Homeowner group concerned about costs of storm water facilities

January 12, 1994|By Katherine Richards | Katherine Richards,Staff Writer

Wayne Thomas, president of the Fields Homeowners' Association in Hampstead, said he thinks its members have been wrongly saddled with maintenance costs for storm water management facilities on association property.

Mr. Thomas, who is also a member of the Hampstead Town Council, said that under a Hampstead law that was in effect until last March, the developer should have been responsible for the facilities until they could be deeded to the town.

The facilities include a pond that contains water all of the time, ponds that hold water only after a storm, drains and undeveloped areas set aside for channeling storm water to the ponds.

Mr. Thomas said he thinks the Hampstead Planning and Zoning Commission acted outside its authority when it agreed to plans calling for local homeowners associations to assume responsibility for storm water management facilities.

"I can't find anything that says this policy is legal," he said.

Arthur Moler, chairman of the Hampstead Planning and Zoning Commission and a member of the Town Council, said Monday that he thought the commission "has a lot of leeway there."

He said the commission discussed who should maintain the storm water management areas during the early 1980s, when Roberts Field was in the planning stage and decided the homeowners association should bear the responsibility.

Mr. Thomas said he does not know the cost to his association of maintaining the facilities but that most of the expenses have been for lawn mowing.

He said he was concerned, however, that the homeowners association might have to pay for expensive repairs or replacement of storm water management facilities in the future.

He said he also wants to know whether his association will be stuck with maintenance costs for storm water facilities that will serve 90 condominiums planned for Roberts Field. The condominiums were approved by the planning and zoning commission in November.

The condominiums will have their own homeowners association, separate from the Fields Homeowners' Association.

The condominiums' site plan includes two storm water management facilities on land owned by the Fields Homeowners' Association.

One has already been built, for the existing Roberts Field development. It will be shared with that development, and the homeowners associations will share its costs.

Mr. Thomas said he was concerned that the Fields Homeowners' Association might also be stuck with expensive bills for the other pond.

"They could come in and build anything they want and hit us with the bill, and we'd have to pay it," he said.

He said the Fields Homeowners' Association is not opposed to the construction of the condominiums.

Roberts Field developer Martin K. P. Hill said yesterday that from a practical standpoint, the cost to the Fields Homeowners' Association for maintaining the storm water management facilities is "very minimal."

He said that even if the Fields Homeowners' Association had to spend $2,000 a year to keep up the facilities, that would be a minute proportion of the association's income from dues.

Mr. Hill said the whole subject might pose a conflict of interest for Mr. Thomas because of his dual role as a member of the Hampstead Town Council and president of the Fields Homeowners Association.

Mr. Thomas responded, "I'll agree I am in a difficult position being both a councilman and the president of the homeowners association."

But he added, "My interest is both for the homeowners association and for the town. Sixty percent of the town [population] lives in Roberts Field, and a large portion of the town's tax base comes from Roberts Field."

Hampstead Town Manager John A. Riley said the town's policy has always been for the local homeowners associations to own and maintain storm water management facilities in planned unit developments.

He said the town assumed responsibility for storm water management for one planned unit development, Hampstead Valley, after the responsible party became "defunct."

Last March, the town of Hampstead revamped its code.

One of the changes, Mr. Riley said, granted the oversight of storm water management facilities within the town to the county government.

According to county law, the county may accept responsibility for storm water management facilities owned by homeowners associations if certain conditions are met.

Carroll County Deputy Attorney George A. Lahey said Friday that it is possible the county would agree to assume control of the Roberts Field storm water management facilities, to assure proper maintenance.

Mr. Moler said Hampstead officials are investigating the matter and should have more information by the next meeting of the planning and zoning commission on Jan. 31.

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