SHALLOTTE, N.C. (WECT) – Residents of a gated community in Shallotte are frustrated, saying their Property Owners Association is bullying them with excessive fines and by refusing to follow its own bylaws.
When Rick Roberts moved into his home in Shell Point Acres in Shallotte, he thought he had found paradise. That changed about three years ago when a new group of neighbors took office on the POA board. Neighbors said rude letters and expensive fines started rolling in soon after. The POA even took Roberta Painter to court over a violation where even the judge was stunned by what he saw.
“The Shell Point Acres POA fines of $100 per day for uncut grass are excessive and unconscionable,” said the judge in his ruling. As Painter admitted to violating the bylaws, the court ordered her to pay up. However, she was told to pay only $595 to the POA despite racking up $1,900 in fines over her yard.
She thought she was being singled out until she started talking to Roberts about what his family was dealing with.
“I received a letter from our board indicating that I was a disgrace to this community,” said Roberts.
The letter came after his son was caught on camera jumping the gate to their community. It was early in the morning when the teenager was trying to make the school bus. Roberts says his key wasn’t working that day, so the student made the decision to jump the gate rather than miss his ride.
The letter from the POA contained photos of the incident and said “This is a shame and a disgrace and a blatant disregard for our community and its property!”
The residents’ concerns involving the POA are more than fines and letters. Some are concerned that their lives are on the line.
Vietnam veteran Denny Martin has several health concerns. To name a few, he has congestive heart failure, his aortic valve needs to be replaced and he’s in stage five kidney failure. He says the POA is another source of stress for him.
Martin could use home nursing care but when he asked for a gate code to let the nursing staff in, he says the POA told him, “no.“ That’s the same answer Joe Kellerman says he received a few years ago when his wife was in hospice care.
“I’d have to constantly be running down there letting people in,” said Kellerman. “I had several family members and even the director of hospice write the association a letter asking for a gate code. They were all denied.”
Martin says without a nursing staff, his neighbors help get him to appointments and keep an eye on him but they can’t be there 24/7. He fears what would happen if he suffers another fall like he did last month. That night, he slept on the bathroom floor.
“I noticed his truck hadn’t been moved for a while, so I came and checked on him and found him on the floor,” said Jay Honeycutt, a neighbor that looks after him.
Martin wears a life alert necklace but even first responders have concerns about whether he could get the help he needs during an emergency.
“They gave us the code and half the time, it wouldn’t work,” said Captain Aaron Hill with the Civietown Fire Department. “When we have emergencies, we have to get in there quick. We can’t do it when the gates don’t open.”
A sign on the gate says it is supposed to open at the sound of a siren. Hill says that feature hasn’t worked in ages. Instead, first responders often have to blast the truck’s horn to get a neighbor’s attention — something the POA has called lazy on their Facebook page.
“If we can’t get in there quickly, it’s more loss of a house or somebody’s life at stake,” said Hill.
When the gate to that community does open, it takes about 20 seconds to do so. Hill says that’s far too slow and he hopes the community has plans to upgrade the gate in the near future.
“Some of the residents live in fear,” said Roberts. “I took this on personally now because it’s bullying.”
WECT reached out several times to the Shell Point Acres POA about the complaints but hasn’t heard from any board members.
When 28 out of 76 residents signed a petition with the intention of voting in a new board, that caught their attention. The bylaws say residents only need a third of the members to sign a petition to call a special meeting.
The community’s bylaws state, “It shall be the duty of the President to call a special meeting of Members as directed by resolution of the Board of Directors or upon a petition signed by at least one-third (1/3) of the Members and presented to the Secretary.” At that special meeting, a vote by 60 percent of members can remove directors from office. Roberts and other residents never made it that far.
“We once again misinterpreted the bylaws,’” said Roberts, reading the board’s response. “It was just flushed.”
That letter left Roberts puzzled. He and some other residents that drafted the petition are former board members themselves, so they’re sure they didn’t misinterpret anything. Still, the POA says there are 166 lots on the property which would mean residents would have to get 55 signatures to call the meeting. Roberts disputes that, saying only a portion of those lots is lived on.
“There are 166 lots in the community [but] 83 have POA liens against them or Brunswick County liens,” said Roberts. “According to our bylaws, they are not eligible to vote. If you are not in good standing, you are not eligible to vote.”
Community members are at their wits’ end as they run out of options.
“We did what we were supposed to do and it was rejected,” said Roberts.
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