Today is Friday, December 19, 2014

Many Academy Place residents want board president ousted

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By PATRICK HALL, The Wilson Post
Residents at Academy Place in Lebanon, a gated community for retirees, are worried they are losing their voice in how the president and board of directors handles the day-to-day operation of the neighborhood and are calling for the presidents resignation.

The contention centers on changes to the communitys Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions for Academy Place proposed by President Sue Gallagher and a proxy given to all residents that some say is in violation of the communitys bylaws.

I feel (Gallagher) has been misinforming us and misleading us, said one resident, Francine Sparkman.

A petition has been passed around the community in the past several days calling for Gallaghers removal. Sparkman and many other residents have signed that petition and felt things needed to change in the communitys leadership.

Weve realized in the past year no one has a voice, said Eleanor Gibbs, another resident at Academy Place.

Gibbs sent all 114 residents a letter pointing out a mistake in the proxy handed out to residents that would allow homeowners who could not attend a meeting on Saturday, Dec. 3, to have someone vote in their place.

That proxy, Gibbs said, is in violation of the communitys bylaws and she encouraged residents not to sign it. She said the major problem with the proxy is that it is irrevocable, and noted the Academy Place by laws state no proxy is irrevocable.

In her letter to homeowners, Gibbs quoted Article 3, Section 5 of the bylaws, which states,

Every proxy shall be revocable and shall automatically cease upon conveyance by members of his lot.

I dont know how they are going to vote on those changes with the errors to the proxy, Sparkman said.

Many residents are concerned about the changes being proposed to the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions and said the current rules are not enforced consistently.

Sparkman said she was threatened with a fine if she did not remove a ceramic turtle from around her mailbox.

When she complied with the rules to avoid the fine, Sparkman said she noticed around the community that many other residents were violating the same rule and that they were not fined.

I put my turtle back out there because other people had many things out there, Sparkman said.

J.T. Robinson, who has lived in Academy Place for nearly 10 years, said the rules are not applied fairly and said there is no reason to change the current Covenants and Conditions.

He said one of the changes made, concerning an age limit of future owners, will make some of the units difficult to sell because they have a second floor and older residents would not be able to walk up the steps. He said that would hurt the value of other homes in the community.

Robinson said he felt the restrictions are being applied selectively and added that others are fined or told they will be fined for certain violations, when other people are not punished.

I saw nothing wrong with the laws and I see no reason to change them, they should just be enforced, Robinson said.

Residents are also concerned that language in the Covenants and Conditions indicate homeowners do not own their patio or carport space, even though their deeds and plat records show their property lines include the home and exterior space.

Another change is the use of the Academy Place clubhouse, which in the past has been free of charge. However, Gibbs and others pointed out there is now a $30 fee to use the clubhouse.

Phil Selley, another Academy Place resident, said the changes to the Covenants and Conditions would not only require homeowners to pay $30, but that the activities held there cannot include religious meetings of any kind, or any political or fund raising events.

Gibbs noted one of the biggest problems has been a lack of transparency and communication from the president and board of directors to the residents. She said each street had a meeting where residents were given a copy of the proposed changes to the Covenants and Conditions as well as a proxy form for the Dec. 3 meeting.

Were still handing out copies because some people couldnt go to the meetings, she said.

However, Gibbs said many residents could not attend their street meetings for certain reasons and added there are many residents who do not have copies of the proxy, nor know anything about the changes being proposed.

She and other residents said Gallagher has been unapproachable both during meetings and with regards to questions after meetings. Gibbs said residents are not allowed to go to meetings of the president and board, unless they sign a privacy agreement, and said they have never seen minutes from those meetings.

She would ignore people at the meetings and wouldnt answer questions, Gibbs said.

When a vote took place by all residents, Gibbs said the residents could not see the vote results and even though residents pay dues, they do not get to vote on or see an annual budget.

Gibbs and other residents said they have never had a treasurer and said they dont know what or how their money is spent. Gibbs has asked to see a detailed account of how the money is spent, but said such a report has never been produced.

Selley said the Association, which is made up of the homeowners, is effectively being replaced by Gallagher and board of directors. Other residents felt the same, pointing out the changes to Covenants and Conditions state the Association and Board of Directors are to be used interchangeably.

The board would take place of the residents, Gibbs said, referring to changes.

Residents are hoping the vote on Dec. 3 to change the Covenants and Conditions will either be postponed or cancelled altogether. Gibbs and Sparkman said she hopes the vote would at least be delayed until all residents can be properly informed.

Many residents felt the changes and the conduct of Gallagher and the board of directors is contrary to the bylaws and said they are not properly enforcing the current Covenants and Conditions.

The way its being done is against the regulations, Robinson said.

Gallagher was contacted by The Wilson Post for comment. She referred all questions regarding this matter to the board of directors attorney Ensley Hagen. Hagen did not return a call to the newspaper by press time.

Staff Writer Patrick Hall may be contacted at phall@wilsonpost.com.

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