So, I live in one of the largest HOA’s in the State of Maryland. We have about 4800 homes, and over 65 miles of road. We also have about 2 miles of Chesapeake Bay waterfront, ranging from beaches to 120 foot high cliffs. We have an artificial lake, which is stocked with fish and also has a beach. We used to have a horse stable, but it was unused, so now it is just an open field. We used to have a rifle range, but it was converted to an officially sanctioned horseshoe competition area. We have a bunch of wooded trails.
And it is all falling to shit. Our HOA dues are about $450 per year, plus there is a $250 Special Tax District, so the HOA costs about $700/year, and we are slowly losing amenities. The lake has almost yearly problems with algae blooms. The road I live on at one point used to be about 75 feet from a 120 foot cliff. Due to erosion, it is now 25 feet from said cliff, and the cliff moves closer every year. The road is closed in that area. Over 500 of our homes are empty, many of them in pre-foreclosure and foreclosure, and many of said properties are really in bad condition, which lowers property values, which puts people underwater, making more people walk away from their properties. A group of people researched ways to bring more money into the community. Raising the HOA fees is right out, because it requires a vote of 50%+1 of the property owners. Do you know how difficult it is to get 2,401 people to vote to increase their bills? Dissolving the HOA is even more problematic, and may not be legally possible. We tried to get money from the county for roads maintenance by opening the roads up to the public. By adding our roads to the County's roads, they get more money from the Shared Highway User Revenue from the State. We expected about $200k. They gave us $30k. Oh, and we had to rip down our gates, so crime increased... Gee, thanks.
So we looked at incorporation. It turns out that Maryland has a very good home rule statute, which delineates revenue sharing between counties and municipalities. Also, municipality SHUR funds come from a different pot, so we would get over $400k from that. We would be eligible for all kinds of Federal and State grants, and our ability to keep our neighborhood looking good will increase. Currently, including the STD, we spend about $2.8m/year as an HOA. After incorporation, we estimate that we will have a budget of over $4.5m/year, but our out of pocket expenses will go down, since we will be able to eliminate most of the HOA fees, and just keep a rump HOA for legal purposes.
The first step is a petition, which must be signed by 25% of the registered voters living within the boundaries. We turned that in two weeks ago, and think we got about 28%. (2300 people signed, we think 1850 were valid, we think we needed about 1670).
Next comes writing the charter, and getting the county to approve the charter. Big roadblock. If the county disapproves of the charter, they must give us written reasons why. We get one more shot at approval. If they deny it, the process fails, with no appeal allowed in the law. We still hold out hope, since we do not think that elected officials will deny something that 1850 registered voters asked for, in a county that gets about 20k votes in local elections.
If the charter is approved, we go to referendum next November, and if it is approved by the electorate by simple majority of those who vote, the municipality stands up 30 days later…
Hopefully you got through that Wall o’ Text, so any questions?