These are the problems that have been observed from several residents.
(Click the triangle beside each item for more details)
Facts important to understand:
There are approximately 1004 habitable units in St Marie. Two hundred thirty-nine ( 239) of those units belong to the Condo Association. The Condo Association is responsible for maintaining the common areas of St Marie that are within the Association. The Condo Association held it’s annual meeting in August. Approximately 20-25 people showed up in person for this meeting. The rest of the people needed to make a quorum which according to the By-Laws for the Condo Association is 25% of the membership. Therefore only 59 people were needed to conduct any Association business at the meeting. Approximately 34 of the people necessary to allow the Association to conduct business were represented by proxies controlled by the existing board of directors. The Villages of St Marie are responsible for maintaining the streets and street lights. Of the 1004 units about 280 of those actually pay their dues to the Villages. Those dues are $100 a year.
Less than 2% of residents of make all the decisions that affect St Marie
With only 25 people showing up at the Condo Association meeting in person and the remaining votes being submitted via proxies controlled by the existing board members that means that less than 2% of the residents of St Marie voted in matters that affect all of St Marie. Based on the number of votes cast in person, it is assumed that about 35 votes were cast by proxy. It is not known whether those proxies were voted by the member submitting them or if they were voted by the board deciding whom to vote for. In addition to that, there were only 3 names sent out by the Condo Association with the proxies because those were the only people who submitted information to the board prior to the meeting. There were additional candidates nominated from the floor at the Annual Meeting. None of the proxy voters knew this so they did not have an option to vote for anyone nominated from the floor since they cast their vote by proxy. If they had appeared at the meeting in person would they have still chosen to vote as they did? No one knows. The point is, there are very few people as evidenced by the lack of turn out at the annual meeting that seem to care about how the Condo Association operates, who is in control, etc. Less than 2% of residents are making decisions that affect all of us. Our property values are affected by every decision made by the Condo Association.
CA lacks funds to maintain properties because of unpaid dues
There are several properties within the Condo Association (CA) that do not pay their dues. Therefore, the Condo Association Board (CAB) cannot properly perform the duties for which they are obligated to perform. For units that belong to the CA, the roofs are to be maintained, the siding, windows, all the structure of the building is the responsibility of the CA. In addition to that, the CA is required to maintain the common areas of St Marie. There simply is not enough money to do everything that needs to be done because there are not enough units paying their dues.
Developers owe millions is the excuse given for things not being done
Someone always wants to bring up the issue of those developer units that owe millions of dollars in back fees and state that “if they would just pay what they owe”. There is very little possibility of ever collecting those funds from any individual who owes large amounts of back CA fees, water fees, taxes, etc.
Factions that take side, hold grudges and refuse to work together
There seem to be a few factions in St Marie and people seem to take sides and hold grudges and there is a lot of hostility among these groups. There is a lot of finger pointing and blame. Rather than looking for some other solutions, they tend to harp on one thing and not move past that to find another solution.
Water Department has multiple problems
The water department charges more for basic services without using any water than is average. The water pipes up here need work. The sewer system needs work. We have one maybe two people who do the work of the water department. Our system is old and falling apart. There are liens on properties that will never be collected. Many residents are angry that the water department contract forces us to be eternal customers and to pay for services even if we have our water meter removed and wish to discontinue service. Many residents leave for the winter, some leave in the summer. When these residents leave they have their water shut off and yet they are still forced to pay approximately $75 a month for a service they do not want and are not using. You should have the right to choose to end your service with the water department. Yet in St Marie no one has that right.
Roads are not maintained due to lack of funds
The roads are not being maintained properly. There is not enough money in the Villages of St Marie (VSM) to do the work that is needed to repair the roads.
Dilapidated buildings are unsafe, and driving down property values
There are dilapidated buildings that are falling down around us. Each one of these unoccupied units is driving our property values further down.
The abandoned buildings are being used by what is presumed to be teenagers in the area for various things. They are trespassing on these properties and often times vandalizing them. In addition to that, these buildings are unsafe so anyone entering them is at risk for a serious injury. If the owners of these buildings are not paying their taxes or other fees, would they have insurance that would pay in case someone is seriously injured? It is likely they would not.
There is vandalism and crime that goes on up here. Cars have been broken into. The Thrift Store was broken into. Windows are broken on buildings just for fun. There have been numerous complaints of people speeding through St Marie. There is no police presence up here other than the County Sherriff. If they can catch the people committing a crime, they could write them a ticket but the only entity to enforce that would be Valley County. It appears Valley County really doesn’t care what happens in St Marie as evidenced by the number of buildings standing that should be condemned by the county.
Valley County doesn’t care or provide any assistance to resolve issues
There are numerous unsafe buildings some are partially burned out that should be condemned by Valley County and bulldozed. Valley County appears to do nothing up here.
77% of units have no governing entity
Because only roughly 23% of the units belong to the CA and are bound by the Covenants and Deed Restrictions placed on them by the CA, the other 77% of units up here have no restrictions governing their property and therefore no recourse for the residents of St Marie to ensure that they maintain their property so as not to lower property values. There is no governing entity other than the VSM that have any power over them and the governing documents of the VSM are seriously inadequate.
Fire District has numerous problems
The Fire District of St Marie (FDSM) has numerous problems as well. They have a difficult time getting volunteer fire fighters. There have been some issues between the Board and the firefighters. The FDSM voted to take a loan to purchase a fire truck that is needed. Some residents don’t approve of this decision. The FDSM suffers the same problems as the CA and the VSM in that very few people show up to board meetings to know what is going on in the FDSM and very few run for positions on the board.
Developers owe money and are to blame for the state of affairs
This seems to be the topic that brings out the most anger and hostility. It is understandable why residents who have been here since the beginning would be angry. It appears promises were made and broken and the end result is several individuals owning properties that are now dilapidated and uninhabitable in many cases. In other cases, the back fees and liens on the properties are so high that there is no resolution available.
Units sold at a loss
Units up here sell anywhere from $5,000 - $50,000. Most units seem to sell around $10,000 - $20,000. If a unit is vacant, the owner is still responsible for paying taxes as well as $75 a month in water fees. The longer that unit goes unsold, the more deb that unit racks up. Many owners wind up selling their units at a loss or abandoning them and not paying anything. Those units wine up in some sort of foreclosure and being sold by the county at auction. This forces owners to accept low bids just to get out from under dues, water fees and taxes.
Liens hinder ability to sell properties
If a unit has liens on it from unpaid water bills, unpaid condo bills, unpaid village fees and unpaid taxes, once those liens are over let’s use the average of $27,500 no one will purchase that unit. It makes no business sense to do so as the property value is less than the liens attached to it. It also makes no sense for the CA, the Water District (NVCWD) or Valley County to spend the money to foreclose upon those units. If those units are seized and sold at a Sheriffs sale they are sold for whatever they can get. If someone purchases that unit, monies received are given to the entities who have liens. Rarely do all the entities with liens against the property receive all the monies due. So these sales do not resolve the issues for any of the parties involved.
If no one bids on these units, one of the entities with liens might wind up with the property. The new owner now has a property that will be required to pay water fees, taxes, and condo dues if it is in the CA. This new lienholder might be the water department or the condo association. Now they are financially encumbered with owing money monthly on this property and saddled with the burden of selling it to someone else. None of these entities are set up to own and manage such property. This becomes just a financial burden to the entity who acquired the property and the monies owed to that entity were never recovered. The problem was not solved it was just complicated.
Why don’t developers sell their units?
They cannot. They are a victim of what has occurred in the past just as much as the other residents. However they acquired their properties, the fact is, the liens on the properties are so high that there is no way they could sell the properties. They could give those properties outright to someone else, but the new owner would still be required to pay off those liens. No one would pay more for a property that needs repairs than the market rate of current properties. These owners are just as limited in their options as is the CA, VSM, STFD and NVCWD.
Raising dues doesn’t work
The bottom line is the property values of St Marie are so depressed that we are all suffering because of it. There is not enough money coming in to any entity that operates up here to do the job that is necessary or required by law to be done. The only “solution” anyone wants to consider is to “raise the dues”. That has been done many times and yet these problems continue to get worse. The higher you raise the dues, the more people you have that cannot afford those higher dues and they fall behind in their payments and the problem continues to grow exponentially. By law the CA must maintain the units even if the member isn’t paying their dues.
Fixed income residents cannot pay higher dues
In St Marie there are a few types of residents. There are many members who have lived here a long time and came up here to retire. Some of those are on fixed incomes. If dues and fees continue to go up, many of those will have not be able to afford increased dues.
Difficult to get renters due to problems
There are renters up here who are living here because rent is cheap. Because they are renting it is not their obligation to pay the CA fees, the VSM fees or the taxes. Depending on their rental contract they may or may not be responsible for paying their water bills. Some of those unit owners may be paying their bills some are not. The people who rent from the latter of those runs the risk of being evicted if their unit is seized in foreclosure to be sold for liens. That makes a lot of people unwilling to rent up here.
Cheap property and low property values make it easy to abandon
With the low price of purchasing a property up here, it is easy to walk away from them, abandoning them completely and not paying any fees associated with ownership.
Residents who paid more than current property value are stuck
This leaves St Marie with people who are stuck here because they purchased this as their retirement home and they have no other options. They are the ones who will suffer the most from the choices made up here. Those who rent don’t care, those who can leave at any time don’t care and those who are stuck with properties they cannot sell probably care to recover something but they have no options to get out from under their bad debt.
Hostility makes it difficult to improve things
There is hostility up here. It is understandable why people are angry about decisions that were made in the past. It is understandable how people paying their dues and not receiving services in a timely manner for those dues are angry. However, that anger and continuing hostility is not helping St Marie. It is doing more harm than good.