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Suit says directors have levied illegal assessments

Monday, March 31, 2003 by

Travis County District Judge Lora Livingston last week issued a temporary restraining order against the Circle C Homeowners Association (CCHOA) and its three directors, preventing them from holding their annual election. The order was granted at the request of Circle C homeowner Bill Gammon, who contends that directors Steve Bartlett, Jim O’Reilly and Ken Rigsbee have illegally changed the association’s rules and excluded Carl Kernodle, another Circle C resident, from the ballot. Gammon’s lawsuit says, “(T)he board has engaged in numerous illegal activities designed to influence the outcome of the election and ensure that Bartlett,” who is seeking re-election “maintains his position on the board.”He also alleges financial misdeeds by the board.

Kernodle has campaigned for the position on the board currently held by Bartlett. Bartlett is not a Circle C homeowner or resident, but is associated with Circle C developer Gary Bradley. Bartlett, according to Gammon’s petition, has served on the board since its inception. Gammon says that Kernodle has campaigned actively, making numerous pubic appearances and gathered hundreds of proxies for the election—in spite of the fact that the directors have refused to put his name on the ballot. Gammon alleges that Rigsbee and O’Reilly have refused to provide a list of CCHOA members and the number of votes allowed each member. The homeowners association bylaws provide a formula for determining the number of votes each person may cast, based on the property valuation, but Gammon says the directors have attempted to alter voting rights rules.

Gammon also says the board arbitrarily adopted a cut-off date for nominations in order to exclude Kernodle. In addition, he accuses Rigsbee and O’Reilly of using assets of the CCHOA to campaign for Bartlett’s re-election. He also says he has been denied the right to copy records of the association, which is a non-profit organization that must operate under state laws governing such associations.

Gammon claims in his petition that the directors have been “making unauthorized and illegal assessments against the property of some of the members and illegally placing liens upon the property of . . . homeowners who refuse to pay the amounts in excess of the amount authorized” by the association’s bylaws. He says the trio has levied unauthorized special assessments and he is asking the court to declare those assessments illegal. He is also seeking a court order preventing the homeowners association from holding an election until the matters in controversy are settled. Gammon said a judge would hear arguments on his request for a temporary injunction on April 8.

Gammon and Kernodle were two of the Circle C residents who appeared at a recent City Council meeting to request that Escarpment Boulevard not be extended. Their request was denied because the extension was part of a service agreement between the city and the developer when the area was annexed. At that time, Rigsbee and O’Reilly both spoke in favor of the extension. (See In Fact Daily March 7, March 21, 2003 .)

Neighborhood opposes addition of liquor store to area

The owner of a building at 7600 N. Lamar will have two weeks to tweak his application for CS-1 zoning in order to open a liquor store. Members of the nearby Crestview Neighborhood are opposed to the idea on the grounds that a liquor store would divert more traffic to residential streets. The site is currently zoned CS, which would allow for the operation of a convenience store or other high-traffic uses.

“This property is located at an intersection that is not suitable for this business,” said Crestview resident Stephanie Phillips. Access to and from the property was difficult, she pointed out, because of several traffic-control measures put into place at the request of the neighborhood. “Our concern is that the clientele of these businesses, rather than fight to get back onto Lamar at this intersection, will exit Morrow and then cut through the neighboring residential streets.”

The Planning Commission had recommended against the change to CS-1 on the grounds that the neighborhood was beginning its neighborhood planning process, and a decision about the site should be made as part of that process. Staff, however, had endorsed the CS-1 zoning change. Landowner Sayed Nicholas stressed that the property was on one of the city’s major commercial thoroughfares. “This is Lamar,” he said. “They keep trying to tell you this is a neighborhood. This corridor is for businesses.” He had chosen to open a liquor store instead of a convenience store, he said, because it would not be open as many hours and would allow him to spend more time with his family.

Most speakers were against the change, although Nicholas did find some support from a nearby businessman. Ted Gaetjen of ASAP Paging at 7700 N. Lamar argued that an active business would be preferable to leaving the structure vacant. “It looks to me like it would be an improvement,” he said. “Why oppose a good sales tax generator? I believe this will be a plus for the neighborhood.” The site formerly housed a religious bookstore.

While Council Members Daryl Slusher and Betty Dunkerley supported the change to CS-1, other Council members indicated they had reservations. Since an outright rejection of the request would mean an 18-month wait before the property owner could reapply, Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman offered a proposal to delay consideration of the change for two weeks. The property owner can work on a plan to scale back the zoning change request from covering the entire property to just covering the footprint of the building itself and present the case again on April 10..

First-time homebuyers could purchase moderately-priced homes

The Austin Housing Finance Corporation (AHFC) Thursday gave a nod for two East Austin nonprofits to build 10 new homes in the Guadalupe and Blackshear neighborhoods. The homes will benefit lower- and moderate-income families in search of affordable housing.

The AHFC Board—made up of the Mayor and City Council—unanimously approved funding of $146,000 for four homes to be constructed by Guadalupe Neighborhood Development Corporation and $209,000 for six homes to be constructed by the Blackshear Neighborhood Development Corporation. The money provides loans for families to lower the purchase price of homes and cover the closing costs. The families are responsible for paying back the loans upon sale of the house, at death or after payment of the first mortgage on the property.

The loans allow the buyers to purchase homes valued between $85,000 and $120,000 for amounts between $60,000 and $80,000.

Homes are made available to first-time buyers who earn at or below 80 percent of the Median Family Income (MFI)—about $56,500 for a family of four). Additionally, at least five of the homes approved Thursday will be reserved for those earning at or below 60 percent of the MFI, about $42,650 for a family of four.,

Brewster McCracken fundraiser . . . Stephen Jones will host a fundraiser from 5:30 to 7:30pm Tuesday night for those in the arts and business to help Place 5 candidate Brewster McCracken. Jones’ event will be at his office, 600 W. 7th St . . . Police racial profiling forum tonight . . . The Office of Police Monitor Iris Jones is hosting a forum on racial profiling from 6-8pm tonight at Metz Elementary School, 84 Robert Martinez Jr. St. In addition to Jones, speakers will include Celia Israel, a member of the Citizen Review Panel, and Assistant Police Chief Rudy Landeros. Two videos on profiling will also be shown. For more information, call 974-9090 . . . Commission appointments . . . The City Council approved the following appointments Thursday. Animal Advisory Commission: Jan Fulton (appointment, Mayor Pro Tem Jackie Goodman); Child Care Council: Avis Jones Wallace (Council Member Danny Thomas reappointment); Mayor’s Committee for People with Disabilities: Chip Howe (Mayor Gus Garcia reappointment), Ron Lucey (Garcia reappointment), Kathy Kasprisin (Garcia reappointment); Music Commission: Jay Woods (Council Member Betty Dunkerley reappointment) . . . Passenger activity up slightly . . . February’s report from Austin-Bergstrom International Airport shows that total traffic in the airport was one percent higher than last year, with several airlines reporting a down month. American, Delta and United all reported a slight decrease in passengers over the same month last year. However, Southwest reported a two-percent increase, while America West said it had seven percent more passengers and Continental reported eight percent more than last February. The year-to-date passenger total was 3.37 percent higher than last year. Overall air cargo, at slightly less than 20 million pounds, was down six percent, but international air cargo was up five percent compared to February 2002. General aviation operations were down 31 percent . . . Cap Metro to introduce new airport flyer stops . . . In June airport-bound travelers will be able to climb aboard Capital Metro’s Airport Flyer from various state office building stops on Congress, 15th Street and Guadalupe. The inbound bus will come down 6th Street, making hotel access on Brazos and Congress easier, and then proceed up Lavaca. Service will be maintained at UT residential dorms, but will be eliminated from San Jacinto and Trinity Streets. Roberto Gonzalez, principal planner at Cap Metro, said the bus—which still costs just 50 cents—had about 400 passengers a day during Spring Break. Other weeks, he said, the route usually has about 150 riders a day. He believes that the route change will increase those figures.

© 2003

In Fact News,

Inc. All rights reserved.

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