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Property owners protest The Preserve of Texas

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While most folks were gathering for a weekend of family and giving thanks, property owners in The Preserve, located in northern Liberty County on HWY 105, came together over the weekend in protest against the property owners association they say is out of control as dues have skyrocketed in recent years, while services have plummeted or gone unrepaired across that community. The subdivision is a mix of 1,248 permanent and part-time residents. They feel like the property developer, SWE of Houston, which has a controlling interest in the POA with approximately 3,400 lots, has failed to keep up the area properly.

The subdivision developer is Scott Wizig, the owner of SWE of Houston and its subsidiary companies. He also holds a controlling vote in the POA, according to others, because he has ownership over the majority of the lots in the 2,000-acre development.

“The biggest part of the protest was that we have no voice. We don’t even have a vote through our ballots,” said Karen Proctor-Sarginson.

According to the website preserveoftexas. com is “Where dreams are built, and memories are made!” Well, according to the property owners that came out to protest over the holiday weekend, that could not be further from the truth, especially when it comes to how the POA represents them.

“The Preserve POA board is supposed to represent the interests of all owners, however, because the developer owns the most lots, he gets the most votes. In addition, the majority of the POA board and management company all work for the developer; therefore, whatever he deems desirable is the end result,” said Janette Goulder-Frick in a letter to the editor last week.

Apparently, the dues have continued to increase a great deal in recent years, and the newest round of increases was decided at a virtual POA meeting on Tuesday.

Property owners had been notified by mail to expect an increase of 33.3% to 66.6% for 2022. Those changes came during a somewhat chaotic meeting at best, with participants hoping to address the board, being told that they could not speak and were only there to vote, before informing those on the zoom call that their votes had to have either been received by mail or had to be emailed in by 4:30 pm before the executive board recessed and went into executive session.

“This is a meeting where you only have the right to vote and not to speak,” said Board President Jose Martinez.

At that point, a conversation began amongst the attendees, and several of them were blocked after several attempts by those controlling the Zoom meeting to mute individuals that were speaking. Some were calling for property owners to start a letter campaign to the Texas Attorney General’s office.

“It was disgusting. I understand the frustration of everybody because basically he read the agenda and came back and said everything had passed,” said Proctor-Sarginson.

Gary Laws, who represents The Preserve as legal counsel, believes the meetings are being held as they should be, although he acknowledges he had not attended recent meetings.

“I do understand the meetings are being conducted pursuant to the property code, as well as the declaration,” said Laws.

Once the vote was finalized, it saw increases in all dues, with some reaching over 300% in increases since the developer took over The Preserve. Some of those increases are being called into question, as they are substantially higher for residents with “waterfront properties.” Still, residents argue there are no actual waterfront properties and that the area on the water is common property owned by the developer. The developer also is not responsible for paying dues and appears to receive three votes for each lot, as opposed to the single vote the other property owners receive.

One of the other major concerns is that with all of the increases in dues and fees, there is a plethora of deteriorating infrastructure throughout the development, including roads and a bridge in desperate need of repair. Residents feel there is no transparency and believe an audit is needed of the group’s finances.

The Preserve believes that increases in dues are necessary for them to correct the issues in the development, with modifications needed to the water plant and for other infrastructure, most notably the primary bridge in and out of the subdivision. Laws argued that the neighborhood has been running at a deficit for years and that increases to dues are the only way to accomplish that.

“There needs to be a raise in dues to pay for services,” said Laws.

After this week’s meeting, residents feel they are completely being ignored and underrepresented by the organization. Now they will seek other means to address their grievances.

“We have no choice at this point but to get an attorney. We will be contacting the attorney general,” concluded Proctor-Sarginson.