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Deerfield News Connection

June 24, 2024

 

Motions to be Heard at the June 25th Court Hearing

 

On June 25th, a court hearing was scheduled to consider three crucial motions that would have finalized the steps to transfer HOA management over to property owners. This hearing has been postponed. Delaying the scheduled motions, summarized below, will significantly impede the residents' long-awaited opportunity to participate in and take control of the HOA. It will allow the Fields to maintain control, perpetuate their mismanagement and lack of transparency, and postpone the establishment of a fair and transparent governance framework for Deerfield Resort. 

 

  I. Motion/Report of Receiver

 

The Motion/Report of Receiver, dated April 30, 2024, proposes expanding the Receiver's authority to facilitate the transition to an HOA-managed entity at Deerfield Resort. In addition to broader powers, the Receiver also requests transferring control of restrictive covenants from Fields Development Company to the HOA to ensure consistent and transparent enforcement, establishing an advisory committee to support the Receiver in the transition of the HOA to property owner control, and creating an official website so that the Receiver may keep all property owners up to date on board elections and transition activities. These actions aim to empower property owners and improve community management significantly.

 

   Link to Receiver’s Motion

 

  II. Plaintiffs' Motion for Order Divesting Management Control of Deerfield Resort

 

This motion seeks to transfer financial and management control of Deerfield Resort and its homeowner association from the defendants to the HOA, which is currently under the control of a court-appointed Receiver. Once a board is elected by property owners, the HOA would finally transition to property owner control.

 

The motion highlight concerns including the defendants' unilateral actions such as fee collection, refusal to share HOA accounting records, and amendments to covenants without proper consultation with property owners, the court, or the Receiver. The plaintiffs emphasize the necessity of a hearing to approve the bylaws, restrictions, election procedures, and to set an election date for the board of directors for Deerfield Resort HOA. Additionally, the motion requests that the restrictions filed by the defendants on May 2, 2024, at the Register of Deeds Office of Campbell County, be declared null and void.

 

  Link to Plaintiffs' Motion

 

   III. Motions Recommending Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CCRs) and Bylaws

 

Judge Boniface has made it clear that she was committed to setting up CCRs, bylaws, and scheduling the HOA board election during this hearing. These steps are crucial for the community's future. By putting these in place, property owners will, for the first time in 38 years, have the framework they need to actively participate in the management and decision-making processes of the HOA. This is a big step towards more organized, participatory, and transparent community leadership.

 

After an April 2nd hearing, Judge Boniface asked the parties to submit drafts of the CCRs and bylaws. These documents are essential for defining property use, community standards, and governance procedures within Deerfield Resort, and for establishing a system that lets property owners participate in the HOA. There have been issues with the Defendants making unilateral changes to the CCRs, and exempting properties from restrictive covenants. Judge Boniface indicated she will review the drafts submitted by the parties and decide on the final version of the CCRs and bylaws.

 

 Link to Plaintiffs' CCR Motion                 Link to Plaintiffs' Bylaw Motion

 

Background

 

    1)  Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CCRs)

 

a)  Definition of CCRs: Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CCRs) are guidelines that govern property use, maintenance, and aesthetics in defined communities or developments. Established by homeowners' associations (HOAs) or developers, CCRs cover architectural standards, landscaping requirements, land use, and rules on activities like noise and parking. They are crucial for maintaining property values, preserving aesthetic integrity, and fostering community pride. These rules are enforced by the HOA to shape residential environments effectively.

b)  CCRs Substituting for No Zoning Laws/Regulations: In the unincorporated areas of Tennessee where zoning laws arabsent, Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CCRs) serve a vital role in guiding how Deerfield Resort develops and how properties are used. However, unilateral amendments by Fields Development Company without input from property owners undermines community governance and residents' property rights. Recently, Fields Development Company removed the CCRs from their own properties and the golf course without consulting the court or property owners, highlighting governance issues. Additionally, issuing multiple brief CCR documents indicates a lack of comprehensive governance. Clear and enforceable CCRs are essential to ensure fairness, maintain property values, and foster a cohesive community where decisions are made democratically.

 

c)  Critical Importance of Detailed and Comprehensive CCRs: Here at Deerfield Resort, having detailed Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions (CCRs) is critical. Communities without clear guidelines on property usage, maintenance standards, and appearance can face disputes among homeowners, strain community bonds, and potentially lower property values. Vague guidelines also lead to inconsistent enforcement by the HOA, causing frustration and exposing our community to legal risks. Detailed CCRs are fundamental to promoting harmony, effective property management, and preservation of our property values.

 

    2)  Bylaws

 

a)  Definition of Bylaws: Bylaws are crucial rules that govern how our community operates. They outline the structure of our homeowners' association (HOA), define the roles of officers and directors, establish procedures for meetings, decision-making protocols, financial guidelines, and membership requirements. These rules are legally binding and are put in place to ensure transparency, accountability, and efficient functioning, protecting the interests of all of us who call this community home.

b)  Importance of Bylaws in Community Governance: For 38 years, our community has operated without formal bylaws, homeowner meetings, or an elected board. This raises concerns about the legitimacy of our HOA governance. The absence of bylaws suggests intentional exclusion of residents from decision-making by Fields Development Company, who have historically controlled our community. This prolonged lack of governance risks transparency issues, potential mismanagement, neglect of community needs, and could impact property values. It undermines democratic principles and leaves residents feeling disconnected and dissatisfied.

 

c)  Establishing Bylaws for Effective Governance: Bylaws are not just paperwork—they are the rules that shape how we run our community. They set up clear guidelines for managing our HOA, protecting our rights as property owners, and making sure decisions are fair. They also clarify things like voting rights, finances, and how we resolve disputes. Without bylaws, homeowners do not have a structured way to get involved, and Fields Development Company can make decisions without asking us first. When developers like Fields Development Company don't feel obligated to hear from property owners, it means there are not enough checks and balances in place. This lack of oversight can lead to Fields Development Company potentially ignoring their duty to act in our best interests and instead focusing on their own gain.

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