Matt Appenzeller, a resident speaking on behalf of the 16 homeowners, says Mayor Mark Mallory has brought about a dramatic change in the city's approach to solving the neighborhood's problems (see "Rocky Road," issue of June 15-21, 2005).
"The tone and content of the dialogue between residents and the city has noticeably changed," Appenzeller says. "The new administration should be credited for that. It seems all parties want to do what's best for the community. However, the residents are cautiously optimistic since these problems have remained unsolved for four years despite our repeated attempts to deal with the city."
In a March 3 letter, Michael Cervay, director of the Department of Community Development and Planning, outlined a strategy that addresses residents' major concerns. Delinquent property taxes and other outstanding bills will be paid, the deteriorating streets of Dovetail and High Hollow lanes will be resurfaced and dedicated as city roads, the city will provide $50,000 in seed money for a homeowners' association (HOA) and the drainage system will be inspected for potential problems. The plan is for a new developer to take on the responsibility of completing Phase 1 in exchange for the profits to be made from developing the remaining home sites in Phase 2.
A new developer, Rhein Properties LLC, is considering taking on this project. The self-described "lot manufacturer" would put in the infrastructure for the new part of the neighborhood, such as roads, sewers and water lines, then sell the lots to a homebuilder who would construct the houses.
"We would want everybody, including all the existing property owners, on board before we proceed with Phase 2," says Dave Reibold, president of Rhein Properties.
Establishing an HOA is another point requiring consensus. Only three of the existing residents claim they were told an HOA would be part of the development. The covenants and restrictions related to a Rockford Woods HOA weren't recorded with the city or the county by the first developer, EHHV LLC.
The new proposal by the city includes correcting the deeds and titles of the current homeowners to include the HOA. While the letter doesn't spell out who will pay for the fees necessary to make that happen, Mallory says the costs "would not be born by the residents."
There remains confusion about the future role of Jerry Honerlaw, one of the of the EHHV partners. Last week Mallory said Honerlaw wouldn't be involved. This week Mallory said Honerlaw will be involved. The city administration calls Honerlaw a "silent partner" in Phase 2 because he still owns the land. Whether Honerlaw will be an active participant is up to Rhein Properties.
"That arrangement hasn't been finalized yet," Reibold says. "There's certainly a possibility that they may be partnering the development of the land."
Residents met March 12 to formulate their response to the city's latest proposal so that it can be delivered by their attorney by the city's deadline of March 20. Asked by Mallory to appoint a single point of contact, the residents hired an attorney at their own expense to represent them in the negotiations.
With the city administration no longer characterizing the residents as obstructionist, the potential for a successful resolution finally seems possible.
"All I can think of is, 'What if I had bought one of those houses?' And that's the thought that makes me want to work to make sure that they get the same kind of treatment in that kind of situation," Mallory says. "I just think we have a responsibility to make them whole based on the facts in the case."
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