Paving divides a community
June 25, 2008 · Updated 2:13 PM
"A pickup truck kicks up the dust that plagues Maple Glen during the dry summers on South Whidbey. A paving contractor is expected start a controversial paving job this month that promises to get rid of the dust, but that has also split the community.Matt Johnson / staff photoA road paving project in a private Freeland community has several dozen property owners crying foul over what they say was a biased vote for work that few in the area want to pay for.At the same time, advocates of the work, who want to see 3.1 miles of the the Maple Glen community's gravel roads covered with asphalt, say pavement will reduce road maintenance costs and virtually eliminate the clouds of road dust that hang in the air throughout the summer.The conflict set off a groundswell of opposition to paving, and prompted some community members to send out an anonymous history of Maple Glen's long-running paving discussion and an unsanctioned paving ballot. Those materials, plus a months-old schism over the issue, has the community's board of directors working on damage control as the early-September work start approaches.Our intent is to find a way to peacefully resolve this, said Sean Sullivan, president of the Maple Glen Community Association.The people who live in Maple Glen have gotten used to the dust and bumpy roads over the years. Originally platted and developed by Emil Gabelein about 30 years ago, the 68-lot community has long been considered an affordable place to live for artists and latter-day hippies in the market for residential acreage, says resident Arnold Fukumoto. This spring, Fukumoto and a number of other people in the community were surprised to hear that the community's eight-member board of directors had researched paving Maple Glen's roads and were about to sign a contract with Oak Harbor's Krieg Construction.Fukumoto said the situation caught him and his neighbors off guard because community members voted against paving twice in recent years. In the April edition of the community's newsletter, the board claimed that paving the roads could save residents $247,000 in gravel and grading costs over 15 years. The board later retracted the estimate, saying such a prediction could not be made accurately.In the meantime, Maple Glen residents narrowly approved the community's 2001 budget, which included a line item for paving. Thirty residents voted against the budget, while 25 voted in favor. Property owners who did not vote were lumped with the yes votes.Had correct information about the cost of paving been published, Fukumoto said, the budget vote might not have passed and the board would not have any kind of mandate to pursue the project.They're just ramming it through, he said.There are others who feel the same way. Jeff Patnoe said the road he lives on, Weatherside Drive, is in good condition and can stay that way if Maple Glen continues to pay to have its roads graded yearly. He said the paving project is strongly supported by a few members of the board, but by few others. Board members Sullivan, Albert Gabelein, Mark Myers, Russell Martin, Laura Williams, Joan Govedare, Larry Jennings, and John Luch voted 5-2 with one abstention in favor of the paving.A few of them are trying to railroad us and we don't like it, Patnoe said.Robert Frey, another Maple Glen resident, said the decision process was not geared toward community input. He said community members now face an automatic increase in the dues they pay, dues that are expected to rise from the current $300 a year to about $684 next year. Community members can pay off their share of the paving with a $4,000, up-front payment, or over time through dues - which obligates them to pay interest as well.Frey said he is galled by the fact that the board has taken out a loan for the work without his consent.They're obligating me and my property on a 15-year loan and I don't have anything to say about it, he said.The perceived lack of community involvement drove one director off the Maple Glen board. Joan Govedare resigned after the board took advantage of poorly-written bylaws in approving the paving project. She said the community's bylaws do not require a vote of the membership to approve large budget items like paving. The board may add the line items it wishes to a budget. Community members would have had to vote against the entire budget to block the paving project.Once the board had the authority it needed to do the paving, Govedare said, she could no longer bring herself to serve as a director.I was very unhappy with the way things went, she said.Maple Glen's board of directors does not have much to say about the issue. President Sullivan said board members are not interested in fighting the issue out in the newspaper. Speaking as an individual property owner, he said the community needs paved roads because they will cost less to maintain than gravel and will end the community's reputation as a place for reckless drivers to speed and pull donuts. He also said the pavement will end Maple Glen's trouble with dusty roads.I look forward to having a paved road, Sullivan said.There will be increased safety and reduced costs.The board claims the cost of keeping gravel roads will be high. The community's April newsletter reports that road maintenance costs could jump from $300 per lot per year to $1,400 per lot in 2015.In an Aug. 10 letter to community members, the board said maintenance costs on a paved road for the next 20 years will be minimal.Patnoe, Fukumoto and Frey said they expected road work to start this week, but did not know exactly when the pavers would roll into Maple Glen. The community's board of directors has predicted an early September start to the work. The board stated in its Aug. 10 letter that it has not been required by Island County to have an engineered drainage plan for the paved roads. Existing drainage ditches will carry future runoff. "