2016 land purchase questioned at POA work session
The 2016 Land Purchase, Invasive Plant List and proposed changes to rental property rules and regulations were the focus of the sometimes-intense discussion at the Thursday, March 14 POA work session.
POA President Jay Goldman—responding to questions about the POA’s 2016 purchase of 730 acres of property for $9.4 million from the Big Canoe Company—discussed 1985 events and when the POA first owned the Sconti Point and Wilderness Parkway properties.
“All of this, relevant to the Sconti property, goes back to1985,” he said, “after Big Canoe’s original developer, Tom Cousins, lost his Big Canoe holdings to a couple of banks. There were only about 200 full and part time property owners at the time.”
In 1985, as part of a settlement, the bank transferred certain areas of land or “common property,” explained Goldman. Then in 1987 Bill Byrne’s Byrne Corporation purchased what is now Big Canoe. Over the years, said Goldman, Byrne looked at potential options (e.g. condominiums and commercial uses) for Sconti Point but never did anything there.
Big Canoe homeowners wanted to ensure there was no development on that land—the main view from the Clubhouse at Lake Sconti—and wanted to protect Sconti Point from development.
This parcel—including 8.2 acres of land to the right of Lake Sconti looking from the clubhouse—was designated as high density prior to the land purchase. Ed. note: For more information on the 2016 land purchase, check out Smoke Signals special digital edition published Feb. 16, 2016 to inform property owners about the then proposed purchase.
Timing of purchase clarified
“The 2016 property purchase was the first time—and the only time—the POA paid money for the Sconti Point property, according to the attorneys involved,” Goldman said. Wilderness Parkway, another parcel, was purchased in 2016 for the first time, he added and the designation as common property was approved last November.
There were some property tax issues, Goldman said, where the POA paid taxes on property it didn’t own at the same time the Big Canoe Company paid property assessments on property it didn’t own. “One washed out the other, with a net effect difference of $1,000. Pickens County tax records now have been updated and corrected.”
As far as the eight acres of land in the Blackwell Creek area (adjacent to the creek), the value to the water company is the right—the permit—to draw about one million gallons a day out of Blackwell Creek, Goldman said. Utilities Inc. of Georgia ( UIG) is selling water to Pickens County as well as Big Canoe.
“We had title insurance on this purchase and we are investigating who now owns it. The purchase sales agreement does not include this eight acres and we believe that we have never owned it. The land has been part of hiking trails and that’s not going to change. We believe UIG owns it as part of the purchase price to the Big Canoe Utility Company.”
Questions and suggestions
When the floor opened to questions, John Kaufman addressed the issue of common property. “State law says common property can only be purchased by an outside party with 100 percent of the vote of property owners. That means you can’t sell it if you need to.”
“State law doesn’t apply to communities like ours with covenants,” POA Director Jim Farinholt replied. High Gap and the Roundabout are the only two parcels purchased from the POA in 2016 not designated as common property—the only two properties available for sale.
Kaufman then asked to have the purhase agreement made available to property owners interested in seeing it. When POA Director Grant Grimes replied that wasn’t likely to happen, the response, “We are the community and we have a right to know,” came from someone in the audience.
“Everybody wants to get this behind us. We as a community should pause every econmic project we have and wait until we [the community] iron this thing out,” said Kaufman.
“I care that everything should be transparent—as a homeowner we should have a right,” commented Xaviere Chatagnier. “The plant thing [invasive plant list] was done in secret. Everything should be transparent.”
What about health records,” responded Jay Goldman. Do you think you have a right to see health records?”
“Could we sign a non-dsclosure agreement to see the [property purchase] documents?” asked Don Hanson.
Another property owner suggested creating a blue-ribbon committee to come back with a more specific set of questions regarding the land purchase. Farinholt said the board could talk to its attorneys to see what the board can do.
“We moved here in fall of 2016,” said one property owner. “We knew about the land purchase and supported this major step in moving our community forward. It was fairly negotiated—and it’s now history. What’s going on now is attributed to gossip, sour grapes and scurrilous attacks on individuals, which affect our values and quality of life.”
His comments were greeted with applause from the audience.
Master plan survey questioned
Eric Copeland said he believes there were technical flaws and a bias to the positive side in the master plan survey. “The survey only addresses seven or eight amenities not the entire community. It not strategic; it doesn’t look at infrastructure. He recommends more involvement from the community, a working group composed of a mix of property owners to put together a survey.”
“We wanted objective opinions focused on the amenities not the trails, fire house,” Goldman replied. “The plan is flexible—we will get community input and be flexible.” He added there have been 1800 responses to the survey and the POA expects analysis by the end of March.
Rental property rules/regulations change
The POA board will vote on rules and regulations changes for rental property at its Thursday, March 21 voting session. The changes include a one-time $250 annual fee for rental properties and registering all guests (not just those driving the car through the gates) through Dwelling Life. The registration rule is to help locate guests in the event of a community disaster (e.g., tornado or fire).
Carolyn Witt asked about her rental property, which is only used for long-term (one-year) rentals.
“I pay regular monthly POA fees so why should I also have to pay the $250 fee as the owner of a rental property? “What’s the $250 used for? What extra burden am I putting on the community?
“It’s difficult to discriminate by how you rent your house,” replied General Manager Jill Philmon. “There are now 2711 homes in Big Canoe now about 60 percent are full time residents.”
“I represent 40 owners of rental property,” said David Sharp. “Why should they be punished for bringing people into Big Canoe? We want to have the amenities used but we are punishing rental owners for bringing people into Big Canoe.
Philmon explained that the addition of rentals can cause extra administrative work, especially for those working the gates.
In other business:
- UIG’s Ron Medders said 31 of 67 pressure release valves have been replaced and five may not need to be replaced. Work is currently going on along Ridgeview to improve pressure. Cold weather and rain have slowed work on paving pot holes caused by water repair work. The loss of water through leaks, originally believed to be 54 percent was actually 67 percent. UIG is working to reduce the loss.
- Philmon reported the new online systems, including a new website to be effective by April 1. A 300-plus pound feral pig was trapped on property, for a total of 30 so far this year. The Wilderness Parkway mudslide was fixed but there may be other spots that need work. “We’ve received lots of feedback on the plant list. A Community Coffee on the topic is set for 5 p.m. April 8 on the Veranda weather permitting.
- Year to year results show improvement in amenity revenue in spite of all the rain. Year to date (March 14) there were 17 days of rain in 2018 and amenity revenue was $308,000. In 2019, for the same period, there have been 28 days of rain and the amenity revenue is $318,000 up $10,000.