Bad fences make bad neighbors for the Cherry Creek Farm HOA and its residents

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In October, about 100 residents of Cherry Creek Farm convened for a special meeting to recall the members of the volunteer HOA board (others voted by proxy), citing complaints ranging from a lack of "consistency in covenant control" to increases in dues to failing to provide a "sense of community."

The environment beforehand was so tumultuous, though, that sheriff's deputies were asked by the HOA board to attend the meeting, says Arapahoe County Sheriff's Captain Larry Etheridge. (The officers would attend five additional meetings.) But the coup failed when the votes came back 74 to 62 in favor of the existing board.

After that, the HOA pursued an ever-increasing campaign of harassment against the couple, Myers says, one that that continued for an entire year.

According to county records, Alvarez and Larsen filed dozens of complaints with the county about things like the gutter run-off from the Myerses' house and their patio lights; they also requested stop-work orders for his backyard project.

The two also called the police for various reasons, including one occasion when, Myers claims, he was emptying out a camp cooler, and "pretty much any time I hammered in a nail.... It used to be that the cops, the sheriffs, would come every week."

Etheridge says that in one year's time, his deputies filed nine reports from the Myerses' house, but adds that they may have visited more often: "Some incidents result in reports, and some don't."

At one point, tension in the neighborhood became physical. After a particularly contentious HOA meeting in April 2009, Alvarez's husband, Jon, and another resident, Bobbi Henderson, apparently got into a scuffle. The next day, the police went to the Alvarez home and charged Jon with misdemeanor assault. A subsequent restraining order included the unusual stipulation that he remain at least five yards from Henderson at HOA meetings. A trial is set for April.

When the cops weren't at their house, Myers says, the HOA was.

At one point, the board spent $2,500 of HOA money to have the old fence surveyed just to be sure that Myers and his neighbors actually owned it. Later, boardmembers managed to arrange for a state-certified engineer to come onto Myers's property to inspect his patio enclosure for possible issues with wiring and safety issues. (An engineer's report reads: "The addition appears to be constructed in general compliance with the structural design requirements.")

On a couple of days, Tracy Alvarez even crept around to the adjacent apartment complex to surveil the Myerses' home. On one of those afternoons, another neighbor took photos of Alvarez standing in the shrubs snapping photos of the Myerses' back yard. Alvarez says she took the photos to document the goings-on at the "slum."

"It was a whole year of crazy," Courtney Myers says. "They were basically using their power because they don't like something."

Larsen and Alvarez deny that they were abusing their power or pursuing a vendetta against the Myerses or intended to harass them. "Just to be perfectly clear, the board never decided to go after Tom. That's just not what happened," Larsen says.

In fact, Alvarez believes it was the other way around. "I think most of this was started by Tom Myers," she says. Before Myers took on the fence, attendance at HOA meetings was scarce, she determined, but after the lawsuit, the meetings became a hotbed for conflict that brought out all kinds of accusations against the board.

"Tom was the one who really started all the fighting in the HOA. Basically, he had the goal of sabotaging the board and bringing down the HOA completely. And he's succeeded," she says. "It's only the crazies that come to the board meetings anymore."

Oddly, Alvarez and Myers do agree on one thing: that HOAs are at the mercy of the management companies they hire and those companies' attorneys.

"The board was pretty much blamed for [the lawsuit] even though it was the attorneys," Alvarez says. "The board is all lay people; we're dependent on our lawyers."

Chambers, the attorney who represented Myers, says the problems lie with the tactics that management companies use and the influence they exert over HOAs. But he also points out that there is no one regulating HOAs in the state, so boardmembers can use their position to make arbitrary rules and make things miserable for other homeowners.

"There are hundreds of stories like this," he says, adding that after he noted on his old website that that he was familiar with HOA rules, he was bombarded by homeowners who had issues with their HOAs but didn't know where to go.

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J. David McSwane
Contact: J. David McSwane