By Lydia Blair
Special Contributor

Dear Diary,

OMG. My HOA is sooooo horrible. They’re, like, the worst ever. I mean, it’s like the mean girls of the school. I can’t even. They’re just trashing my entire experience. Like, totally! Turns out my condo isn’t warrantable. As if. And that rush fee they charged ate my swag money. Hashtag whatever.

Signed,

Throwin’ Shade Gal

Hey girl. I hear ya. But you might as well chillax, ’cause all HOAs (Home Owner Associations) are typically a hassle when you’re buying or selling a property. Seriously.

A property with mandatory HOA always adds another pile of paperwork to the transaction. And additional costs. Some more than others. You may be dealing with a Home Owners Association that governs the neighborhood where you live. Or you may be in a condominium under HOA management. These associations enforce restrictions, oversee common areas, supervise maintenance and repairs, … and generally ensure everyone follows the rules they’ve all agreed to.

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Source: Coalition for Community Housing Policy in the Public Interest

Source: Coalition for Community Housing Policy in the Public Interest

Hiring outside professionals to assess the systems and structure of a condominium is often scoffed at by HOAs because of the expense.  It’s as shortsighted as complaining about the cost of toothpaste. Condominiums are larger and definitely more complex than single-family homes. It’s negligent not to have plans in place that understand the current condition of the overall building coupled with a plan for regular maintenance that stretches out as far as the longest-lived components.

It’s also critical that reserve studies are performed by outsiders.  HOAs and management companies may either lack the expertise required or want to soft-pedal the truth to avoid uncomfortable conversations with residents.  We are generally “shoot the messenger” kind of people.

Another reason for using an outsider can be managing companies that also have their own staff contracted to perform repairs.  If they’re the ones doing the capital reserve studies, isn’t that a whopping conflict of interest? Didn’t Fair Park teach us that competitive bidding is best?

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frisco power lines

After months of preparation, the State Office of Administrative Hearings today began proceedings in Austin regarding a proposed 138,000-volt transmission line across Frisco. This power line has been at the center of a hotly contested debate between Frisco homeowner associations and Realtors on one side and Brazos Electric, CoServ Electric, and the Public Utility Commission (PUC) on the other.

“All the witnesses are done [as of this evening], with briefs due Aug. 28 and reply briefs due Sept. 11,” said Adam Majorie, Government Affairs Director for the Collin County Association of Realtors (CCAR). He spoke to CandysDirt this evening after finishing the day in the hearings. “Once all the briefs are done, the two administrative law judges will go about the task of rendering their decision.”

Of the 715 intervenors testifying (most through written testimony), 683 were part of the Bury the Lines Campaign. The remainder of the intervenors were people from the city of Frisco, Brazos Electric, homeowners not represented by the Bury the Lines campaign, and the PUC staff.

The West Frisco Homeowners Coalition (WFHOC) and CCAR joined forces in September 2014, creating a grassroots campaign, burythelines.org, to oppose the above-ground high-voltage transmission line built by Brazos Electric on behalf of CoServ Electric. They say the line, which will be built through heavily populated neighborhoods along Main Street or Stonebrook Parkway to the Dallas North Tollway, will adversely affect property values and infringe on homeowner property rights. The campaign wants power lines buried, instead.

From the beginning, this has been a highly unusual situation, with Collin County Realtors fighting side-by-side with homeowners.

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Old-people-with-crazy-shirts11

This woman could be the reason why some HOAs are dysfunctional.

HOA Boards are better than anything playing at the Winspear. What should be the stuff of banality and tedium are often filled with grade-school antics. Since posting the sharewithjon@candysdirt.com email address, a few readers have supplied their own stories to add to my own. Here’s a sample…

Imaginary Degrees and Intimidation
One reader spoke of a “fancy” building where in order to get her way, one resident pretended to be a lawyer in order to intimidate and bully fellow neighbors. Turns out there was a code violation (because codes change over time) that the HOA board (rightly) wanted to bring it up to code. This faux lawyer was part of a cadre of pitch-fork wielding villagers telling the HOA that the item was grandfathered in – this even after the City of Dallas inspectors cited the complex for the code violation. “The legal advice she gave when demanding her way was incorrect and caused turmoil and mass hysteria, thus stopping the board from getting things done.” Several HOA board members resigned because of the “hateful, personal attacks at Board meetings and via phone calls and emails” instigated by this woman and her bamboozled followers.

Later, when a neighborhood-changing issue was raised, this same self-accredited “lawyer” sharpened her pitchfork and became one of the most vocal critics. Resurrecting her battle tactics, she again sent out “crazy, long winded emails … to cause worry and fear among the residents.”

While one person can certainly cause a ruckus, this HOA apparently had a history of refusing to keep the building up to snuff with shabby lobbies and hallways with old/smelly carpeting. This writer also spoke of years of mismanaging funds. Some of this can be explained by complacent owners and a history of closed-door HOA board meetings (in complete violation of Texas law). Complacency and exclusion are a recipe for disaster – like leaving a 15-year-old in a mall with a credit card.

Jump for more!

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Power lines

As expected, on Jan. 15 Brazos Electric Power Cooperative filed a certificate of convenience and necessity (CCN) to build to build a 138,000-volt transmission line across west Frisco. In response, several Frisco homeowners have retained legal counsel to represent their interests to the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas.

Their attorney, Francis B. Majorie of The Majorie Firm Ltd., will be compensated solely from fees arranged for by the Collin County Association of Realtors (CCAR) from the Texas Association of Realtors Issues Mobilization Political Action Committee. Majorie does not represent the CCAR or the West Frisco Homeowners Coalition (WFHOC); he only represents the individuals who have retained him.

“I was approached by several interested homeowners who have retained me and have asked me to be available to answer questions and enable the homeowners to present a united front in that they all have a common interest in asking that the power lines be buried,” Majorie said.

In order to answer questions, there is a town hall meeting Wednesday, Jan. 28 at 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of Pioneer Heritage Middle School, 1649 High Shoals Dr., Frisco.

As we reported in November, the WFHOC and CCAR joined forces in September 2014, creating a grassroots campaign, burythelines.org, to oppose the above-ground high-voltage transmission line. Through that website, they have gathered names of potential “intervenors” who could be a part of the legal proceedings surrounding the CCN.

“An intervenor is someone who is directly affected by the imposition of the power line, who chooses to appear and be a party in the proceedings,” Majorie said. “Because they are a party, they have a right to appear at all the hearings, the right to offer evidence, they have to be available to provide discovery to others. It’s the functional equivalent of being a party in a lawsuit.”

A 45-day period where people can voice their concerns to the PUC began when Brazos filed on Jan. 15. The PUC then has up to a year to make its decision regarding transmission line route and if the line will be above ground or below ground. Jump to read more!

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Photo courtesy tenchiro via Creative Commons

Photo courtesy tenchiro via Creative Commons

All eyes are on Collin County as Brazos Electric Power Cooperative plans to apply for permission next week with the Public Utility Commission (PUC) of Texas to build a 138,000-volt transmission line across Frisco.

A rare partnership between Frisco homeowner associations and realtors to fight the proposed above-ground power lines has caught the attention of regulators in the state capitol.

“Realtors don’t get involved in regulatory issues very much—Austin is paying very close attention, and the regulatory community as a whole is definitely interested in this issue,” said Adam Majorie, Government Affairs Director for the Collin County Association of Realtors (CCAR). “It’s rare to have such a pronounced public outcry, and the PUC acknowledged this in our meeting yesterday.”

As we reported in November, the West Frisco Homeowners Coalition (WFHOC) and CCAR joined forces in September 2014, creating a grassroots campaign, burythelines.org, to oppose the above-ground high-voltage transmission line built by Brazos on behalf of CoServ Electric. They say the line, which will run through heavily populated neighborhoods between the Dallas North Tollway and Farm-to-Market Road 423, would adversely affect property values and infringe on homeowner property rights. The campaign wants power lines buried, instead.

Their efforts have already had an impact: The power company’s application to the PUC next week is expected to include underground line options, in addition to the original proposal of an above-ground, 120-foot, double-circuit power line along either Stonebrook Parkway or Main Street in Frisco. The official name given by Brazos is the Stonebrook Transmission Line and Substation project. Jump to read more.

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A reader writes:

This is regarding David Bagwell. We are in love with his neighborhood, and are considering lot in Broughtonbut his behavior is causing us a lot of concern. Do you know how his bankruptcy has affected his strong hold on his communities?

A little background here: Developer David Bagwell, who once worked with Mayor Leppert at the Trammell Crow Company,¬† has super strict rules for just about every move you make if you buy a home in one of his five Colleyville developments: who builds the house, who repairs it, what you can plant, where you can plant it, even how many inches away the front door coach lanterns have to be. And when you submit your new home or remodel plans to the Architecture Control Committee, you have to pay a fee. About this time last year here’s what we were discussing on DallasDirt: “David Bagwell is working as hard at staving off foreclosure on some of his Colleyville lots as he once did being the architectural control Nazi of the neighborhood. As one reader put it, not only did he peer over fences to check for compliance, homeowners were charged repeatedly just for submitting and re-submitting requests:

“Candy, you missed one thing about submitting for approval. Not only do you have to submit for approval, if it is declined, you have to pay a fee to resubmit. Basically the entire fee structure is set up to fail to keep submission payments coming in. You have to pay a fee to submit for approval to stain your garage the SAME color it currently is.
The CCR’s are located on Bagwell’s website. If you have 10 hours to waste, go read them.”

I don’t have ten hours to waste. Last I heard, Bagwell’s lots got foreclosed on, Toll Brothers has picked up some of his mortgage notes, which ought¬† to make homeowners in three of the subdivisions perk up: If Toll bought the 26 lots in Broughton, 49 lots in Old Grove and 36 lots in Whittier Heights, they could ask for control of the development, shake things up at the HOA. Life might be groovy again.

Any of my Southlake/Colleyville readers know if the foreclosure has made these communities a more pleasant place to live? And here we thought fore-closure was a bad thing!