Former HOA board member says community vote 'not feasible'

Posted at 8:10 PM, Jan 09, 2017
and last updated 2017-01-10 12:15:33-05
The fight over pieces of valuable land in Laveen has had neighbors in the Cottonfields Community at odds with one another for years.
The community shares land and rules with the Southern Ridge Golf Course. In 2011, the HOA board took actions to redefine three parcels of land that surround their subdivision, including what used to be the driving range and the front entrance. It's a move that would pave the way for the golf course owner to commercially develop the land. 
But some homeowners say that the Board had no right to redefine anything without a majority two-thirds vote of the homeowners--per the governing documents.
Battle lines were drawn and neighbors have been fighting one another ever since.
Neighbors contacted Let Joe Know in 2015.  At the time, Cottonfields Community Association sued former golf course owner Jaguar Premium Properties LLC. The association asked a judge to decide whether or not the community needed to follow the governing documents and have a vote about the change. Some homeowners were frightened that the board was ready to settle the lawsuit without getting the question answered.
They were right. In a settlement later that year the board agreed to drop that lawsuit and any future lawsuits to let development move forward. Jaguar has since sold the golf course to a homeowner in the Cottonfields Community.
But those who oppose the settlement say the question about whether or not the board has the authority to unilaterally take actions that the rules say require a community vote--is still unanswered.
In 2016, the developer and former course owner, Jaguar, petitioned the City of Phoenix to have the land rezoned from golf course to commercial. The city council approved the plan 6-3.
Recently we sat down with former HOA board members Mitch Smith and Gary Jorgenson to talk about the issue.
Smith says he was on the board in 2011 when it first agreed to redefine the property. He says they were in a tough spot because the golf course was failing and they needed to act in order to save it and their property values.
"The family that owned it at that time made the deal that if they could develop the front driving range they would use the money to continue the golf course," Smith said.
After the initial ownership went into bankruptcy, they say Jaguar stepped in to run the golf course with the intent of developing the land that the HOA separated for commercial use.
He and Jorgenson say getting the 301 votes, to meet the two-thirds requirement, to make that change will not ever happen given the number of rentals and snow bird-owned properties in the community.
"Can you imagine the complexity and the expense? It's really in my opinion, not pragmatic, not feasible and we're just saddled under these statutes," Jorgenson said.
"The reality is it's moved forward, the deeds changed, the property definitions have been changed," Smith said.
He says it's time to move on, "lets get beyond this one issue."
Some of his neighbors don't agree. They say allowing the board's decision and the resulting development to go unchecked, sets a precedent.
"Nobody else seems to have to follow the rules and nobody has our back if they don't follow the rules," said homeowner Bobbie McLeod.
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