Stronger Neighborhoods (A True Story)
In 2013, I made the long-anticipated decision of returning to Friendswood to begin my retirement in this wonderful community with my children and grandchildren. I purchased a home in Creekwood Estates, unaware of the impending insolvency of the two land developers behind the subdivision.
The HOA board was conflicted, the subdivision in turmoil, and the residents were divided. It was not how I had envisioned the peaceful days of retirement to be starting out. Two HOA presidents were appointed and resigned in rapid succession. It was at this time I was elected by the community to be president of the BOD of the HOA.
As uncertainty and new rumors seemed to rule each day, I quickly began to focus on understanding the issues and crafting plans for resolution so residents could maintain their homes with confidence their investment would be protected. I was fortunate to have 47 years of business experience in the design, engineering and construction industry where I retired as Group Vice President. Balancing needs and resources with successful negotiations resulting in mutually satisfied parties was a skill in my wheelhouse. Newly retired, I was glad to put these skills to work to help my community.
There were endless issues. The developer failed to install proper drainage, creating the potential for flooding, not to mention foul-smelling, standing, stagnant water in the ditches and a breeding ground for mosquitoes. There was no lighting installed as required on the plat plan, leaving the neighborhood in the dark and a place where teens liked to gather in late night hours on the weekend, driving through our vacant lots. These 24 vacant lots sat in disuse and disrepair, unmaintained and unsightly, often with muddy truck tracks from reckless drivers.
One of the developers went bankrupt while the other turned over properties as a deed in lieu of bankruptcy to a bank who then went insolvent. We were in a tough spot and this exacerbated an already tenuous situation, leaving us with a cloudy vision of what would happen next.
FDIC stepped in and assigned these lots to a solvent Texas bank with the direction for that bank to sell the remaining 24 lots as soon as possible. As potentials builders and developers came in, I listened to the voice of the people, who were concerned these builders had plans not in keeping with the original vision of the subdivision. The residents were concerned their property values and investments were in jeopardy.
Two builders made plans for development, but both backed out. One builder came back and purchased the property from the bank. Upon closing, the builder immediately made themselves the declarant and notified the current homeowners through the HOA they would not honor the CCRs (Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions, also known as deed restrictions) or pay the HOA yearly fees for the vacant lots as required by the CCRs. Our current HOA was properly registered with the State of Texas. However, the builder formed a separate HOA and told us we no longer had authority within the subdivision, that our HOA was null, irrelevant, and they could do whatever they saw fit. When we attempted to meet with them, they came to the meeting with an attorney making demands.
With this mounting concern, I convened a series of several emergency homeowner meetings and we decided to pursue a legal course of action to protect our investments and our community.
Shortly after this decision one of the original homeowners experienced a problem with the builder diverting water in an adjacent lot which in turn was undermining his driveway. After notifying the builder about the problem, nothing was done. As the representative of the community I met with the builder three times, requesting corrective action. When this did not occur, I supported the homeowner in a legal action against the builder to rectify the issue. The court ruled in the homeowner’s favor and the builder was directed by the court to remedy the problem.
All this time there continued to be more drainage, lighting, and construction problems. The builder refused to conform to the CCRs registered with the state of Texas and meanwhile, our homes were facing the potential of being devalued.
Our attorney gathered the necessary documents and I met with him on numerous occasions building our case and finally we were ready to file our suit with the court. A court date was set and the day prior to our trial, our attorney was contacted by the builder’s attorney requesting that we consider mediation in lieu of going to trial. I was willing and eager to put my professional experience as an expert negotiator in projects like these to use to benefit my community. With confidence that our case as homeowners was strong as was our resolve, we agreed and entered into 14 hours of mediation. Representing the residents, I was determined to remain steadfast to the critical points of resolution. At the end of the mediation the builder acquiesced. We were victorious in being able to maintain control of our HOA. Both parties emerged pleased with the agreement made.
As time progressed, I led the HOA to develop a working relationship with the builder. They received input on construction and design from our Architectural Control Committee, adhered to the CCRs and resolved the drainage and lighting issues to the best extent of their ability.
The builder successfully completed homes on all 24 lots and as of this Spring, all the homes are purchased and occupied with residents. The builder was financially successful and the homeowners and the builder were both satisfied with the end result. We were able to protect the value of our property, and we have a wonderful community of residents and friends who all work together to preserve the quality of life Friendswood is able to provide. This is one personal example of how different entities with competing needs and interests can still come together and resolve issues through meaningful dialogue. It requires putting personal issues to the side and looking at the bigger picture. A great example of “win” “win”.
As I became more involved with these issues I had frequent interfacing with the City of Friendswood. I had the privilege of working with a great staff to resolve these issues. They were both responsive and resourceful. I attended city council meetings, listened to the Planning and Zoning Committee in those meetings, and I became aware of the need for every citizen to be part of their government. I realized I could use my experience and skill set to be an effective advocate for the homeowners of Friendswood.
As your Mayor and working as a servant leader, I will be looking at future developments to prevent these types of events from occurring. They always say hindsight is 20/20 and I feel the lessons I learned both in business and in Creekwood will help me to facilitate successful negotiations while protecting homeowners and spurring business development.
Now, this was a long post and I appreciate you taking the time to read it. This story reflects a long and arduous four year journey but I am willing to expend these energies as required for all the people of Friendswood because that’s how strongly I feel about doing what I can to ensure the will of the people prevails.
When I am elected, I will be your voice in the City. Just as I spoke for my fellow Creekwood residents, I will speak for you. We can work together to Make Friendswood Stronger.
God bless and enjoy another fine day in Our Hometown.