Hobart pond maintenance requirement called ‘unfair’
By Karen Caffarini Post-Tribune correspondent August 30, 2013 10:36PM
Updated: October 1, 2013 6:49AM
HOBART — In 1993, six homeowners signed an agreement with the developer of the Pembroke subdivision stating they would be solely responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the subdivision’s detention pond, which abutted their lots.
Twenty years later, new owners live in some of those houses, including Councilman Pete Mendez, D-2nd, who is weary of mowing the pond area and calls the agreement unfair, although he concedes it is legally binding.
“Unfortunately, my wife did sign the agreement (when she bought the house). But I want other people in the subdivision to help out. We can’t be responsible for the entire pond,” said Mendez, who lives on North Union Street.
Mendez aired his problem at a recent City Council meeting, saying it was unfair to hold just six individuals responsible for a detention pond that serves an entire subdivision. He said the covenants should be equally divided among all property owners in the subdivision.
Mendez also said that back property taxes are owed on the pond by Pembroke’s developer, S-W Corp., which owns the pond, and he feared the property would be sold at tax sale.
“We could have a serious problem then,” Mendez said.
City Attorney Anthony DeBonis said the city has no jurisdiction over the issue, however, saying it would be up to the Homeowners Association. He suggested the six homeowners hire legal counsel.
Mayor Brian Snedecor said if someone bought the property at a tax sale, the new owner could change the maintenance requirement, which as worded is automatically renewed every 10 years after the first 15 years, unless a majority of the homeowners vote to change the agreement.
Mendez said there is no Homeowners Association that he is aware of and he doubts other homeowners would agree to change the covenants to make themselves responsible for the pond’s upkeep.
City Engineer Phil Gralik said there is another possible solution, which could result in no one having to mow and weed the pond area.
He suggested planting the pond area with native grasses and plants, bringing the site back to native prairie land and eliminating the need to mow.
“Sometimes Save the Dunes or other environmental agencies will organize volunteers and have a work day to plant these species. To show off these native plants, I thought about putting up an information sign where the drainage easement leaves the pond area,” Gralik said.
Gralik said the city needs to update its ordinance regarding maintenance standards to allow the area to grow naturally.
“Generally, we would require the lot to be mowed. There is no ordinance in place to allow lots with native grasses and plants to remain unmowed,” Gralik said.
Gralik said it also appears someone buried the outlet to the detention pond under lava rock. He said the Stormwater District may open that line up.