Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Manchester Subdivision Residents at Odds Over Trustees: Who's on first?

After years of a subdivision civil war, this is what it had come to at Countrylane Woods II in Manchester: one group backing the trustees, complete with yard signs.

Another group, though, claimed to be the real leaders — though they don't have keys to the clubhouse, or the checkbook. They filed a lawsuit and enlisted the help of a public relations firm. And they called their opponents "rogue trustees."

The trustees and their backers say a small number of dissidents have hijacked the 497-home community. And no legal authority has ordered them to relinquish power, they note.

To help sort things out, a St. Louis County Circuit Court judge ordered that the subdivision take a vote on two sets of bylaws, the ones currently in place and another set the group opposed to the trustees crafted.

One side won that vote, though the battle is probably not over. It's a complicated story that has pitted neighbor against neighbor. But these types of clashes are not uncommon.

The state law on subdivision governing pacts, called indentures, is incredibly vague, said Jerry Wamser, a lawyer whose firm represents roughly 60 homeowners associations. The result is that developers draft the rules by which a community lives. Conflict often ensues.

"It's the Wild West in Missouri," Wamser said. "Many of these indentures tend to be constructed like Frankenstein's monster."

Still, the battle in Countrylane Woods seems to have gone beyond the typical subdivision clash. And it has even divided households.

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