At the annual Spring meeting (2019) it was announced that then-president Janet Crystal had done much research in the County Register of Deeds Office; the Board had reviewed her findings, as had the Board's attorney, and decided the Developer, Mr. Wood was correct: the two documents which had been previously recorded, claiming to amend the Original Covenants, had been done incorrectly; the Association would henceforth recognize the Original Covenants as the only binding restrictive covenants.
The Board had the Original Covenants reprinted into a new pamphlet, and handed them out to all members present at the Fall meeting in September. I was present, and received a copy.
After looking over my copy, I found a problem. The pamphlet contained "additional rules" which did not appear in the Original Covenants.
Over the next several weeks I spoke with the new president Darrel Tue, and the former president (Janet), regarding this discrepancy. A good while later, Janet got back with me and said the Board had decided to allow the additional rules to stand for now, pending further debate.
During this time a man who had bought a lot from me expressed concern because he wanted to do something which was prohibited by one of the Association's "additional rules". He ended up canceling his contract. Naturally this concerns me, as I view those "additional rules" as illegitimate and, therefore, believe the Association does me an actual, actionable damage by continuing to publish said rules.
On September 23rd I emailed the following letter to the Members of the Board, which the Association President later confirmed by phone they have received:
As you can see, the Association was given thirty days to respond. Today is December 3rd, they've had forty days, and they have failed to make any response. I view their failure to respond as an admission the "additional rules" are void.September 23rd, 2019
Members of the Board
P.O. Box 64
Leroy, MI 49655
Re: Covenants and Rules
Notice and Demand
Dear Members of the Board:
I am writing with regard to concerns I have about the new “Covenants” pamphlet prepared by Janet Crystal.
Before I begin I want to say how pleased I am that we are finally on the same page as to the lawful status of the Original Covenants. The Board’s acknowledgment of this fact is in large part due to Janet’s hard work and research, and she has my thanks.
Janet’s use of the first page of the pamphlet to highlight the additional restrictions with regard to mobile homes and camping on selected lots was succinct and to the point. Well done, Janet!
The main body of the document seems to be photocopied from an old pamphlet which my dad had printed back in the 1970s, and which was again reproduced in the 1980s. The copy is a little rough, having obviously seen some wear, and includes some hand annotations. I don’t know if the annotations were Janet’s, or if they were already present on the copy she used as her photo-source.
On the one hand I might have liked to have seen the document re-typeset, for appearances sake. On the other, realizing the source is from an old original copy saved me from feeling the need to scrutinize and compare every word.
On the whole I prefer the latter, at least for now. Insofar as the document is faithfully reproduced, I cannot take issue with the contents, since this is the original declaration of restrictive covenants which we all agree has never been changed.
I do, however, take issue with the content of the last two pages of the pamphlet, which appear under the title “RLFPOA have implemented additional rules.” This section lists eleven paragraphs containing alleged rules which do not appear in the Original Covenants. I see them as divided as follows:
Insofar as those rules affect the Common Properties, I have no objection. It is the Association’s express duty and bailiwick to make rules regarding the use and maintenance of the Common Properties. Insofar as those rules purport to affect Original Lots, I hereby give notice that I object, and formally challenge their legitimacy.
- Common Properties: 1, 9, 10, 11
- Original Lots: 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8
Within thirty days of your receipt of this Notice and Demand, please either remove the offending lines, or respond with any and all basis in authority upon which the Association relies for it’s purported enactment, publication, and enforcement of the alleged rules in the pamphlet, identified above under the heading “Original Lots”, together with copies of any and all evidence in support of same which may be in the Association’s possession.
If the Board fails to timely satisfy this Demand, then without further notice I will presume in good faith that the alleged rules are illegitimate and without basis or merit; the Board Members have included these alleged rules with full knowledge they are illegitimate; and the Association and/or its Board Members will take full responsibility for any damages or losses caused by the reliance upon the Association’s publication or enforcement of the alleged rules, whether such reliance is by a Member, or a prospective Member. Further, I reserve the right to publish notice of this good faith presumption to all the Members and/or the public in any manner I deem prudent or reasonable, and to take any other action I may deem reasonable to protect myself from damage or losses inflicted by the Board in this regard.
My reason for this Notice and Demand is because the alleged rules in contention unjustly deprive me, and other Members of our private property rights, and the past publication and enforcement of such alleged rules have already caused me real monetary damages, and have the potential to cause me continuing damages and losses in the future.
In the spirit of cooperation, I will share with you my opinion as follows:
If I’m not mistaken, I believe those rules come from the Association’s bylaws. It seems to me that over the years, various Board Members have been confused as to the difference between the Covenants which restrict the Original Lots, and the Association’s bylaws, which simply set forth rules under which the Association, a non-profit corporation, will operate.
The Covenants empower the Association with the ownership, maintenance, and management of the Common Properties. Nowhere within the Covenants is the Association empowered with the authority to enact, publish, or enforce rules with regard to the Original Lots.
Not even a vote of the Members is sufficient to place restrictions upon Original Lots. The Covenants list exactly two purposes for which the Members may vote:
Both of those items deal with the Members’ money, which is the Members’ private property. They are the only items allowed within the Covenants upon which Members may vote to affect the private property of other Members. This includes, but is not limited to Original Lots.
- The levy of special assessments for the purpose of construction, reconstruction, unexpected repair or replacement of a particular capital improvement upon the Common Properties (Article V, Section 4);
- A change in the basis and maximum of annual assessments [dues] (Article V, Section 5).
The Association’s bylaws may allow the Members to vote on other issues as well, such as the election of Board Members, and the management of the Common Properties. It is not necessary to list these additional issues in the Covenants, because such issues affect exclusively that which is within the purview of the Association: The Common Properties.
This is an all-important distinction. What it means is this: If any Member at a meeting makes a motion to enact a rule restricting Original Lots, the Board Member who has been designated as the Board’s parliamentarian has a responsibility to immediately strike down the motion on the grounds it exceeds the authority of the Members to enact such a rule. It also means that any such rules which have been enacted in the past, were done without authority, and are not lawful.
It is not my wish to confront the Board in such a direct manner as this, however due to damages I have already suffered over matters directly related to this, and the potential such damages may continue and even multiply, I believe it is crucial the matter be addressed now and forever.
We have a common interest in the well-being of The Forest. Thank you for working with me so far, and let’s please put this matter to rest.
PRTC Trust, RLF Developer
Gregory Wood, trustee