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Prairie Ridge residents again in conflict with homeowners' board

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By Teresa Herriman

The Courier-Herald

Angry Prairie Ridge residents are once again in a clash with the homeowner association's board of trustees.

Community members recently held a meeting to discuss their concerns and invited an attorney from the Mobile Home Association of Washington to answer questions.

The Prairie Ridge community includes more than 12,000 people who live in the area southeast of Bonney Lake. Many of the lots are occupied by mobile homes. An estimated 150 people attended the meeting.

The intention of the meeting was to "get people more knowledgeable," Cathy Greenman, an 18-year resident, said.

Topping the complaints was confusion regarding the association and its requirements.

Lesa Mark, who reported the outcome of the owners' meeting to the board, noted many residents do not have a copy of the covenants and are, therefore, unaware of the rules. Others complain the covenants are not being enforced fairly.

Key among those taking issue with the covenants were the organizers of the meeting, Virgil Coop and Greenman. Coop, who has lived in Prairie Ridge since 1967, was on the receiving end of warning letters telling him to clean up his property.

He said the rule is unevenly applied.

"These places have been this way for years - trash up on the porch 3 feet deep. One guy has 20 cars in the yard. They won't say anything to him," he said.

Perhaps the most critical source of conflict concerns the recent budget vote.

To cover increased expenses an increase in the assessments for individual homes was needed. The total income from the assessed fees equals the anticipated expenses. Raising the fee required a vote of the residents.

Ballots were included in a monthly bulletin mailed to each Prairie Ridge resident. Several stated they didn't see the ballot because they didn't read the mailing.

Of the 13,000 ballots mailed, only 114 ballots were returned. Among those who voted, Greenman said, 88 voted no and 24 voted yes. It is unclear what happened to the other two votes.

According to the rules, however, absentee ballots are counted as yes votes and the measure passed.

This is not the first time community members have publically clashed. In 1984 Prairie Ridge residents filed a lawsuit against the homeowners association, the Prairie Ridge Maintenance Co. over the monthly assessment dues, hoping to eliminate the fee altogether. Pierce County Superior Court Judge E. Albert Morrison ordered the board to throw out the $48 annual fee in favor of a fee that accurately reflects the amount needed to maintain the area.

Part of the responsibility of any homeowners association, which was established in May 1967, is to make sure residents keep their property up to the standards set by the covenants. Prairie Ridge uses a volunteer control committee to monitor yards and send warning letters to residents who are not in compliance. The board has the authority to levy fines should the resident ignore the warning.

Board secretary Ben Snyder admitted the control committee has been lax, something that has changed recently.

"There's been some letters sent out in regards to the covenants. We're just going back to the by-laws."

Snyder notes that anyone who has a concern can contact the board for a review.

"It's not one of those tough things. We are sympathetic," he said.

Regarding issues involving the vote to increase dues, he said "the state law set the standard. We follow the procedure for homeowners in the state of Washington."

He is also pragmatic about the voting procedure.

"If they don't open the (bulletin) it's nobody's fault but their own," he said.

Besides, he said, this year's vote is no different previous years.

Synder is concerned the issues raised are aimed at individual board members.

"It seems they are questioning the character of certain individuals," he said.

"It's just small town politics, I guess."

In the meantime, Greenman and Coop plan to continue organizing homeowners' meetings.

"We are correcting the injustices and protecting the community," Greenman said.

The next homeowners' meeting is at 7 p.m. July 28, at the Prairie Ridge Recreation Hall, 14205 215th Ave. E..

Teresa Herriman can be reached at therriman@courierherald.com

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