Saddlebrook arrangement is unfair

Published 10:06 pm Friday, March 14, 2014

To the editor:

Homebuyers at Saddlebrook Estates on Kings Fork Road are being subjected to an outrageous homeowners’ association proposition.

Before city officials approved this subdivision, I believe they required the developer to set aside a portion of the development, ostensibly as an open-space land area for future residents to enjoy as an amenity, pursuant to Suffolk’s Unified Development Ordinance.

Newsletter

Email newsletter signup

But instead of the space being made available to homebuyers and their children to enjoy, the developer’s representative, acting as sole director of the Saddlebrook homeowners’ association since its creation, promptly leased virtually all of the association’s open-space common area to a private corporation.

The subdivision residents’ so-called open space is being used as a private commercial horse farm and riding stable, and nobody but its paying customers can use it. And since the riding stable’s customers are virtually all nonresidents of Saddlebrook, the neighborhood’s many children are now relegated to playing in the streets, instead of having a playground area within Saddlebrook’s supposed common area.

Why would Suffolk’s Planning Department allow Saddlebrook’s open-space common area to be converted to a private business use with no apparent benefit to homebuyers?

Homeowners are required to pay approximately $400 in dues annually per housing unit — now approaching $60,000 per year in total — for the property’s use and maintenance, but members can’t actually use their common land and farmhouse.

The City Council, the planning department and the Planning Commission should take a closer look at Suffolk’s subdivision approval policies to assure they really benefit residents.

To make matters even worse, the city recently advertised the association’s common-area property as being up for judicial sale, because the lessee allegedly owes past-due property taxes.

How can the developer legally remain in sole control of “our” homeowners’ association eight years after residents began moving into this development?

Jim Decker

Suffolk