Gated community torn about recall
The seven members of the Lake of the Pines elected board of directors were sitting at a long table draped with white tablecloths, ready to defend the seats that are being challenged in an impending recall election.
They were inside the clubhouse, which overlooks some of the best-loved things about the gated community – the tennis courts, the lake, the pine trees. The evening’s moderator, Larry Elliott, was perched at his own table in the center, serving as a barrier between the accused and their accuser, recall backer Dave Campbell.
Campbell sat alone, dressed conservatively in a suit and tie, holding a small packet of stapled papers on which he had meticulously written arguments for why “the board is damaged beyond repair and too ingrained in the failed ways of the past to lead us to a more democratic Lake of the Pines.”
The meeting drew more than 200 people Monday night to discuss the oversight of a neighborhood founded more than 30 years ago as a rural second-home community. Many attendees pulled up in golf carts or were dropped off by spouses because the parking lot was too full.
They came to hear the debate that has arisen out of the recall campaign – a movement spearheaded by Campbell last fall that has taken on a life of its own as more petitions emerged.
There are two reasons members should consider the recall, Campbell says: First, because of “out of control spending” by the board. Secondly, because the board no longer represents its members.
This was the first time both sides were in the same room since the recall election petition was certified last month. It was also held just two weeks before association members will receive their ballots in the mail.
The community’s general manager, Bob Broyer, who has been managing such associations for 30 years, said there are always factions that are unhappy, whether it is in a gated community or a town. But this type of recall, he said, is “pretty rare.”
“I think that is true anywhere you go, but you normally don’t have much of a chance to verbalize it (in a gated community),” he said.
Monday night, 36 people – some of whom were ex-board members themselves – spoke in favor of the seven directors, many calling the volunteer position a “thankless job.” Some agreed with board member Bill Hagin when he called the recall election and allegations of mismanagement “just plain bogus.” Others insulted Campbell by comparing him to Hitler or sarcastically asking whether it was legal to recall an association member such as himself.
About 15 people spoke in support of Campbell, angered by the insults being slung at him and charging the board with veering from answering the questions.
“Frankly, I think he’s used to being vilified, but I’d ask hard facts (of the board),” said association member Dana Verch, who said he was concerned about the association’s growing debt.
“Why can’t they break even?” he asked. It was a question echoed by others also who said they were concerned rising costs threatened some of the more middle-income residents.
Just last week, the board announced it will raise its annual dues for its 2,000 members by 20 percent, to $1,680 per year – up from $1,400. Broyer said the board was also considering a special fee to help pay for things such as past debts, loans for construction, and unforeseen lawsuit settlements.
Residents were also concerned about the proposed change of “quiet hours” on the lake, which restrict big wave-producing activities such as wakeboarding and tubing.
Some of the debate within the community might stem from the trend of younger families moving into the area.
“Certainly the demographics of Lake of the Pines are changing; you heard a number of those testimonials last night,” Broyer said Tuesday.
The proximity of the newly widened Highway 49 and an easy commute to the Sacramento area, along with high-speed Internet access, have drawn full-time residents who initially just came up on weekends, he said.
Now all residents need to get involved and pay attention to the issues, regardless of what happens with the recall, he said.
“You need to listen, you need to look ahead, and you really need to be aware.”
– Today: A presentation of the new budget by the Lake of the Pines board at 7 p.m. in the Clubhouse.
– April 19: Ballots will be mailed and residents can vote for one, none, or all of the LOP board of directors to be recalled.
– May 19: Deadline for ballots to be returned.
– June 25: Regularly scheduled election for the LOP board of directors.
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