Tanglewood representatives seeks clarification on county codes enforcement

Updated: Apr 9

Tanglewood Lakes Property Owners Association president Randy Adams met with the Linn County Commission to determine if the county has responsibility for enforcing county property codes within the private, gated community. (Screen capture, Tanglewood Lakes POA)

MOUND CITY – On Monday, March 28, Tanglewood Lakes Property Owners Association (POA) President Randy Adams met with the Linn County Commissioners to discuss what code enforcement services the county did offer Tanglewood Lakes, a gated private development.

Adams thanked the county for the support Tanglewood had received and explained that, because of being a private lake community, it was not allowed to have a police force or codes inspector.

Adams said he came to the county commission to find out what the status of enforcement of county codes were. He said that while the county sanitation inspector worked with Tanglewood, they did not see other county enforcement there.

Commissioner Rick James asked Adams what kind of code enforcement he was concerned about.

Adams said enforcement of county codes like people having a permanent residence in a recreational vehicle (RV) or lots that were unsafe because of the buildings.

County Counselor Gary Thompson said that the county had not done anything about those particular issues but the county had done much with sanitation codes.

Thompson said that if somebody had a lot that was unsanitary because of the clutter and trash, the county has had one or two of those.

James asked Thompson about the process for the POA taking care of those issues.

Thompson said the process was that the POA brought a complaint to the county and then the county works on that. Thompson said at present the county did not really have anybody that enforces the issue of living in an RV.

“It is a violation of our codes and probably should be enforced. I suppose when we get our new codes enforcement guy, maybe he will have time to do that,” Thompson said.

James said the county had this before, and it had 15 people coming and asking the county to police their area. It is a privately owned association and the county has taken some of those cases to codes court and gotten a couple of lots cleaned out before.

Thompson said the POA could take steps through their own civil action.

Adams said civil action was a very expensive process, and what the POA is asking is what good are having the codes if nobody’s enforcing it.

The POA depends on county enforcement of their own codes and the POA has taken some situations to civil court, which is very expensive, and which is above and beyond the taxes property owners at Tanglewood pay for county support to enforce the codes, he said.

All the responsibility should not be on the POA. Tanglewood is a private community but it is in Linn County.

“What I would challenge is how many have actually gone to codes court of the complaints that we have submitted, and how many have been taken action on by the county for violations?” Adams asked.

The POA bears responsibility and the POA has spent thousands of dollar trying to correct Tanglewood’s property. Because of that, Tanglewood property has increased in value, Adams said.

The valuations at the lake development have increased tremendously this year, he said. But Tanglewood is going to be in a decline if it cannot get continued support for obvious code violations of the county.

Adams said the POA was perfectly willing to follow their process, there was a document sent out to us about that. It said we had to litigate it first. When we questioned that meaning of litigation, that we have to file a civil suit before the county takes any action. And then it was back down to we had to follow our procedures.

Adams said the POA did its part, but that was where it ended.

Thompson pointed out that all the courts had been closed since March 2020, including codes court. Now the county is at the point where the court could begin, but there is no codes court judge. He added that he anticipated that as soon as a judge was appointed, the court will start hearing cases.

Johnson asked Adams what the POA process was in finding the situations.

Adams said that the POA Board reviewed and verified the violation reported to them by their employees. If it is a violation, the POA sends a written notification explaining exactly what rule violation they have made and depending on the violation, mostly if it is a property violation, like living in a trailer house.

The POA determines if a person is living permanently at Tanglewood by asking them for two document proving residency elsewhere, Adams said. The only real enforcement the POA has other than filing a civil case, which is very expensive and lengthy, is to restrict the property owner’s gate access. This does not keep the people from getting to their property, but makes it inconvenient to them since they cannot drive to their property.

Usually the POA gives them a 30-day period to correct or come into compliance or report back to the POA board in a meeting what their plans are going to be.

The only time the POA wants support from the county is enforcement of county codes as written, Adams said.

James told everyone that in the past, when the two previous commissioners were there, the commissioners were angry that Tanglewood had waited years and years and years and let the people who lived there live the way they wanted. And then all of a sudden, the POA going to put these regulations on the property owners, and it wants the county to do all of the policing.

James said that was unfair because the county not only has Tanglewood but the other lake communities also.

James asked Adams what the POA was doing now to let them know the regulations.

Adams said the regulations are on POA’s website. Also, when the POA puts deeds in its system, we make sure they are provided with those regulations. Even when it is a person-to-person sale, we provide them with the regulations when they change over the gate access.

“There is no question about them being informed about the rules and regulations as they exist today,” said Adams.

Adams said that as far as the POA expecting the county to take care of its problems, Tanglewood is still in the county, and private or not, we are county residents. We pay county taxes, and the only support we are asking for at this time anyway is if someone within the county violates the county codes, then why isn’t the county responsible for helping to enforce those codes whether it be in a private community or a farmland somewhere?

Thompson pointed out that there were basically three tiers of enforcement involved here. The first is the POA enforcing their codes and doing what they can.

The second tier is working directly with the county codes officer, who gets involved on the basis of a complaint from the POA or someone else, sends notices, tries to negotiate with the landowner and tries to get folks to voluntarily comply, Thompson said. The third tier is charging them in codes court. That is where we have fallen down over the last two years because the county hasn’t been able to have codes court.

Linn County Sheriff Kevin Friend pointed out that the sheriff’s office does not enforce code violations, and that they are out at Tanglewood all the time.

Adams said he was just asking for clarification from the county on enforcing their codes.

James said the commission and the POA needed to get together to have a working group with Thompson and the POA’s attorney and try to work out a resolution that they could work together on.

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