Opinion: Iím a proud member of the Forest Hill crank club
After 10 years of watching the alarming rise of vacant foreclosures in Forest Hill, I can no longer stomach our homeowners’ association’s (HOA) excuses for inaction.
Anybody who lives in Forest Hill sees the vacant houses that sit and rot, impacting our quality of life and property values. If our HOA is “nurturing the historic serenity of this area” as it claims, why is it ignoring the eyesores at 1024 and 1315 Hereford Road, 15780 Cleviden Road, 15472 Brewster Road, 1400 Forest Hills Blvd., and 3045 Monticello Blvd.?
The most egregious example is 15922 Forest Hills Blvd. This horror of a house has been vacant for over a decade! For years, residents have begged Forest Hill Homeowners’ Inc. (FHHO) to take action. They have been ignored or told nothing can be done. When the homeowner who lives next door to this monstrosity complained publicly, he was fined by FHHO. The same thing happened to the owner of an award-winning house at the corner of Forest Hills Boulevard and Hollister Road. He complained publicly and was fined.
The handful of people running FHHO for decades have been disconnected from their responsibilities as an HOA. After the housing crash, people started asking, “What is FHHO doing to stem the rise of vacant houses? After all, FHHO says it’s an HOA. If it can’t take care of this problem, why donate?”
This year, that clamor is louder. Members of the board, like myself, are fed up with the inaction and hypocrisy. FHHO should represent all the residents of Forest Hill, especially those who have to live next to these wrecks. Instead, [it] attacks the messenger and preaches civility and neighborliness while ignoring the very people who deserve help.
This is not an unsolvable problem. With amended bylaws, the blighted vacant houses can be remedied quickly by:
- Working with the land bank;
- Lobbying the county and city for immediate action;
- Filing nuisance abatement suits.
The most important tool is to amend FHHO’s bylaws to comply with the Ohio Planned Community Act (OPCA), a law passed in 2010, which allows HOAs to clean up vacant homes, file liens, and include legal fees in the collection process.
FHHO Chairman Chris Hubbert, an attorney, never brought this legislation to the attention of residents as he should have, until I and other board members pressed him to hire a lawyer to review our options. Why did it take eight years for this to happen?
This pattern of obstruction continues with misinformation on OPCA. FHHO claims that residents would be subject to onerous dues and elderly folks would be kicked out of their homes. This is not true! With amended bylaws conforming to OPCA, residents [would] decide what the rules will be while having the authority to clean up the vacant homes.
What is confounding is that FHHO leaders have been blocking reform for years. Like changing deck chairs on the sinking Titanic, they pretend the problem doesn’t exist, while labeling those who seek reform as divisive and “un-neighborly.” This is cold comfort to those who are suffering from the blight of living next to a dilapidated, vacant house.
It is time for FHHO to stop blocking progress and clean up these homes. The problem is real. If it doesn't want or know how to clean up the houses, then step aside. If it wants to be a "good neighbor," then help those who need it.
Michael Reilly is a 35-year resident of Forest Hill and founder of Foresthillvision21.com