My Creds to be Talking About the CWPOA, CMWC & MAC
I’ve lived in Cascadel since 1981. That was before CSA 21 was formed. The county land was privately owned, but accessible to all of Cascadel Ranch. Why? A lawsuit that resulted in a 1975 stipulated judgement. That judgement still stands and all of Cascadel Ranch still has recreational access to the forty acres of central property.
I went from ignoring the shenanigans of the local “board” to finally investigating. I was supportive of them. I was critical of them. I try not to criticize without being willing to step up. I stepped up in 2002.
I lost election, but me and a friend who also lost, were appointed to the old board. The old board had seven members.
The first thing we did was make a simple modification to the bylaws to eliminate road fees. They weren’t being used for roads only, in fact, at the time 50/50 was doing well. We eliminated paying for membership. If you lived up here, you could vote. The bylaws were put to a vote of all residents. 91 of 172 voted yes.
I served six years on the old board of the Cascadel Woods Property Owners Association. This is an “association” in name only, not to be confused with a legal mandatory membership association. A “legal” association generally has authority of some kind. A voluntary association does not.
I learned the primary purpose of the association in practical terms was to make payroll for its employees. Most of its employees are members of a single family.
The history of the association is really interesting and disturbing for some. I will cover the history of the Cascadel Woods Property Owners Association later.
Permits Requirements for Road Construction Work are Now Being Enforced
This has been known and expected since 2008. This is not arbitrary. This is not personal. This is rule of law being enforced to protect public safety, just like building a house.
Facts Paint a Picture
During my time on the old board, and after, I did a lot of research. I called the county road dept many times. I studied the public record.
The road dept told me that any routine day-to-day maintenance work on roads, public or private, would not require permits at that time. The road dept told me that any dedicated public road could require encroachment permits even for routine maintenance, but that was not being enforced at the time.
The public record told me that all roads in Cascadel are public dedicated roads. So I would call them on occasion to check if encroachment permits were being enforced or not. They were not at that time.
Quick example: every fence or other object in county right of way requires an encroachment permit. That’s virtually every property in rural Madera County. They are not enforced.
But if a complaint is made, they may be enforced. My fence was reported to the county. I had to get an encroachment permit. The permit requirement is not personal. Reporting me, however, is personal. I can guess who did.
Houstons versus Madera County
In 2007, while still president of the old board, I wound up in court criminally charged because of a dispute brought by two new residents. A road the old CWPOA was working on splits their property. In 2005, they personally sued me, a CWPOA employee, another old CWPOA board member, their neighbors, and the county. They did not sue the old CWPOA directly.
They made a deal with the county. They dismissed everyone without trial.
For reasons unknown, the county counsel had me charged personally for them. Personally. No red tag. No CWPOA stop work notice. Nothing. Just personal charges brought within ten hours of the alleged 2007 acts. The charges alleged 5 misdemeanors punishable by up to a total of 30 months in jail and /or $2,500 in fines.
The charges alleged road construction activities without a permit. There was no road construction. I performed no road work of any kind. The allegedly illegal work was performed by a contractor for the CWPOA.
I was dismissed before trial in May of 2008. Though there was no construction, the takeaway outcome: all construction permit requirements would be enforced moving forward. The contractor at the time made note. The contractor at the time was fired by the new board for reasons unexplained.
That Was Then, This Is Now
The new board now complains of being targeted by the county.
No one has been charged. No one has received arraignment letters from the court. No one has been personally fined. No one has been sued.
However, according to the agenda letter the new board president sent out, the new board has just sued the county in small claims court.
After the new board president and his employee invited the county up for a tour of operations, the new board was sent a cease and desist letter for snow removal in 2012. The timing wasn’t good. The RMD outreach and education was underway. The new board mailed the county letter out to all complaining about the county.
As a courtesy, the county issued the new board a temporary permit for snow removal with the understanding that for 2013 / 2014 the new board would have to meet the higher requirements. This wasn’t mailed out to all.
At the March 8 meeting, the new board said the county arbitrarily changed the standards.
Substandard Illegal Culvert Construction
For reasons unknown, the general engineering contractor previously used by the old CWPOA was let go by the new board. Another contractor was hired, not a general engineering contractor but a paving contractor.
The new board proceeded to construct two culvert replacements, without contacting the road dept, without permits, without engineering. Whether a road is public or private doesn’t matter. Construction permits are required. Just like a house.
During the RMD effort, the new board president and his employee reported the substandard work to the county road dept. Not surprisingly, and again with bad timing, the new board was mailed a 90 day correction notice for substandard and failing culvert construction work.
During the RMD effort, the new board mailed that notice out to all, complaining about the county. Did the new board and its “road” employee report that work to the county to bring on a notice they could use?
That ninety day notice is now over a year and half past due. No one has been charged. The work has not been corrected. The county is remiss. This isn’t targeting. This looks more like favoritism.
Be that as it may, the new board now alleges that the substandard work was reported by a resident.
Point Being This Was All Expected
The outcome of all this is that none of the requirements being enforced is a surprise. The enforcement is not arbitrary. Assemble enough facts and a picture emerges.
The picture that emerges shows a new CWPOA that feels sorry for itself and put upon. Rather than getting the job done, they are spending tens of thousands on legal fees to “defend” our “rights” by trying to prohibit rule of law.
The Current “CWPOA” Crew
First, this isn’t the CWPOA any more. It’s been completely overhauled under the current president starting in 2009. You’ll note the use of “new” and “old” to differentiate.
Four of the years I was on the old board the new board president was also on the old board. The new board president quit the old board in 2008, only to come back and take over in 2009. The new board then overhauled the old CWPOA into something completely different, at great expense.
The new CWPOA board is not ignorant of the events of 2007 involving roads and permit requirements moving forward. Why the sour grapes now?
The Latest from Stamas
My name keeps coming up at their meetings. Negatively. Disparagingly. The new board and their loud supporters keep putting words in my mouth when I’m absent, picking on my wife, demonizing, speculating. I’ve decided to make an effort to share the facts.
I will do more regular updates and I’m going to call them “The Latest from Stamas”, in honor of a phrase coined by a local resident.
What Is The Real Goal of the New CWPOA?
Assemble enough facts and a picture emerges. And the picture that emerges is confusing and alarming. There seems to be no point. The law is the law. This is the United States of America. Why waste money and energy trying to do the impossible?
IMPORTANT PROPERTY OWNERS MEETING Cascadel Woods Property Owners Association
Received this opinion piece in the mail today. An “agenda” for the regular meeting of the Cascadel Woods Property Owners Association CWPOA for March 8, 2014 not posted on their web site.
Here’s the agenda part:
1. Call to order; establish quorum
2. Approve agenda
3. Current CWPOA issues for discussion and action
There appears to be only one agenda item “issues” for “discussion” and “action”. Following is a line by line rebuttal of sorts.
It has been a tumultuous year since the community voted by a 2 to 1 margin to reject the Road Maintenance District that was proposed by the County of Madera.
One may accept the year as being “tumultuous”, if you count the predicted inability of the CWPOA to get any meaningful road improvements done as “tumultuous”. However, the year has been anything but tumultuous. The year has shown only what the CWPOA board knew unequivocally in 2008, that the CWPOA is ill equipped to handle road improvements after the events of 2008. The requirement that permits and engineering would be imposed has been known since at least 2008.
The “2 to 1″ margin is correct for those who voted. What isn’t mentioned is that only 46 percent of those eligible actually voted NO, that 53 percent didn’t vote, and that only 20 votes needed to change their mind from “yes” to “no” to swing the vote. That’s all the paid employees needed to preserve their “road” income. And they went door to door to get them to change their minds, and spent hundreds of dollars on spin mailings.
At the meeting March 8, the new board president said “we represent the majority”. Even if the NO votes were a yes vote on the new board, 46 percent isn’t a majority.
The last statement “proposed by the County of Madera” is patently false. The district was proposed by me and dozens of excited residents who also wanted to see road improvements. Cascadel Heights has a very successful road district and have since 1995. A road district is drop dead simple and works. The CWPOA doesn’t.
Your Board of Directors believes that your votes, to overwhelmingly reject the interference by the County, was a vote to keep local control of our roads.
The vote was a simple YES or NO on the question of funding road improvements through a funding district like Cascadel Heights does. The vote was note to “reject” “the interference by the county”. The vote was not to “keep local control” of the roads, control that does not, in fact, exist. The county collecting funds for us to improve the roads in Cascadel at the request of residents is hardly “interference”.
The current CWPOA “belief” that improving our roads is “interference” reveals that their goal must not be to improve roads. That’s all a YES vote said. Please improve our roads. Please use our road money on roads through a funding district.
The new CWPOA goal appears to be to preserve and perpetuate the CWPOA, and its employees paychecks for services indiscernible, at road expense, without telling us where the road money really goes, overhead, attorneys, employees, rent, utilities, all of the things prohibited by law. Doing so constitutes fraud.
The new board once said we couldn’t have a road district and a CWPOA. The issue for them, is them, always has been about them, and their paid employees, not the people, not safety, not safe roads, not what’s best for everyone.
As for local control, a road maintenance district IS local control by design.
So if the secret activity of the new CWPOA board is what real “local control” looks like, spending tens of thousands on attorneys, meetings by email, doing whatever the heck they want without disclosure, then, in fact, a district is blindingly open local control.
A district by comparison would be exceedingly transparent and open, the ultimate local control. See Cascadel Heights RMD 97. Better roads, better safety, better value since 1995.
Unfortunately, the Proposition 218 vote appears to have been the opening move in the County’s strategic effort to eliminate our ability to manage the affairs of Cascadel Woods.
“Opening move”? This is just silly.
“Manage the affairs of Cascadel Woods”? What “affairs”? These statements indicate an inflated sense of self importance. The CWPOA was formed for social purposes. The old CWPOA that is. The new one seems to be operating under the misconception that the do anything of value other than remove snow. And that could be so easily attained by the county plow that is already here it’s moot.
The only affairs to “manage” for the new CWPOA are making payroll, paying insurance, paying utilities, paying rent, so the CWPOA can make payroll, pay insurance, pay attorneys, pay rent, rinse, repeat.
This wasn’t always the case, but times change. And so must circumstances. The new CWPOA needs to admit the facts. They need to admit that a local bake sale group is not the appropriate group to manage roads. The professionals at the road dept are.
Now, it costs ~$25,000 per year for the CWPOA to do absolutely nothing according to the new CWPOA documents. They’ve increased expenses to the point that now the goal and purpose is first and foremost survival of the organization, not providing service of value. Because if providing service of value was ever the goal, then the new board would have endorsed the road district when I initially approached them seeking endorsement.
The road district will not harm the new CWPOA. The only thing the new CWPOA has to do, is be honest about where the money goes, what it costs to operate, and how they raise that funding.
The County is a Public Servant
The county has no desire to do anything but obey the law and carry out their public service. Unfortunately for them, the CWPOA is violating multiple laws. They have no choice but to enforce.
The whole “opening move” statement exhibits a complete lack of reality. Cascadel Ranch is in Madera County, California, the United States of America.
In the last year, the Board has been required to actively defend against questionable interpretations of State Law and County Code and imposition of arbitrary regulatory requirements:
- The CWPOA invoiced the County for reimbursement of CSA-21 expenses for $8152.40. The County rejected all claims. The CWPOA was forced to file in Small Claims court.
- The CWPOA was presented a claim by the county for $18,000
- Due to the delays in satisfying the application requirements to complete the culvert repairs, the County is threatening to sue the CWPOA, its directors and individual members for alleged violations of Streets and Highways Section 1487. Section 1487 applies to persons who “by means of ditches or dams, obstructs or injures any county highway, diverts any watercourse into any county highway, drains water from his or her land upon any county highway, to the injury of the county highway …” Section 1487 is clearly not applicable to the activities of the CWPOA.
- To defend the community the Board has had to have the advice of an attorney
Okay. Let’s see. Roundup time.
- The CWPOA has been “required” to defend itself against rule of law. Required by who? Couldn’t they just comply with law like the rest of the world?
- The CWPOA billed the County Service Area and was rejected. Okay, got it. They must not have been legitimate charges.
- The CWPOA has sued Madera County. Whoa! That’s big. Hadn’t heard about that. Did the CWPOA tell anyone they were suing the county? Could a district sue the county without voter approval? Nope. But the CWPOA can do whatever the heck it wants with your money, by email, behind closed doors, and does, constantly. At the March 8 meeting the new board did not disclose they have sued Madera County.
- The county claims the CWPOA owes it $18,000. Well, that sort of shows why they aren’t paying the 8 grand right? If the 8 grand wasn’t legit, it appears that past payments already made weren’t legit either. So how much in legal fees using your money is the CWPOA willing to spend to not pay $18,000? $50,000? $100,000? Just how much have they spent on legal fees anyway? According to CWPOA documents, legal fees have been an annual expense in the thousands every year without fail under the current president, rising steadily, and have now reached record highs, around $60,000 total, and rising. This beats all past CWPOA boards legal fees COMBINED.
- Delays in “satisfying” requirements? Real pros get it done in a matter of weeks. We’re at four years and counting for the current motley crew. Isn’t this just what we predicted would happen if a social club tried to construct road facilities? Yes, it is. And this is also what the CWPOA promised would never happen. That they could do everything better, cheaper, faster, stronger. Now they make excuses? Now they are giving legal opinions? Really? Oh yeah, Section 1487 is “clearly’ not applicable? And the point is what? The county has the authority to interpret and enforce. The CWPOA does not.
- Which brings us to the statement “To defend the community” the CWPOA has had to squandor tens of thousand of dollars in legal fees.
Defend against what? The sun rising in the east? If one wants to build a house, you get a permit, engineering, go through planning, and follow the rules. Same for roads. Same for culverts. Even more so for culverts in sensitive watersheds. The same for any construction.
Public works, private, whatever. Makes no difference. There are codes that must be followed because we live in the United States of America.
The County has imposed new requirements on the CWPOA that do not seem to have ever been imposed on anyone else in Madera County:
- First snowplow inspection in history
- The first ever requirement for a snowplow encroachment permit
- First ever requirement for Class A Contractor’s License to operate our privately owned snowplow
- The only snowplow in the County (including the County’s) which must use skids. Using skids can result in ice build up on our roads making driving and/or walking hazardous
Where does one start with this? New requirements? They wrote new laws? Come on. The county decides to enforce existing law and we are supposed to be outraged? This begs the question, so? Just comply like the rest of the world does!
And the old CWPOA board back then discovered the CWPOA had no standing or authority to do roads anyway, and announced as much to everyone in writing. So the CWPOA is pushing it to be trying to do roads at all. The CWPOA was not created for road maintenance.
Back in 2008, the new CWPOA board president proposed county road maintenance. So what happened? Now it’s sue the county to “prohibit” the county from enforcing law. It’s a wholesale reversal.
Okay, so to respond to each of those four points:
- First snowplow inspection in history: Dubious statement. Clearly your road dollars are being put to good use researching whether or not anyone else has ever had to have a piece of snow removal equipment inspected to protect public safety, particularly small children pedestrians who like to play in the snow. Talley Oil had to have an inspection. They plow for the county. They plow Cascadel Heights.
- The first ever requirement for a snowplow encroachment permit: How can they know that? These are county right of ways accepted for use by the public long ago. If the county decides to require encroachment permits deal with it. More wasted dollars. How often has the CWPOA attorney been paid to go sift through county records? Does that really provide any meaningful value to us?
- First ever requirement for Class A Contractor’s License to operate our privately owned snowplow: Sour grapes. Do you have to register your car and have working taillights? Come on CWPOA. Get over it. Talley Oil is under contract to operate their “private snowplow” on county right of way too, with the same requirements for public safety. This too begs the question: So? Comply like a man. The CWPOA promised they could do it cheaper, better, faster, stronger, remember? Obviously, they cannot.
- The only snowplow in the County (including the County’s) which must use skids: Is this supposed be outrageous? What’s next? A back up beeper is an outrage? Requiring headlights that work? Skids or “shoes” are designed into every snowplow for optional use for a reason. Their purpose is to keep the plow from ripping up the roads, like ours get ripped up over and over. You may have noticed that the roads in Cascadel get torn to shreds in the rough areas by the incessant over plowing round and round and round. Heard the popping sound of the plow ripping up asphalt? Yeah, all too often. Talley Oil used shoes. They wore out too quickly. So they switched to a titanium blade. Is the new CWPOA using a titanium blade? Should be no problem getting that waived.
Perhaps the county professionals at the road dept know something we don’t about preserving roads and making them last. Perhaps the operator of the plow doesn’t know how to operate the plow correctly. Shoes are installed to protect the road surface and the operator. They do not create dangerous conditions.
Again, so what if this is required. If you wanna do roads, comply. Rain causes ice. Is rain outrageous? So does snow. Maybe we should sue the sky.
Since October of 2013, the RMA Department has received several requests to post signage at the entrance of the subdivision to prevent additional illegal shootings from our roadways and has yet to cooperate.
“Cooperate”? Now the county is supposed to “cooperate” with the nation of Cascadel. Perhaps we can have a world summit.
The first subdivision was created in 1957. Fifty seven years and counting with no signs.
The CWPOA was let go from operating the district, and removed from the decaying unsafe clubhouse due to zoning rules. Maybe this is all just sour grapes?
It is the belief of the CWPOA Board:
- The County appears to be focused on driving the CWPOA out of existence
- The County has increasingly assumed control over our roads in spite of the fact that it never accepted offers of dedication for these roads and has previously recognized the legal effect of court decisions granting authority and responsibility for road maintenance to the property owners in Cascadel Woods.
- The County undercut the CWPOA’s authority by issuing a permit for road maintenance work on our roads to the Fire Safe Council, and refusing to issue a permit in 2013 to the CWPOA.
- There should have been elections as promised for the Municipal Advisory Committee (the MAC); instead, there were appointments made by our County Supervisors. The MAC provides input to the Supervisors about the maintenance and operations of the Cascadel Woods Common Areas, but as a community, we have no input on who serves on the MAC.
These statements reveal that in practical terms the new CWPOA has no purpose whatsoever. The Heights’ roads are repaired and plowed nicely. We can’t drive out until the main road is done anyway. Why not just have the county do it all?
- The County appears to be focused on driving the CWPOA out of existence: Enforcing the rules isn’t personal, it’s the law. Welcome to reality CWPOA.
- The County has increasingly assumed control over our roads: This statement is false. First, the county has now, has had, and always will have, control over the roads in Madera County. It’s part of living in what is known as a country, in our case, the United States of America. Second, they aren’t the CWPOA’s roads, and never will be.
- The County undercut the CWPOA’s authority by issuing a permit for road maintenance: The CWPOA has no authority for the county to undercut. They are a voluntary club. They are self appointed and self involved. The road authority here is the Madera County Road Dept. The road dept and engineering dept has the authority to authorize any work, anywhere, within rule of law, they desire.
- There should have been elections as promised for the Municipal Advisory Committee (the MAC): This statement is half true in that an election has been promised. No time frame was given. So technically, the statement is false, but, yes, the county did promise an election. The MAC is doing great, and costs zero. We might actually get some decent furniture soon.
Well, the rest of the agenda is alleged “complaints” the “CWPOA Board” has received.
Complaints and Issues presented to the CWPOA Board include:
- Under the direction of the MAC, there has been a considerable lack in mowing, clearinq and/or watering. The Clubhouse facility and grounds’ condition and appearance are deteriorating with increased fire danger. Check the current conditions of the Common Areas and judge for yourself.
- Removal of signage from the entrance of Cascadel Woods
This reaches the County Service Area firing because the CWPOA was practicing what appeared to be price gouging. For four years straight, the four years under the current president, CSA 21 was charged an average of $18,500 per year, well over the total assessment of ~$15,000. This during a time the Fire Safe Council carried out a $200,000 project here. Where did all that money go?
Our resident fire consultant, and CAL Fire, have both determined that meadow mowing is not needed for fire safety. Clearly, meadow mowing was used as a means of enriching individuals and the CWPOA. That’s over now. There is no increased fire danger. Those kinds of statements coming form self-appointed “elected officials” are reckless and irresponsible. There is no greater fire danger here due to the county property, than there ever was. The danger here is heavy vegetation around structures, not the clubhouse, not the open space. This is sensational propaganda and fear mongering.
The Directors of the CWPOA Board are your elected representatives who are dedicated to protecting your ability to make decisions in matters related to Cascadel’s roads and your enjoyment of your property rights in Cascadel Woods. There are more facts to share with the community.
If you would like to know more, there will be handouts, additional information and discussion at the meeting.
We urge you to attend. Your Board of Directors wants to hear from you on these issues, or other matters of concern regarding Cascadel Woods. If you cannot attend, we would hope you would contact one of the Board members and authorize that director to speak on your behalf.
Really appreciate that the CWPOA has suddenly discovered they care about our property rights.
How about the right to living free of fraud and imposition?
The CWPOA keeps sending bills for which they have no right to collect.
The CWPOA doesn’t “represent” anyone. Even if you join the club, they don’t “represent” you. They represent an idea, a social club, a property rights advocate.
For example, if one joins the NRA, the NRA doesn’t become your “representative” regarding guns. They represent an idea.
It’s absurd for a club with a declining membership they won’t disclose for pretty obvious reasons, maybe half the properties up here, to claim they are some kind of authority. And again, it always comes down to why? Why do they need the ego stroking?
5. Closed Session
About what? We’ll never know.
7. Reconvene open session
8. Report from closed session; action if needed
This much is clear. The new CWPOA has sued the county, on your dime, and will reap what they have sown.
Any group that actually cares about Cascadel supports getting our roads permanently fixed right, viably, permanently, through a road district. Nothing is stopping the new CWPOA from telling the truth: they are collecting “road” fees to pay their overhead, utilities and employees. Remeber, the old CWPOA eliminated road fees because it simply did not reflect practical reality. The new board put them back. Why?
In the words of one of their supporters in a statement made at an RMD meeting “if people knew where their money really went, no one would pay”. Perhaps. But perhaps the new CWPOA can simply be honest and charge membership dues that reflect the true cost of overhead. Then maybe no one would pay, but no one would be the victim of fraud.