Homeowners in Eagles View subdivision say they want answers on why the city failed to enforce its own grading ordinances and allowed the clearing of land they own on Thornton Road.
Developer Jim Smith, who plans to develop a boat and RV storage facility on a 60-acre parcel on Thornton Road, removed all the trees from the previously wooded property. Smith began clearing the property for his storage lot in 2017.
The Eagles View Homeowners Association (HOA) owns a 1.27-acre parcel of the proposed storage facility site, which is situated in a deep bend on the west side of Thornton Road, opposite the subdivision.
Smith said he thought he owned the parcel that belongs to the homeowners association when he cleared it of trees.
Cease All Activity
The actual date when clearing began is unclear, but City Administrator Steve Roth advised Smith in a Dec. 19, 2017, letter to cease all activity on the Eagles View subdivision property.
“Failure to comply with this notice may result in the city taking further action,” Roth stated in the letter.
Building Commissioner Shawn Seymore said the city did take action recently by issuing a summons to appear in municipal court to both Jim Smith and the Eagles View HOA.
“The summons were issued for failure to obtain a grading permit, as required per section 415.020 of the City of Pacific Code of Ordinances,” Seymore said.
Seymore said the city has no position on Smith’s development due to the fact that his property is located outside of municipal limits of the city of Pacific and is not subject to the city’s development standards or review authority.
“However, regarding the property owned by the Eagles View HOA, the city’s position is that tree removal and grading occurred in the city of Pacific without the necessary approval/permit,” he said. “The city is using every means available to ensure that said approval/permit is acquired.”
Smith said that he wants to buy the 1.27-acre Eagles View parcel as part of his project. He told the homeowners at a June 27 HOA meeting that he purchased the 60-acre site 13 years ago and did not plan to expand the storage facility beyond the 60 acres.
Smith said he had received a zoning permit from Franklin County for his boat and RV storage facility and was not aware that he did not own the corner parcel when he removed the trees.
“I’m sorry I knocked the trees down on your parcel,” he said. “I can’t put the trees back.”
Smith said he would buy the Eagles View property for $10,000 cash and a half-acre site that he owned on the east side of Thornton Road that abutted the subdivision.
“If you don’t sell me the ground, I’m going to go ahead and develop the boat and RV storage,” he said.
At that meeting of about 80 property owners, HOA members voted against selling the questioned parcel to Smith.
The unpermitted grading came to the attention of city officials in late 2017 when motorists reported that the removal of the trees exposed a steep drop-off that posed a hazard to motorists.
The city had planned to install a 1,000-foot guardrail at the site at a cost of $42,200 that would have spanned the length of the curve, but later reduced the length of it.
At the March 6, 2018, board meeting, Public Works Commissioner Robert Brueggemann presented a bid of $12,700 to install a 150-foot guard rail on the west side of the roadway to protect motorists.
Aldermen postponed action on the project until officials talked with Smith.
Some aldermen believe that by removing the trees the property owner made the curve more dangerous for motorists.
Brueggemann said the hazard already existed before the developer cleared the site, but Alderman (now Mayor) Steve Myers said removing the trees made the curve more dangerous.
“If they went off the road prior to clearing there were trees there to stop the vehicle,” Myers said. “Now they would descend into a deep drop-off.”
City Attorney Robert Jones said the city has the legal authority to assess the property owner (Eagles View HOA) for a portion of the cost of the guardrail, but action was postponed pending discussions with the property owner and Eagles View HOA officials.
Continued activity at the site pitted some homeowners against the elected Eagles View Homeowner Association board of directors.
The Missourian received an email from one Eagles View homeowner who said Heather Filley, HOA president, had posted on the Eagles View Estates Facebook page that “. . . as an immediate action, the directors did decide to seek a permit from the city to allow for dumping of clean fill to be placed on our property on Thornton Road. Multiple sources of clean fill have been offered at no charge and we will be taking advantage of them.”
As of Thursday, Sept. 6, no excavating and grading permit (525.140 Permit) had been requested, Seymore reported.
“On Aug. 11 through Aug. 13, Eagles View residents conducted a petition drive to obtain signatures for the purpose of calling a special meeting to hold a vote to retain or remove the board of directors,” the homeowner stated. “If the vote in the special meeting results in a simple majority to remove the board, elections will be held to fill the three vacancies the same evening.”
Filley declined to answer questions regarding the issue.
“This is still a private matter that is currently in the hands of attorneys,” she said. “I can tell you that getting a permit was discussed, and per our attorney, getting a permit only requires directors’ approval, not the majority of the HOA. With all that being said, a permit was not sought.’’
Filley asked that further questions be referred to the Eagles View Community Management representative.