(Editor's note: the following is a letter sent to Snellville Patch by Summit Chase resident Lorry Jordan. It was originally sent to the Gwinnett County Quality of Life department. The views expressed in this op-ed do not reflect those of Snellville Patch.)
*Warning: some of the photos included are graphic.)
After over a year and a half of purposeful neglect (since October 2011) on this property I am writing concerning an extremely dangerous situation in Summit Chase Subdivision in Snellville.
This past Saturday, my 10-year-old and 6-year-old grandson and I pulled a stray dog from the quick mud bordering our backyard. Less than a year ago a child was also retrieved by Gwinnett County Emergency Response who was up to his neck in this quick mud (see police report). This piece of property is owned by the HOA (Summit Chase Home Owner's Association).
When we pulled the struggling dog from the quick mud we also found a dead cat.
This is an ongoing danger which continues to plague my family and our surrounding neighbors. This constant unsafe condition keeps us in continued fear for our health and safety. This past summer we had had huge swarms of mosquitios, flocks of dive bombing vulturesattacking nesting rats, (see pictures) and coyotes which also attacked my Westie. These coyotes continue to hunt dead animals that get trapped in this quick mud swamp condition. We are also infested with large wharf rats eating these dead animals that meet their demise in this quick mud. My 2-year-old grandson and I cannot even go out on to our back deck facing this area without been swarmed by vultures.
I had to give my West Highland Terrier away as he was attacked three times by rats and vultures on my back deck.The neglect of this property has caused the change in this natural habitat which now evades our safety and the quality of life of our home in Gwinnett County. My grandchildren ask if the rats will come and bite them if they have soccer practice in the back yard. Why should young children have to be afraid of something like this at their grandmother's home?
For six months now our family and our surrounding neighbors have implored the City of Snellville to act on the Quality of Life Ordinance and force the HOA to repair the standpipe on Timberline Road on the earthen dam and refill this lake to its former pool. Currently, there is a huge horde of garbage and overgrown vegetation in this mud lake and along Timberline Road, as well as nesting rats (see rat baby picture and half eaten rat).
Even after as many as 15 emails and six phone calls to the City of Snellville this entity refuses to enforce the code to make the HOA make repairs and clean up this area (editor's note: the city has been in discussions for a few months regarding this issue. They are currently pursuing information on whether the contractor who initially damaged the dam would be held liable. The HOA has not responded to their inquiry as of yet). We even put signs in our front yard to make the HOA act on this.
I attended an HOA meeting at the requests of surrounding neighbors - both members of the the HOA and neighbors that are not permitted to join this Association, only to be physically man handled by four men who at the direction of Pat Port pushed me up against the wall in my own church where the meeting was being held and threatened to have me arrested. Why is this association given this much authority at the risk of the health and safety of gwinnett residents? In an email from Pat Port a statement was made that there were "consequences for a nonmember who questions the authority of the HOA".. Where is my protection as a resident of this county for myself - a retired 61-year-old woman with three randchildren to support and provide a safe home for? Is not the HOA subject to the same code enforcement as any other property owner in Gwinnett County?
Why is the City of Snellville not enforcing the codes to protect the home owners and little children that live around this mud lake? Why after repeated "MEETINGS" to discuss this travesty of the law is the HOA continued to be allowed to use the excuse that they do not have funds to make these repairs. Why has this HOA not been fined or forced to make repairs and clean up this lake area? Why do City Council persons continue to posture for the best election position and ignore the needs of these residents on the lower lake and continue to give double speak in favor of the HOA? Why are the residents who suffer under these conditions spoken of as being "crazy" or "liars" while the HOA continues to posture for only the best benifit of the upper lake residents? Why is the HOA exempt from legal recourse of the same codes that are applied to us as property residents? Why is the upper lake cared for and in pristine condition while the lower lake property is blatantly neglected at the sacrifice of the health and safety of Gwinnett County residents that do not belong to this HOA? We are forced to mow our lawns and keep our cars parked in our driveways and keep our property in quality condition. Why does this ordinance not apply to other property owners such as the HOA?
This is extreme nepotism at it's most blatant regard. At City of Snellville meetings (of which I have attended four) the HOA's constant statement that they do not have the money to fix this standpipe is not a truth. We know from personal contact with banks in this area that a loan can be obtained by the HOA to make these repairs. The HOA consistently makes excuses why they cannot secure this loan or clear and keep up this property. Yet the members of the HOA that live on the upper pristine lake have proper maintence of thier lake areas and the entrance of the subdivison.These same HOA members do not want an assessment of their dues to make these repairs on the lower lake.
Therefore, we on the lower lake continue to suffer with conditions that are breeding rats, feeding vultures and providing a perfect swamp condition for huge swarms of mosquitos. Due to the fact that the majority of the residents on the lower lake do not belong to this powerful HOA the safety and health for our families are at risk. Why are our needs ignored? Why does this HOA bully and threaten residents to keep there mouths shut to authorities? Do our children not have rights to play in safety in thier own backyards? Why are statements by HOA board members ignored by authorities when I was physically removed from my church that I had no rights because I did not belong to their HOA? Can this property not be condemned for health and safety violations? Does the County have the power to obtain this property due to this consistant blantant disregard to maintain it? Can this property be open to all the residents surrounding the lake if the HOA does not immedately clean and repair this property?
Other properties that don't have even a small amount of the same neglect are responded to immediately by the County. This habitat must be returned to it's natural condition that existed before the standpipe broke? WE as residents moved into our properties with a lake behind our homes NOT A SWAMP!!!!! Our family is insisting that for the protection of our three young children, that an immediate enforcement be done.
We are asking that the President of the HOA - Pat Port be held accountable for this ongoing delay of repairs and that immediate fines be issued to the HOA. We demand that court action be taken as per the Quality of Life Ordinance (see quote from ordinance below) immedately before more animals die in the quick mud and the now nesting rats and mosquitos swarm to our backyards and homes again this spring. We demand that the lake be restored to it's former condition and that the Gwinnett County enforcement team hold this HOA accountable for our decreased property values and the stress, abuse, and blatant disregard of this community's rights under the Quality of LIfe Code.
It is apparent that the HOA has political connections that allow it to continue to operate in this manner. Therefore, we are requesting a government entity which is nonpolitical take this issue in hand immedately. If the Gwinnett County enforcement division does not act and force this HOA to meet the required guidelines and mitigate these conditions within 30 days we will as a family will contact whatever government agency, State or Federal, to immediately act on our needs as a family and a resident of Gwinnett County.