Litigation Update Section 3 Garage
Subsequent to the 14th Appellate Court ruling in late November, GOMO representatives met personally with the litigants and discussed settlement terms. Although both sides offered a proposal and counter-proposal, neither was accepted and negotiations were suspended. After a full review of options, the Board determined it would be prudent to proceed with a Request for Review by the 3 Judge Appellate Panel. This Request for Review was submitted on December 29, 2017. It is expected the Court will render its opinion regarding the Review in 1-2 months.
The sole legal issue GOMO is pursuing is the declaration that GOMO was improperly formed with regard to the specific litigants . It is important to note that the declaration was limited to the litigants and was not applied to the neighborhood as a whole. This ruling is still problematic and could potentially have further legal ramifications and negatively impact GOMO’s ability to act as a fully functioning enforcement organization.
GOMO is not contesting the other declarations from the appellate court’s opinion. GOMO agrees with the Court that the deed restriction for more than 2-car garages in Section 3 is waived and GOMO is no longer contesting the litigant’s garage.
Regarding rationale for the Request for Review, GOMO believes neighborhoods thrive and are better supported with a deed restriction enforcement entity. Considerable effort by the Board went into evaluating whether it would be possible to put forth a legal argument worthy of review by the Appellate Court. Even though the board believes this is the responsible action to take it was acknowledged that repeating the arguments, which previously failed, would be futile and have a deleterious effect on the future work required to restore trust and confidence within the neighborhood. Regardless of the outcome of this Request for Review, this case is several steps closer to a conclusion. GOMO believes it is time to work towards repairing the relationships, institutions, and deed restrictions that make Garden Oaks a special place to live. We hope you will join us in working towards those goals.
As previously announced on the gardenoaks.org website, the 14th Appellate Court ruling in the Section 3 case was received November 14, and GOMO met in special Executive Session with legal counsel on November 27 to discuss the ramifications of the ruling and options moving forward.
The appeals court ruling affirmed that GOMO is improperly formed but the ruling was limited to the specific homeowners in the lawsuit. The appellate court reversed the trial court’s ruling that GOMO’s bylaws were invalid. The court also found that GOMO has both the standing and the authority as a valid Texas homeowners’ association to enforce the deed restrictions. The Board discussed many issues, including whether to request a reconsideration of the appellate court’s ruling, and the effect on GOMO going forward if the ruling becomes final. There were still many unanswered questions and GOMO’s legal counsel was tasked with addressing these issues.
A decision was made to request the appellate court for a 30-day extension prior to responding to the court to allow time to gather further legal input to the numerous questions the board had. This was granted and ends on December 29.
The regularly scheduled GOMO Board meeting was already planned for December 20, and it was determined to publicize the meeting as a “Town Hall” style meeting to answer questions about the case, prior to the 30-day extension deadline. GOMO members may have temporarily seen this listing for a “Town Hall” meeting on the gardenoaks.org website. However, GOMO was subsequently notified by its attorney that he was in discussion with the homeowners’ legal counsel over a possible resolution to the case.
By the time this Gazette issue is published, a small group of GOMO Directors will have attempted to meet with the homeowners in the case and their legal counsel to see if there is a pathway forward. The December 20th Board meeting is no longer advertised as a “Town Hall” and it is expected that the Board will meet in executive session to discuss the outcome of the meeting as well as the other aforementioned issues. Whether or not a resolution is reached, the meeting will hopefully be the first step in rebuilding the sense of community in the neighborhood.
The current Directors of GOMO share a desire for expeditious resolution of this case, and are mindful of the fact that GOMO has twice been found by the courts to be improperly formed as to the specific homeowners in the lawsuit. GOMO also believes that a neighborhood is stronger with a deed restriction enforcing entity and is mindful of the many, many people who voted to create GOMO in the first place.
This case has been hard on the neighborhood, the litigants, and the volunteer neighbors who have made up the GOMO ranks over the years. The Directors are also aware of the role GOMO played in reaching this point and that there is some understandable criticism from the neighborhood. Regardless of how this case gets resolved, GOMO is taking steps to encourage neighborhood communication and input to improve its transparency and effectiveness.
The 14th Appellate Court ruling in the Section 3 case was received on November 14 and the ruling that GOMO was improperly formed was upheld. GOMO had a regularly scheduled meeting the following day, but that short time frame did not provide sufficient time for a thorough review and consideration, nor did the Board have time to meet with Counsel. It was decided the earliest opportunity for a follow up meeting was the week of November 27 -30.
Counsel was present at the follow up meeting and options going forward were presented and discussed. It was determined of the three options discussed (request review by 3 Judge Appellate Panel, request review by 9 Judge Appellate Panel, or pursue an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court), one option stood out to be the most viable. It was determined that for an additional cost of $1000, GOMO could request a review of the ruling by the 3 Judge Appellate Panel. To allow for further consideration and preparation, it was agreed Counsel would request a 30 day extension to respond to the Court. That extension was granted by the Court on November 30.
The primary issue at this point is the impact of the ruling that GOMO was improperly formed. While this ruling is of limited scope, specific to the Defendant and not Sections 1, 2, 3, and 5 as a whole, this ruling (which will become final 45 days from issuance unless further action is taken), is problematic. GOMO also recognizes the importance of bringing this litigation to a close so the neighborhood may move forward appropriately to consider options to correct formation issues, reform and update deed restrictions, and address the very necessary objective of restoring trust and confidence within the neighborhood prospectively.
No changes have been made to the transfer fee process at the time of this writing (Nov. 20, 2017), since the ruling of the Appeals court is not yet final.
After the lower court’s decision in June 2016 and with the appeal pending at that time, GOMO placed all incoming transfer fees in an escrow account. Additionally, all “excess funds” spending (GOMO’s member-approved annual contributions to Constable service and Beautification programs) stopped when contracts ended.
At this time, GOMO is preparing to meet with its appellate attorney to better understand the Court’s ruling. When that meeting has occurred and decisions have been made on how to best move forward, detailed updates will be posted on gardenoaks.org.
Neighbors Night Out !
Campaign to Restore Constable Patrols & Bolster Beautification
The troops have been mobilized. Events are being planned. Neighbors are talking to neighbors. Money has been raised.
Smoke "n" Spirits raised almost $7000 for the Constable Patrol Program.
Spring Fling raised $10,100+ for Beautification.
Wine Walk planning is underway for the October 21st premier fundraiser for the Constable Patrol Program. Sponsorships are available NOW. Last year's Wine Walk netted $30,000 for the Constable Patrol Program, and some $130,000 over the past 8 years.
The effort to increase the number of households in Garden Oaks supporting the Constable Program so far is very nearly enough to save one of the two Constable Patrols we will be losing in March due to the loss of GOMO funding.The civic club has signed two contracts, with each contract providing 40 hours of professional law enforcement officers patrolling in our neighborhood. Each contract costs about $77,000. These contracts will be funded by the residents of Garden Oaks, as we no longer have funding from GOMO. We need to raise $154,000 to keep these contracts in place for the duration of 2017. We need your support. Today!
The campaign launched in August of 2016 broke all previous records, and we ended 2016 with 370 households as constable supporters. We need that number to increase if we are going to support two constable patrols.
The 2016 Wine Walk contributed another $30,000 to the constable program fund, and several other fundraisers will be scheduled in 2017.
Following on, we are pushing to complete the needed funding for the additional patrol and start on having the money ready to go for the second year of no funding.
Can we get our patrols back?
What would it take to get us back to 3 patrols this year? Glad you asked.
One recipe would be to do it with more events and a higher level of household participation.
Add two "blow out" successful fundraisers to the wine walk which pushes the total raised from $30K to $77K. The fundraisers pay for one constable at this level.
GOMO funded 2 months for two constables in 2017 at $25.6K
That leaves us needing 600 of our 1434 households to contribute at the $225 level... less than half of us.
We currently have 350 GO households participating. 600 is big increase over the number who have historically stepped forward. That said, folks did know that the coverage was there with most of them contributing nothing. Now we all know differently. Last year when the news came in that coverage was going to be cut by two thirds participation increased strongly. If we all understand that we are still down one of three patrols and it won't come back without us participating, perhaps getting half of our households is not an extreme goal. We really need your support!!
Garden Oaks a "Hidden" Houston Gem
For those who don't know, Garden Oaks is one of Houston's best-kept secrets. Nestled among towering pines and grand magnolias, this quaint and architecturally unique neighborhood of approximately 1400 homes continues to attract attention and rave reviews.