OpEd: Keep this an enchanting, affordable place to live

By Virgil Pattarino, Pine Mountain community

When our family moved to Pine Mountain Club, it was like a dream. We never imagined that such a breathtaking community existed so close to my work, let alone that we would be able to afford it.

Like a Dream

As my wife and I looked at homes, we were entranced by how each home told a different story and had a unique personality. After we found a home and moved in, we explored the amenities that were available and utilized not just a few.

We have attended every PMCPOA board meeting as we wanted to be involved in our new community. We were impressed by the mountain community spirit, and were equally impressed how the “chicken issue” was handled at our first PMCPOA meeting, with everyone allowed to have their say.

But a POA?

Our only trepidation in purchasing a home in PMC is that there is a property owners association (POA).

In the past we had a negative experience with an HOA, but we felt the yearly PMCPOA fees at slightly over $1,400 were reasonable and the community was nearly 40 years old, so the fees had not escalated out of control as most do. We expected that restraint to continue.

Post Office Question

Then the post office was set to close. At the board meeting it seemed apparent that there were 15 to 20 connected individuals at the POA meeting who were ready to speak on behalf of the proposal for the POA to take on the post office.

Some people who had already expressed their opinions came back to speak again. I was surprised that when cluster boxes were proposed that some appeared almost to have “vapors” at this horror, and the mention of having a Frazier Park mailbox was considered equally appalling.

But we did not object, even though we felt more conversation could have occurred on cost reduction and revenue enhancement.

Our Greatest Fear

Now the very thing we feared most, that almost kept us from purchasing our new home here, seems to be materializing. The proposed clubhouse remodel was supposed to have three options that were to be presented to property owners for consideration.

It would seem logical that we would have an expensive, moderate and a conservative choice that members would be able to coalesce behind through open discussion and agree to a selection, so that the selection process would be member-directed.

Instead, we now have a grandiose “statement” clubhouse, with little advance information and little in the way of consultation with the community as a whole.

Dialogue or Rudeness?

This new clubhouse is supposed to enhance property values, reduce maintenance and possibly cure cancer. Again, 15 to 20 connected members filled the speakers’ line, almost shutting out opposition from an opportunity to speak.

Then a gentleman (I believe named Ross Canton?) was interrupted after almost every sentence by a board member, and one member from the gallery shouted him down, remarking “we don’t need a lecture, just ask your question!”

This was very surprising to me, as many previous speakers had successfully engaged in storytelling without shouts from the gallery.

Where Are the Full Facts?

After managing retail units, I can say with relative confidence that in cold country the maintenance and heating expenses for vaulted ceilings in a building that is 275% larger than today’s clubhouse will be much higher also. Repair and maintenance on a superdome-type inflatable cover on the pool will be astronomical. In fact, I don’t believe there are service companies that repair these. They are custom manufactured and require special expertise, if I am not mistaken.

Chairlifts, catering kitchens and elevators also add more expense and far more staff, not to mention the golf simulator equipment and more.

Exponential Assessment Increases…for Whom?

I can imagine that the assessments will grow exponentially, far more than the amount that was projected in the presentation for the building only.

Now just for reference, our family often attends many of the clubhouse amenities, but we are shocked at how under-attended many of the events and facilities are. Thursday night football with yummy gourmet food is very lightly attended. On the movie night we attended, we were the only people in attendance. In the recreation room we find the same thing. Many evenings there is almost no one to be found in the clubhouse.

So now we are going to add even more square footage that is unused? And more staff and more maintenance—for what? A statement? It would seem if you want to live in a community that makes a statement about affluence, Seven Oaks would be a better choice.

Myths, Canards and Statement Clubhouses

And the canard about the new clubhouse raising values is just that, a myth. Almost nothing more adversely affects the value and ability to sell a home than high HOA/POA fees.

Once fees begin to rise above $150 a month, there seems to be negative effect on resale, as the attraction of affordable house payments is cancelled out by the increased association fees.

Make no mistake, the increased fees affect sales of the most affordable homes most adversely, as the fees deleteriously affect the ability to sell to those with budgets that are not as flexible as those of members in the community for whom, apparently, money is not a consideration.

‘It’s Just Pennies’?

One person who supported taking over the post office contract, when I asked how much our POA fees would increase to do that, remarked “Oh, it’s pennies.” Apparently her pennies are of far greater value than mine.

I think if you survey every resident, you will find that they purchased their homes and cabins due to the beauty of the surroundings and the affordable sales price.

The amenities, as beautiful as they are, serve just as a bonus. This is proved by how few residents choose to even utilize the facilities at all. I may personally think they are crazy, but what do I know?

Real Foreclosure Facts

We owned a townhouse several years ago with an HOA that seemed to continuously have special assessments and fee increases.

Their delusion was that adding amenities and features would increase the value of the homes…. They didn’t. In fact, the added assessment expense increased the difficulty of selling the homes, with many finally falling into foreclosure.

Ending Insanity

Homeowners tried to object, saying that we did not need all these new amenities and that they did not translate to increased value in our homes.

But the HOA board and a connected group of investors would overwhelm the membership. There seemed to be no way stop it.

Finally, in exasperation, homeowners retained an attorney with a specialty in negotiating and litigating with HOAs. He threatened to audit their books and comb through the minutes and bylaws for board violations. Finally the insanity ended.

As the fees and assessments dropped over the years, the value and sales of the townhouses increased, and we were finally able to sell our home at a profit.

Please reconsider

We sent a request to members of the PMCPOA Board of Directors to ask them to please reconsider the clubhouse proposal, and to offer at least a couple of more economical solutions.

If you merely put the remodel out to vote without a more economical choice, it gives the appearance that “the fix is in” and that a more economical choice was never really considered, especially the way that property owners have been presented with an “all or nothing” solution.

I know this may not be the easy way, but hey, we are mountain folk. Pine Mountain Club is a very special place with very special people. I think it is worth the additional consideration to have a clubhouse that we all can unify around as a community.

This is truly an enchanting place to live. We appreciate the service of those who work hard to keep it this way.

The Pattarino family has recently moved to the mountain.

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This is part of the February 10, 2017 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.

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