Members of the Oakwood Property Owners Association spent a good part of the Labor Day weekend in meetings.
Saturday the OPOA met to elect a new board and look over a proposal submitted by Ian Rolland, receiver of the Oakwood Inn. A second proposal was drafted after Rolland met with the new OPOA board Saturday afternoon.
Sunday afternoon approximately 60 Oakwood Park residents, representing 52 cottages, met with Rolland to discuss the pros and cons of the two proposals.
The global proposal was the one OPOA board members worked on Saturday; the second, called the Rolland proposal, was clarified Sunday.
Rolland and Tom Niezer, an attorney working with Rolland, led Sunday’s meeting. “I’m pleased to report we’re on the verge of having this thing settled, I think,” Rolland told the crowd. “I’ve said that before, but the light at the end of the tunnel is positive.”
Rolland reported he met with the new OPOA board Saturday and came up with an agreement on a set of revised covenants that will be put in place to allow Dr. Rex Parent to close on purchasing Oakwood. It is hoped Parent and his sons can close the transaction by mid-October if not sooner.
Key to the sale of the property being successful is having 75 percent of the Oakwood property owners vote on the global proposal for it to go into effect.
If 75 percent of the property owners do not vote for the global agreement, Rolland will go to the alternative, which would be to make changes without the property owners consent.
Rolland strongly emphasized his desire and hope he would not have to implement the Rolland proposal.
Under the global agreement the OPOA would purchase the channel piers for $80,000, with payment to the Parents spread across eight years. The property owners could then rent them out as they saw fit and charge what they want for pier rental.
Under the Rolland agreement, the piers would remain owned by the Parents and they would have complete authority over how it was run.
Another area coming under both proposals are green spaces and community areas such as the chapel and playground. Under the global proposal, property owners would have access to areas such as the chapel for prayer, the playground and the memorial gardens. In the Rolland proposal, those rights would be terminated as those areas are Oakwood Foundation property.
Rolland pointed out there was a lot of discussion regarding the playground, no longer up to code and presents a liability to both the property owners and potential new owners of Oakwood. Under the global agreement, the cost of bringing the playground up to code and insuring it would be shared between the property owners and the Parents. Under the Rolland agreement, property owners lose the right to use the playground.
Rolland emphasized he wanted the property owners to understand his position and the proposed globalagreement is good for both the property owners and the Parents.
Parent will come in and start refurbishing the hotel and open a restaurant. Rolland stressed Parent wants to be a good neighbor. “He’s a straightforward, honest guy. You can believe what he’s saying,” Rolland said. Rolland reminded those at the meeting if the inn is opened and there is boat traffic to the restaurant, it improves their property values as well.
Rolland turned to Chautauqua activities reporting there was a meeting Friday at Ann Strong’s house. Chautauqua committee put on 20 events this summer including the Fort Wayne Philharmonic coming for two concerts.
“Their goal, supported by the Parents, is to see Chautauqua activities increase. For example, they have the opportunity to be on the list for Chautauqua facilities (around the country) to come visit,” Rolland said.
It was noted the Town of Syracuse will also benefit from the economic development of the inn being renovated and reopened.
Rolland urged all those present to vote for the global agreement and then said he still needed to sell the plan to Parent, although he was confident he could.
Rolland opened the floor to questions.
Mark Knecht asked about the time-line for both plans. Rolland explained the Rolland agreement will be presented to Judge Duane Huffer in a hearing Friday. He will then sit and wait to record it. While waiting, his legal counsel will be working with Oakwood’s legal counsel to put the global agreement into a legal document.
Another property owners meeting will be held toward the end of September. Prior to that meeting property owners will receive a packet of information, including a formal proxy to give to a board member if the property owner is unable to attend the meeting.
The foundation has 10 votes included in the count of 75 percent of the property owners votes.
Rolland told the crowd there is reason to question all of the 2004 covenants because at the time they were adopted there was a requirement the Indiana Conference of the United Methodist Church OK and approve them. Rolland has received in writing confirmation the conference did not agree to put the 2004 covenants in place.
Because of that oversight, Rolland believes he has the right to eliminate all the 2004 covenants. “This strengthens the case for the global agreement,” he said.
The covenants he absolutely cannot touch involve the piers and lake access. Rolland explained if the global agreement is voted in, the property owners will receive a 30-foot easement to the lake.
Addressing the misconception property owners would be restricted to using only that 30-foot easement, Rolland said, “I will tell you nothing is further from the truth. Rex Parent wants to treat you like everyone else + its intent is to provide you access. There may be times when he has something going on at the lawn and he doesn’t want sunbathers there, he’ll put the word out,” Rolland said, stressing Parent has no plan to restrict property owners access to the lake.
Someone questioned whether fencing would go up. Rolland said he hasn’t had any discussions on fencing with Parent.
One point of contention is while the global agreement provides a 30-foot easement it is in a location where a property owner is trying to establish ownership of 10 feet of foundation property. Rolland noted it was suggested a 40 foot easement be provided as the issue persisted with the property owner, reducing to 30 feet once it was resolved.
Rolland said that idea was rejected as Parent doesn’t want to join that fight. OPOA can deal with it.
Another resident asked what Rolland meant by “secure by any means necessary” in the Rolland proposal. Niezer said there were no plans to fence areas of the park. “It may be as simple as a ‘no trespassing sign,'” Niezer said. “We haven’t thought that far down the road yet.”
“We have, I’d think you would,” retorted the property owner. “I don’t want to do that, but we surely have the authority,” Rolland said. “What we want is passage of the global agreement so you have some protections.”
Another property owner asked if Parent would go for this. “I will do my level best to get it done,” Rolland said. Currently Parent is out of the country on a mission trip. Rolland pointed out Parent has listened to him in the past.
Another resident asked about the parking issues. Rolland said parking is a mess as there isn’t enough of it. He believes there needs to be a meeting between Parent and the OPOA board to discuss the issue.
Rolland stressed he doesn’t want to be punitive, but he wanted to get people’s attention as they were using the buyer’s property and there have to be some rules to protect everyone.
“Nobody’s car is going to be towed without some kind of notice,” he stressed. That notice will be a warning 48 hours in advance of towing.
A resident asked if the streets have been transferred to the Town of Syracuse. Niezer said not yet, paperwork is being prepared to be sent to the town and NIPSCO. Rolland is also providing an easement for a generator for the sanitation sewer system, so it isn’t tied into the inn.
One resident expressed concern about the process to vote for the global agreement. Larry Lane, OPOA board president, explained the process will be similar to how the property owners voted on annexation. Niezer will work with the OPOA board on the information packets that will be sent out the them. The resident asked if the proxy would be sent out at that time. Lane said yes.
Lane also fielded a question about the playground. He explained the playground equipment is out of date and not up to current safety codes so it has to be removed. He explained if the OPOA is going to invest money in upgrading the playground, it wants property owners to have access to it.
One board member pointed out the global agreement gives property owners some rights while the Rolland agreement takes them away.
Rick Williams, former OPOA acting president, asked about revocable license pointing out Parent could pull permission from the OPOA without any input from them.
Rolland pointed out if Parent removed access to the beach property owners would still have the 30-foot easement.
“For 70 years we had gracious use of property that was not ours. I want to say thank you to the foundation and to the Parents for continuing that + and I want you to do a good job of selling it to the Parents,” said one property owner.
The meeting wrapped up with Lane explaining how the proposals were discussed Saturday and the board and Rolland still need to tweak things a bit.