Kent County Levy Court chambers hosted a packed house during its business meeting Tuesday night, with many county residents attending to offer feedback on a proposed ordinance that would help property owners create their own homeowners associations.
The ordinance, which the Levy Court commissioners unanimously passed, would deem that any money that residents pay upfront to a builder for a future HOA is put into an escrow account and could not be touched by the builder. At a certain point, the governance of the HOA is transferred from the builder and their board to the homeowners.
It also holds builders accountable for providing recreational spaces that they promised homebuyers and helps HOAs maintain those spaces by making those areas exempt from property taxes.
Councilmembers were quite frank about the fact that this ordinance is a work in progress and that it is something that they will be revisiting.
"This is not a final solution, this is our first step to resolving those problems that continue to come to the Levy Court," said Commissioner George Sweeney.
This ordinance came about at the behest of residents like Theodora Butler, who says amenities in her community, Noble's Pond, have yet to be built.
"There are people out there that are paying for amenities that have not even been built," Butler said.
Levy Court has a provision in the ordinance that would require that all amenities be in place by the time that 80 percent of the development is built, but Butler requested that they go a step further and add a time limit, so that the ordinance would give the builder until 80 percent completion or four years. This would keep residents from having to pay for something year after year that doesn't even exist, she said.
The commissioners made it clear that this ordinance is not retroactive; it will not affect any existing homeowners associations or developments. It also will not apply to every new development that comes in, Sweeney said.
"I want to make sure people know that the ordinance we are proposing tonight affects those developments that have not begun yet, that are in the unincorporated areas. It's only in areas outside of municipal boundaries," he said.
Sweeney went onto suggest that anyone who agreed with the ordinance and wanted to apply it to an incorporated area should reach out to their own town councils.