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Homeowners seek help with areas that associations covered

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In Center Grove area neighborhoods where homeowners associations have dissolved or were never started, residents call the county asking for help when drainage pipes break.

Fixing the pipes isn’t the county’s responsibility, so residents could get stuck paying for expensive repairs or to replace pipes in their neighborhoods. In the Carefree and Windsong neighborhoods, for example, residents call the Johnson County planning office about broken stormwater pipes because they don’t have homeowners associations that collect fees from property owners to pay for repairs.

The county’s stormwater department doesn’t own neighborhood drainpipes or ponds, so if there is no homeowners association, then residents upset that their lawns are getting flooded have to pay for repairs, planning and zoning director David Hittle said.

That will become a major problem when infrastructure needs to be replaced, he said.

“It’s going to develop into an important issue, if it hasn’t already,” he said.

Commissioner Ron West knows of about 10 properties in the county that belonged to homeowners associations and now are repeatedly going to tax sale because nobody wants to buy and maintain a neighborhood pond, he said.

Because the homeowners associations no longer exist, residents no longer are paying the fees that would be used to clean debris out of ponds and replace drainpipes.

Those pipes and ponds aren’t the responsibility of the county to maintain, even though that’s what residents calling the county believe, Hittle said. The county’s concern is that pipes and other infrastructure will have to be replaced in the future, and the residents could be stuck with the cost, he said.

County officials are considering requiring developers to turn neighborhood common areas, such as stormwater collection ponds, over to the county rather than a homeowners association. Then the county could charge a fee, similar to ditch assessments many Johnson County residents currently pay, West said.

The county might not require every developer to sign over neighborhood ponds and grassy entrances but could consider that for subdivisions on a case-by-case basis, he said.

The goal of requiring the fee would be to prevent rainwater collection ponds from filling up with silt, causing problems for other subdivisions and, eventually, requiring the state Department of Natural Resources or another government agency to help, West said.

No problems have been that extreme, West said. But he’s not sure who would fund repairs if broken pipes began flooding other neighborhoods, he said.

Residents whose homeowners associations are defunct or never had an association, such as in Windsong, wouldn’t be helped by the new fee because the county can’t tack on a drain maintenance charge after the residents buy the homes, West said.

A dissolved homeowners association is legally similar to when a property owner has died, he said.

The land is private property, even if a pond and pipes that collect or drain water from roads or homes are on it, and the county can’t go on private property to make repairs, he said.

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