The Town of Leesburg may be headed to court if no resolution can be found between the municipality and one of its largest homeowner’s associations.
The Exeter Homeowner’s Association filed a lawsuit last year seeking to get the town to take responsibility for a stormwater management dam on the HOA’s property. The HOA has since extended two settlement offers to the Town Council, both of which were rejected following discussions in closed sessions.
What neither party is disputing is the location of the dam, with both sides affirming it falls on HOA property. However, the residents contend that the deed of easement and the plat recorded by the town and HOA in 1990 put the onus for any repairs or enhancements to the dam on the town’s shoulders.
The HOA represents 829 homes on 215 acres between Rt. 15 and Battlefield Parkway. Efforts to establish ownership of the dam have been ongoing for three years, started by an August 2014 letter received by the HOA from the Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation. The letter noted that the Exeter dam had been cited as a high-hazard dam and needed to be brought into compliance with state regulations. An engineer hired by the HOA in early 2015 to determine the price tag for bringing the dam into compliance was just under $1 million. A town staff report presented to the Town Council also noted annual maintenance costs of $21,000, in addition to $60,000 in costs every six years to prepare studies required by the state.
The HOA formally petitioned the council to assume ownership of the dam, and thus the responsibilities to bring it up to state regulations, in the summer of 2015. Council members declined, but asked the town’s General Assembly delegation to support a measure that would allow private entities to attain grants for the repair and retrofit of dams. That bill, introduced by Sen. Jennifer Wexton (D-33), has not passed in the last two legislative sessions.
With no help from Richmond and at a seeming impasse with the town, the HOA formally filed its lawsuit in July and, according to Town Attorney Barbara Notar, the lawsuit is in the discovery phase with a pretrial conference yet to be scheduled. The suit is seeking declaratory judgment to determination of the ownership of the dam. The plaintiff points to the deed of easement in its lawsuit, which provides that the HOA “grants and conveys unto the Town…[e]asements and rights-of-way for the purpose of installing, constructing, operating, maintaining, adding to or altering present or future storm drainage ditches, lines, or other storm drainage structures and facilities, plus necessary inlet structures, storm water management facilities, and any other appurtenances necessary for the collection of storm water (storm drainage) and for its transmission through, upon and across the property of [Exeter Escrow Inc.], said easements and rights-of-way being more particularly described on [the Plat].”
Notar disputes the assertion that the dam is the town’s financial responsibility.
“It’s not the town’s dam, it’s the HOA’s dam,” she said.
A call to Bruce Easmunt, the Fairfax-based attorney representing the HOA, was not returned.