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Pond stirs up trouble
DCN color

A homeowners association has returned to the Dawsonville City Council seeking help in cleaning up its retention pond.

Randy Davis, president of the homeowners association for the Howser Mill subdivision, told council during its meeting Monday night that the pond is "totally overgrown, you can't see the bottom."

"If you would clean it, lien it - maybe even go as far as to foreclose it - and deed it to us for $1, we'll take it off your hands and it'll be a done deal," he said.

The homeowners association has been unable to do the cleaning itself, as the city asked subdivisions to do in October, because the pond sits on private property.

According to the city, the land was bought during a tax sale to recover unpaid taxes after the original developers left.

The property is zoned for a retention pond for the subdivision and cannot be developed in any other way.

Under the city's premises maintenance ordinance, the city may claim the land in order to abate a nuisance. The city would then clean the property, put a lien on it and attempt to foreclose.

"Right now, it is a health hazard. Nothing has been done to that thing since 2005, when the subdivision was built," Davis said. "We have all sorts of critters coming out of it."

According to Davis, the homeowners have had no contact with the property owner.

"I had discussions with [the owner] about an hour before this meeting and he told me that he had approximately $9,000 in the property and that he would be willing to sell it for that amount," said Dawsonville Mayor James Grogan. "We've got $8,000 in cleanup costs to go with that, so we'd be talking about $17,000 in total."

According to the council, it's a burden the homeowners association should share.

"I feel that you, as the HOA, have a vested interest in this property," said Councilman Chris Gaines. "I would like to see some level of participation from the HOA and there hasn't been any response from that."

Previously, the council has attempted to split the estimated $8,000 cleaning cost with the association. No agreement was reached.

"We were supposed to receive that area of land anyway under the old covenants and restrictions," Davis said. "After 75 percent capacity, we would assume responsibility for it. We aren't there yet. We don't need to purchase something that's going to come to us eventually."

The subdivision is two homes shy of reaching that 75 percent occupancy rate, though that may not even affect the issue.

"That land isn't coming to you," said City Attorney Dana Miles. "The declarant, which was the developer, was foreclosed upon by the bank. Whatever interest they owned, including this lot, was sold at a tax sale.

"The new owner is not subject to that declaration that he must convey this land to you. Whatever right you had to receive it, under my analysis of the situation, is gone."

Council members said they remain willing to help out the residents, but must approach the subject carefully.

"When we discussed this initially, it was always with cooperation and help from the HOA," said Councilwoman Angie Smith. "I'm concerned about a precedent we set if we pay for all of this ourselves."

According to Grogan, the city would like to resolve the issue as soon as possible.

"We're talking about $17,000, which is $8,500 each," Grogan said. "If you would be willing to put in the other half, we could resolve the whole issue and be done with it, rather than spend any more time, effort and money on this issue."

Davis said that any such a decision would have to go before the association's board of directors.

The owner of the property could not be reached for comment.