a private drive of 900 linear feet; Maranes Circle — 0.75 acres and a private drive of 750 linear feet; Sologne Forest — 4.75 acres; the Quarters II — 1 acre and a private drive of 950 linear feet; Country Club Parkway — private drive of 800 linear feet; and Chantilly Drive — a private drive of 600 linear feet.
Mosley’s organization said the shared cost shouldn’t be too much, with all the households in the area.
"Another point to consider, until 95 percent sold is attained, the developers will have controlling interest in the POA. Whatever Board members we select will still be under their control until that time," Mosley said.
The group also said that the developers should have been putting aside a portion of each closing into a POA fund for future use, but they doubt that’s the case.
Wright said there never was any plan to do that.
"This was not a shining moment in CCOA history [the June 28 meeting], but I think the residents got a point across that they are angry at how the developers and the city treats them," Mosley said. "Hopefully, this poor start will get homeowners and developers at a place where we can communicate and get this right."
Outside the first meeting, an area property owner said, "If it costs me money — I’m against it."
Nancy Mitchell, another property owner, said the developers didn’t do what they promised to do.
"They were supposed to put sidewalks in themselves," she said.
About the prospects of starting a POA, she said, "For it to protect the property owners, we need to start over."
Another accused the developers of "pinching" homeowners.
"No way!" another property owner shouted. "Everybody wants a POA to pay their expenses."
A calmer resident said she might consider a homeowners association if it did something for the residents. She said when she moved there, she didn’t know anything about the POA
Other residents said when they bought the property, they had no idea the Bill of Assurance called for a POA.
One resident complained that the developers were invoking the POA clause now but that they haven’t lived up to their promises to keep the common areas clean and well mowed, much less built the number of bike and walking paths promised.
He also said he had to call the city just to get the vacant lots mowed.
One woman said residents not only needed a POA but should demand it. She said her own property values would decline if no one kept the common areas up.
Another resident, who recently moved to Maumelle from Lakewood, said she didn’t mind paying POA dues in Lakewood because they had a swimming pool and other amenities.
"They don’t have that here," she said. "Why should we pay dues?"
Employees in the city of Maumelle planning office said they had no copies of the development’s Bill of Assurance, even in a generic form.
Many residents scrambled to find copies of their bill of assurance, calling attorneys and even visiting the Pulaski County Clerk’s Office.
But the developers said they published links to the bills of assurance for the many different phases of the development.