Leisure Park hasn’t been a laid-back place lately.
People moving into the retirement community for its promised security and relaxed atmosphere have found themselves in the middle of a power struggle with the developer.
Some residents are angry that Al Eborall controls the homeowners association, runs his business in a clubhouse that residents own and maintain, and is building condominiums for possible use as rentals.
Leisure Park appears to be a case study of the pitfalls of homeowners associations - for developers and residents alike. Trouble typically stems from a rocky transition from a developer-controlled to a homeowner-controlled association.
Disgruntled homeowners can interfere with attempts to continue development, and bitter feelings between developers and homeowners can result in disputes.
That’s what happened at Leisure Park.
The community was established in the early 1980s as a subdivision designed for people age 40 and over.
Its signature amenity is the clubhouse, which features a Jacuzzi, an exercise center, putting green, large kitchen and library. The development now has 178 lots, and about 135 have been sold.
Homeowners pay $50 per month for water and upkeep of common areas. Eborall sells the lots, builds the homes and collects the fees. He also lives there.
Tension surfaced last year during meetings of the community’s social organization, and the Hayden City Council wound up an unwitting referee on some issues.
Eborall operates real estate and construction businesses from the clubhouse, attracting workers with muddy boots. Some homeowners say his business has no place in their clubhouse, and that he pays too little to lease the space.
The city’s attorney defended Eborall, saying planned unit developments are “unique” and typically include business activity to promote sales.
Eborall disputes residents’ complaints and plans to expand the development by 96 lots.
If the Hayden City Council approves the expansion next month, residents worry Eborall will have gained even more control of the homeowners association.
Residents complained to city hall about Eborall’s plans to rent condominiums, which he’s building to attract residents who want fewer maintenance worries.
The unhappy homeowners researched the association’s bylaws and covenants, conditions and restrictions and discovered that in 1991 they could have voted their own board of directors into office.
Yet, the board never had held an election for its directors. Eborall appointed them.
“By those bylaws … we were supposed to assume management of the park,” said Leo McGavick, a homeowner who served as an officer of the social organization. “We tried to put up nominations to the board.”
Eborall and the board, which included his son and daughter at the time, considered this a threat to the integrity of the homeowners association and sued.
“We were put in the position to determine whether or not the association was legal,” Eborall said. “They were saying it wasn’t and trying to take it over.”
The homeowners viewed the lawsuit as an attempt to silence them.
“All I was doing was stating an opinion that we thought the board was improperly elected,” said George Kristovich, one of five defendants.
They settled the lawsuit this month, and reluctantly agreed not to contest the legality of the association or its board of directors.
The prospects of winning looked bleak and expensive. Moreover, they were paying twice. Once for their attorney, and again to the homeowners association, which had sued them.
“My gut hurts even thinking about it,” McGavick said.
Support for the rebellious homeowners hasn’t been overwhelming. In fact, dozens of residents signed a statement last fall disassociating themselves from the activist group.
Some simply are indifferent to the politics of their community, and just want to live in peace.
“I don’t have any fault with what’s going on. I don’t mind a little fudging one way or another,” said Bob Boyd, a 75-year-old resident. “I feel I’m getting my money’s worth for my homeowners’ dues.”
Watt Prather, a former judge and homeowner in the park, explained why he and about 60 other people signed a petition in support of the addition of 96 lots - even though those lots will give Eborall 96 more votes in the association.
“We want this developed out to its full potential,” Prather said. “That will spread the cost to more homeowners.”
Prather and other Eborall supporters dismiss the disgruntled faction as a handful of people with personal grudges against Eborall.
No one disputes that the developer has made a few enemies.
His detractors include Ann and Jerry Wall. They complained to Eborall and the city when he built a house too close to their home.
“They raised the walls while we raised the question,” Jerry Wall said.
Berniece Knudsen still is fuming over the pile of dirt removed to make way for her basement. Eborall charged her to move it after he dumped it on an adjoining lot while building her house.
“He used to always wave when he went by,” Knudsen said. “I’d just turn my back on him.”
Eborall also has had run-ins with subcontractors and city officials. The city has on occasion withheld building permits to force Eborall to make subdivision improvements.
“Al Eborall is difficult to work with,” said Hayden Fire Chief Wayne Syth. “He can sit there and argue with you all day.”
Eborall’s critics say most of their supporters don’t speak up because they’re afraid they’ll get sued. A few declined to discuss Leisure Park’s problems for that reason.
But many of the retirees are pleased that the “tempest in a teapot” is subsiding.
“We are trying to restore a little peace and tranquility in the park,” said Prather, who has assumed leadership of the social organization since the previous officers resigned.
Some changes already have taken place. Eborall’s son and daughter resigned from the association’s board, and he appointed two other homeowners to take their place. A general election is scheduled for this summer.
The homeowners are negotiating for better compensation for Eborall’s private use of the clubhouse.
For his part, Eborall laughed at his own lack of foresight 10 years ago. He said he’s learned a lesson from the recent ruckus.
A developer shouldn’t turn over control to the homeowners until he’s finished, Eborall said.
Otherwise, “you’re going to have a thousand opinions on what should be done.”
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo