STOCKBRIDGE – A group of residents of the Pine Grove subdivision in Stockbridge recently filled the Stockbridge City Council meeting to capacity to express their frustrations with an ongoing situation in their neighborhood.
The residents spoke at the June 10 Stockbridge City Council meeting to air complaints about the failure of their neighborhood developers to maintain common areas and amenities.
During the meeting, residents mentioned that while the neighborhood is marketed as a “swim and tennis” community, they haven’t had access to either the swimming pool or tennis courts, with the pool apparently having been closed for a number of years.
“The pool is not open. The pool hasn’t been open, no clubhouse or anything, no facilities since 2011,” said resident Kimberly Collins. “I’ve lived there since 2009. It was a beautiful facility when I first moved in. We had a swimming pool, tennis court, clubhouse, we could use these facilities, we could rent the facilities if we wanted to.”
Collins said after the recession, the original developer, Knight Builders, left, and a new group came in.
“They’re in there selling $300,000 homes, and there’s a sign out in the front of the community saying ‘Beautiful Swim and Tennis community,’ and they’re false advertising.”
Collins said the developer has done very little to take care of the neighborhood since taking over development of it, even though homeowners have continually paid their annual fees.
Collins was one of many who spoke about the neighborhood at the meeting.
Councilwoman Neat Robinson, who has lived in the neighborhood since 2006, said homeowners are required to pay a $400 annual fee for the community, with newer homeowners paying an $800 annual fee.
That annual fee came up at the meeting, with homeowners stating that if the fee hadn’t been paid, a lien would be placed on their home for the amount not paid. Robinson said for some homeowners, that number would go up into the thousands of dollars.
Robinson said the $400 annual fee covered amenities, landscaping, and even the upkeep of the clubhouse.
She also said the fee covered access to use the pool areas and the clubhouse. Homeowners were given a keycard to enter the areas, and if the dues had not been paid, the keycard would not work.
Robinson has been discussing the matter with the city since 2015, before her time as a council member.
“This is what prompted me to run,” she said in an interview with the Herald. “If my subdivision had been treated like this by developers and they feel they can do whatever, we need to take a stand. This is stuff we’re not going to tolerate.”
The subdivision has gone through a variety of owners and operators in the last decade, and homes being sold in the area are now being sold through Silverstone Communities, which advertises a “swim and tennis” community on its website for homes starting at $209,990.
Stockbridge can address only maintenance issuesWhile residents at the Stockbridge City Council hoped to get the city involved in their dispute with the developers, city officials explained that they did not get involved with those issues.
“Governments are required to address property maintenance issues, and that’s what our goal is at Pine Grove,” said Camilla Moore, Stockbridge assistant city manager. “Those are the only items we can legally address.”
Moore explained the maintenance issues came after a change of ownership when the original builder went into bankruptcy in 2008 and lots were in possession of multiple entities.
“Unfortunately, as we went through the recession, the company that built the homes never turned the properties over to the homeowner’s association simply because they hadn’t built it out,” Moore said.
Moore said there was apparently a declaratory agreement for the original owner of the land to turn over the properties to the homeowner’s association once a certain percentage of the lots had been built out.
A week after the Stockbridge City Council meeting, city officials received a property maintenance report from Moore and City Manager Randy Knighton concerning the status of the maintenance issues at Pine Grove.
According to an interoffice memo supplied to the Herald by Stockbridge officials, a total of 53 code violations had been detected by the city, and 60 percent of those items had been corrected by the time of the June 17 memo. The city expected the remaining items to be completed by July 1.
In fact, when asked about potential sanctions if those items hadn’t been done, Moore said she didn’t see any sanctions being needed.
“I feel pretty confident that everything will be done by July 1,” she said.
These violations include repairing fencing, installing missing handrails, repairing doors and gates and replacing guardrails.
The Stockbridge City Council will meet on Wednesday, and the council is expected to hear a presentation from the city’s site visit from that day.
The Herald will be reaching out this week to the developers to detail their experience with the development, as well as explore the ownership struggles that have surrounded the development since 2008.