More than 20 residents attended a Canton Township supervisors’ meeting last week to address the board about myriad complaints involving the Brick Ridge Estates development off Jefferson Avenue.
But attorney Dwight Ferguson of Lynch Weis, the law firm representing the development’s new owner, asked to speak with the residents outside, causing some residents to unintentionally relinquish their opportunity to speak during the public participation portion of the July 11 meeting.
Ferguson wants the current residents of Brick Ridge to agree to new homeowners’ association rules “and let the township know we agree to it,” said Darlene Phillips, owner of one of the homes in the development. “The problem is that we have all these lawyers telling us one thing and the township telling us something totally different. We’re between a rock and a hard place,” Phillips said.
Developer Michael Williamson Sr. purchased 38 acres in 2006 to build Brick Ridge Estates. Under the original planned unit residential development agreement approved by the township, Williamson was given permission to build two- and three-family units that were to be governed under the rules of a either a condominium association or a homeowners’ association – depending on who you ask.
Gary Sweat, attorney for the Williamsons, said an original condiminium plan was dropped when changes in the housing market caused the developers to alter their approach.
“At the beginning, they envisioned it would be treated as a condominium,” Sweat said. “That involves common ownership and sharing of common property. But by the time they got into it, they also hit the mortgage housing crash.”
Crews erected 10 duplexes before the market crashed in 2008. As buyers’ tastes changed, Sweat said the Williamsons went back to township supervisors to ask for permission to build single-family homes in addition to the two- and three-family homes they were originally approved to construct. Six single-family houses have been built in recent years.
Residents said confusion made them unsure of whether they could sell their homes. One homeowner’s title transfer has been held up for months because the potential buyer could not receive financing without an endorsement from the condominium association – which technically doesn’t exist.
Without having a homeowners association in place, common areas that would otherwise have been covered by homeowner assessments have fallen into disarray. A community swimming pool has sat neglected for the past two years, a proposed clubhouse was never built and residents said a pump that keeps a drainage pond from becoming stagnant has only been kept in operation through the work of some homeowners.
“Even though we spent all this money on these houses that were supposed to have a clubhouse and a pool and blah, blah, blah,” Phillips said, “now we’re cutting our own grass.”
Sweat said the reason the common areas were neglected was because residents had rejected creating the necessary homeowners’ association. He said dues paid into the association would have covered maintenance of common areas including the pool, drainage pond and roads, as well as the buildings. But in meetings with homeowners after the approval of updated PURD agreement, residents were not keen on the idea.
“They specifically said, ‘We don’t want a clubhouse and we don’t want a swimming pool,’” Sweat said. “It was their idea.”
Things became further convoluted when ownership of the remaining undeveloped acreage was transferred to new developer Angelo Quature.
Supervisor Jack Sheppard said Quature hoped to construct a new phase of the development that would build three- and four-unit buildings in addition to the one- and two-unit buildings already standing. It was this plan Ferguson approached the residents with last week. Some of the residents were against the plan because they feared the multiple-family dwellings would bring down the value of their homes.
“All of this is an assumption,” Sheppard said. “I don’t know if anyone down there has the ability to assess how these homes will change their values, but as a public official I would like to see Quature build the tri- and quad-homes.”
Sheppard said he does not know the opinions of the other supervisors, but he believes those types of homes would be more appealing to people living in the area.
“In Canton Township, we’re blue-collar…” Sheppard said. “Those homes are more in line with our citizens.”
Sheppard said the township would rule on the zoning and homeowner association issues and whether new developers would be able to build four-unit home at the upcoming meeting.