GARDEN OAKS HOME & GARDEN TOUR

Sunday, April 29th, 2018 from Noon to 6 pm

Bankruptcy Information

Walker and Patterson, P.C.
Johnie Patterson
Miriam Goot
4815 Dacoma St,
Houston, TX 77092

(713) 956-5577

We have filled in over 1500 addresses but need some help with about 80 folks who have sold and probably moved. The information we have is the address owned and an approximate date they bought the property. If you know where someone has moved, please let us know by contacting us at manager@gardenoaks.org. If you know a City or State, it may help us locate them.

We may or may not need this information based on the April 20 Order but are proceeding with filling in the addresses with this low cost approach in case we do need to contact these former owners.

SECTION 1

SECTION 2 & 3

SECTION 5

On Wednesday, April 11, 2018, the Garden Oaks Maintenance Organization (GOMO) will hold a Town Hall meeting at 7:00 pm at the Garden Oaks Montessori cafeteria for the purpose of updating the entire neighborhood on the current status of its affairs and how GOMO will proceed now that the rulings in the Section 3 lawsuit have become final.

GOMO has retained the services of Walker and Patterson, P.C., a legal firm specializing in bankruptcy, and a filing seeking bankruptcy protection for GOMO is planned. Walker and Patterson, P.C. will lead, guide, and direct GOMO through this legal process to its conclusion. While in bankruptcy, GOMO will continue to operate, but all financial decisions must be approved by the Bankruptcy Court. After the Town Hall, Walker and Patterson, P.C. will coordinate future communications regarding the bankruptcy.

The GOMO Board hopes you will make plans to attend the meeting.

To keep the Home Page from being taken over by these updates, a full listing is available on the Q&A Page.

Church Parking Lot

Where: Garden Oaks Montessori Magnet
901 Sue Barnett Dr.
Cafeteria

When: Wednesday, April 18, at 7:30 p.m.

What: Informational meeting about the proposed sale of and release of deed restrictions for the Garden Oaks Baptist Church’s parking lot on Shepherd between the Chase Bank and Gabby’s.
The neighborhood attorney, Austin Barsalou, will be present and available to answer questions.

The proposed restrictions for the church parking lot were amended at GOMO’s request to include Section 1 owners and the HOA as enforcers of the proposed restrictions. The text of the proposed agreement between the church and the developer may be reached at this LINK.

I have not vetted the information below with my fellow GOMO Directors, but I believe it to be accurate. It is based on prior conversations with Patrick Barry from Gulf Coast, GOMO Board meetings, and emails with the neighborhood attorney, Austin Barsalou. After this was posted on social media, some corrections have been made.

There have been some statements on social media lamenting specific information on the Gulf Coast-Section 1 proposal from GOMO. Frankly, there is limited bandwidth with a depleted GOMO Board in dealing with the conclusion of the Section 3 litigation, bankruptcy, and possible re-formation issues in addition to a project driven by a private enterprise on their timetable. There is only so much that we can do given our current circumstances.

First, a bit of clarification. I wish to distinguish below between our Garden Oaks Section 1 deed restrictions (referred to as “restrictions”) and the proposed new restrictions by Gulf Coast embedded in the Garden Oaks Baptist Church Declaration of Restrictions Document (referred to as “protections”).

Gulf Coast first approached GOMO towards the end of 2017 regarding their plans to purchase the Garden Oaks Baptist Church parking lot (in between Chase Bank and Gabby’s) and build a commercial center. Gulf Coast followed up in early 2018 with a similar message at the Garden Oaks Civic Club meeting. As a bit of history, these lots are residential, but the Garden Oaks Board of Trustees, successor to the Garden Oaks Company (an entity whose purpose was deed restriction enforcement) and 75% of Section 1 owners amended the Section 1 restrictions to permit these residential lots to be used by the Garden Oaks Baptist Church for non-residential, church purposes only.

Gulf Coast’s initial plan was to propose amending the current deed restrictions to remove the residential restrictions while placing additional restrictions in a separate agreement with the church (please see my additional attached post). This vote would have required approval by GOMO and a 75% vote of Section 1 homeowners. The additional protections laid out in the separate agreement between the developer and the church would have been only enforceable by the Garden Oaks Baptist Church, and not Section 1 or GOMO. This plan fell through once GOMO informed Gulf Coast that the Garden Oaks Company no longer exists and GOMO is not legally its successor. In discussion, it was then proposed to utilize a section of Texas Property Code recognizing GOMO as the neighborhood’s HOA and to hold a similar vote amending current deed restrictions and also requiring 75% of Section 1 homeowner approval. This process could have wrapped the additional new “protections” in the separate agreement into the Section 1 deed restrictions making them enforceable by GOMO. However there was concern by Gulf Coast regarding the legal standing of GOMO in light of the Section 3 litigation declarations (topic to be discussed at our Townhall this Wednesday) and the vote’s long-term legal standing.

This brings us to the CURRENT PROPOSAL. Gulf Coast is proposing a release of deed restrictions that requires the approval of the owners of over 50% of the frontage of the lots in Section 1. The legal distinction here is a process involving a release of deed restrictions rather than amending the deed restrictions. At this point, GOMO consulted with legal counsel who responded that this process is legal. However, GOMO remained concerned that the new “protections” would still only be enforceable by the Garden Oaks Baptist Church. GOMO successfully lobbied Gulf Coast to rewrite the Garden Oaks Baptist Church Declaration of Restrictions to allow for enforcement of the proposed “protections” by any Section 1 homeowner, GOMO, and any future Garden Oaks neighborhood HOA.

Our Section 1 deed restrictions reserve numerous lots for commercial use. In addition, there are several lots that have “turned” commercial since the inception of the neighborhood. An outstanding issue is whether the commercial lot owners can participate along with Section 1 homeowners in the proposed vote to release the deed restrictions on the Church parking lot. GOMO’s guiding principal has been that if the Section 1 homeowners agree to the release of the restrictions, and if our neighborhood can enforce the new “protections,” then it is acceptable. However, due to concern that the commercial lots might skew the result, we are trying to estimate the total linear feet of the old commercial lots, plus the new commercial lots and compare to an estimate of the total linear feet of the residential lots. This data analysis is still outstanding and obviously Gulf Coast has just commenced their campaign with Section 1.

The vote process is legal, and GOMO has worked to ensure that the new “protections” can be enforced by our neighborhood. GOMO takes no official stance on the vote, either for or against release of the deed restrictions. GOMO will support Section 1 in however they choose to vote. The following is my “unofficial” opinion of the current situation. The “protections” seem to be expansive, reasonable, and will serve to protect the neighborhood. These protections certainly go beyond what (doesn’t) exists on the other commercial lots in Section 1. I expect these lots will eventually go commercial, so there is consideration that if this vote fails, the next proposal could be deemed worse for the neighborhood. On the other hand, increased traffic will be a problem. Perhaps not as bad as what may occur with the new HEB further south, but Shepherd cannot be widened further to accommodate a dedicated turn lane. Our neighbors in Section 1A (directly behind the parking lot) will be most affected, and although Gulf Coast has promised to mitigate noise based on the types of renters they will allow (and opening/closing hours), our friends will be concerned about their future property values. Finally, the participation of commercial properties in the vote is a challenge for all of us. They are listed in the Section 1 deed restrictions, but GOMO does not send them notice of our meetings. The commercial properties have never attended a meeting and have not paid a transfer fee to the neighborhood. I’m not sure this rises to a valid legal argument prohibiting their participation, however.

If you have stayed with me this far, please allow me to make an appeal to attend the GOMO Townhall this Wednesday, April 11 from 7-8:30PM at the Garden Oaks Elementary School (GOMM). We will discuss the bankruptcy situation (and the bankruptcy attorneys have promised me they will attend), but most importantly begin the discussion of bringing the neighborhood together post-litigation. I have been on the GOMO Board for 6 months (I joined the day after receipt of the appellate courts verdict), and it is incredible how divisive this issue has become. I pride myself on process, and I joined GOMO as I had a vision for how to pull our neighborhood out of this. Bringing the litigation to a close was a goal, and bankruptcy will definitively solve the issues of possible transfer fee repayments and remove concerns of a process run by GOMO that has inherent conflicts of interest. GOMO will emerge re-organized and free of all legal and financial entanglements, but the hardest part will remain. GOMO is improperly formed, and that broken egg cannot be patched up again.

Interestingly, the Oak Forest HOA has a fairly robust model that may not necessitate re-formation, but if the neighborhood wants a HOA with a mandatory funding mechanism, it will require a re-formation campaign. With input from GOMO Directors, I have created a Powerpoint presentation that highlights some benefits of re-formation that can fix some of the procedural issues with GOMO. But nothing can be accomplished without first speaking to both the litigants and the GOMO Directors involved with the litigation case about what happened. In medicine, some errors can be based on perception or cognition, but the majority of errors are based on poor communication. I will request a group of those in attendance at the Townhall to form a committee to explore re-formation (2 members per Section, from all Sections 1-5) that will also examine the roots of the litigation and lessons learned.

The Garden Oaks Baptist Church parking lot issue demonstrates that the neighborhood needs a strong HOA, and currently it is weak with many unfilled Director positions and struggling to come to terms with the improper formation issue. I am hoping the Townhall on Wednesday will provide a fresh start.

–Vic Seghers

Garden Oaks Constable Program Needs YOU!

Your Constable Program support for 2018 is needed!!.

The effort to increase the number of households in Garden Oaks supporting the Constable Program is necessary because of the loss of GOMO funding. We previously had three constable patrols, with two of those patrols being paid from GOMO surplus funds. That ended in 2016.

The civic club has signed two contracts for 2018, 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. We need to raise $154,000 each year to keep these contracts in place. We need your support. Today!

If everyone in the neighborhood contributed, the cost would be about $110 per household annually. Currently we have right at 245 supporters (out of some 1400 households in GO), which is not nearly enough to fund two patrols for 2018. We are asking each household to contribute a minimum of $225 annually to keep the deputies patrolling in our neighborhood.

Following on, we are pushing hard to have enough funds to cover both patrols for the duration of 2018. We have distributed GO Constable Supporter signs to those who are paid for the current year. If you would like a sign, please email goconstable@gmail.com. Please help us keep our neighborhood safe!

Constable Supporters as of April 1, 2018

Olimometer 2.52 Olimometer 2.52
2018 Supporters 252 2017 Supporters 359
2018 Goal 600 2017 Goal 600
2018 Remaining 348 2017 Remaining 241

Litigation Update Section 3

    At the announced Special Business Meeting held on February 6, 2018, and after many weeks of discussions, the Garden Oaks Maintenance Organization board decided the following:

  • GOMO will not pursue an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court – This decision effectively ends all litigation being pursued by the organization in connection with the Section Three Litigation. In making this decision, the Board weighed the likelihood that the Texas Supreme Court would not accept the appeal, the financial cost of continuing the litigation, and the potential positive and negative impacts either choice would have on the neighborhood as a whole. With a very small acceptance rate, especially for issues that are not likely to impact the state as a whole, the Board determined that the costs of an appeal far outweighed the chance for a positive outcome.
  • GOMO will cease cashing transfer fee checks for the immediate future – The decision not to seek an appeal to the Texas Supreme Court will result in the Court of Appeals decision in the Section Three Litigation becoming final that GOMO was improperly formed as to the particular homeowners in the lawsuit. It is important to note that our deed restrictions remain in place and are enforceable and that the Appeals Court did find that GOMO, as a registered Texas non-profit corporation has a right to exist, to act in accordance with its bylaws, and to enforce these deed restrictions. The only activity of the organization that remains unclear is the collection of fees. The organization will continue “business as usual” until a decision about its future is made, but all transfer fee assessment checks will be held out of an abundance of caution.

These decisions were not made lightly and were made only after a lengthy consultation with the Garden Oaks attorney. After weeks and months of discussions, these were seen as the best course of action for both the neighborhood and the organization. The Board will continue to work with counsel to fully understand the legal and procedural requirements for the potential dissolution of GOMO and to contemplate, with neighborhood input and support, the available options for a successor deed restriction enforcement entity.

GOMO received notification on Tuesday January 30 that the 14th Court of Appeals denied GOMO’s request for a rehearing of its findings from November 2017. GOMO will confer with legal counsel to discuss the next steps forward.

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.


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.