WALESKA – Nearly 200 people packed Lake Arrowhead Church on Tuesday night to hear a second public presentation of the Waleska neighborhood’s Village Center at Great Festival Park project and participate in a question-and-answer session led by community staff.

Additional seating had to be brought in to accommodate the turnout, and the room periodically erupted into shouting matches between residents.

Lake Arrowhead Communities General Manager Steve Roe gave a similar presentation at a resident meeting and groundbreaking on Feb. 26. The project would build homes, a fitness center, café and mail center near Lake Arrowhead’s Great Festival Park.

“People are social creatures, so while sometimes you want to get away from it all, sometimes you also want a common place to be with other people,” Roe said at the introduction of the presentation. “This really is a new alternative that isn’t currently offered in Lake Arrowhead.”

Residents and members of the Lake Arrowhead Property Owners Association interrupted portions of the presentation expressing frustration that the project was developed without residents input.

“We have had no input whatsoever. The plans have been concealed from us,” LAPOA President Morris Nunes said, standing up and facing the crowd during the presentation.

After the meeting, Nunes said his outburst, which drew applause from a portion of the crowd, was a reflection of the feelings of many residents in the community. He said many of his and other residents’ submitted questions and concerns regarding the community’s infrastructure and water issues went unaddressed. Participants in the meeting were told in advance that they should submit questions in advance my email.

“Most of the questions that I (submitted), particularly the more, what I would call, controversial questions were not answered,” Nunes said. “I was extraordinarily displeased with the outcome of the meeting, and I was displeased with the plan, in the sense that we offered to cooperate, we knew that something was being developed, but we didn’t know what. They did this behind our back.”

Nunes also said many residents are fed up with the lack of ownership that often comes with living in the community.

“Unlike most property owners and homeowners associations, we do not own the common areas here,” he said.

Roger Akers, a former LAPOA president and current resident of the community said concerns are being blown out of proportion, many residents are making blind accusations and the interruptions of the night’s meeting are not the way to find solutions.

“(It was) disruptive, which is typical. It’s been that way for 20 years. There’s always the ones that don’t abide by the rules. There was a message that went out that said, ‘Send in your questions, and if you can’t send them in, don’t ask them from the floor,’” Akers said after the meeting. “The problem is nobody knows all the facts, and people deal with assumptions… Let’s get to the facts, and then let’s hold people accountable to build a plan and execute it.”

Akers said he is in favor of the new development at Great Festival Park and is excited at what it will bring to the community.

Water issues

Tuesday’s resident meeting comes on the heels of the controversial Feb. 26 reveal of the village center project and the county’s withholding of further building permits for the community, because of a recommendation from the Georgia Environmental Protection Division. The EPD said the community does not have the drinking water capacity to add homes.

Roe, Lake Arrowhead Utility Co. Vice President George Sullivan, and James Haslam of Lake Arrowhead Yacht and Country Club operations addressed resident concerns over the neighborhood’s sewer capacity and water issues, as well as questions of road maintenance.

Sullivan acknowledged that radium levels in one of the community’s wells required that it be taken offline in 2016. Sullivan also said, however, that changes in EPD regulation since the well’s 1972 drilling lowered the acceptable amount of radium in water supplies, and “that put us in violation.”

The loss of Well 16 meant that the number of allowed water taps for the neighborhood fell, putting the community over its drinking water capacity. But the EPD’s estimations of daily resident water usage in the neighborhood should be re-evaluated, and, based on his estimation, the community should be allowed more tap capacity, Sullivan said.

“The EPD figures that every household (in Lake Arrowhead) uses about 400 gallons of water a day. You people are way more conservative than that. Our average customer uses less than 100 gallons of water per day,” he said.

Sullivan also said the radium in the well can be removed, but that the EPD has to guide the utility company in the process.

“We are going to work with the EPD to try to figure out what to do, because we can get the radium out of our system, just as we do the manganese and the iron. The problem is, what are we going to do with this radium once we get it out of the well?” he said. “The EPD has yet to give us an answer on that… They make the regulations, and we feel like they need to tell us what we can do with this radium.”

James Cooley, director of EPD district operations said Thursday that considerations of water usage and capacity are negotiable, as long as certain standards are still met, but regarding the proper disposal of radium, Lake Arrowhead and the EPD will have to be in close communication – the EPD is not solely responsible for providing appropriate information.

EPD is open to revisiting its determination of capacity by using Lake Arrowhead’s historical usage data, Cooley said in an email to the Tribune. The issue of cleaning radium from the system hinges on how the waste will be disposed of.

“We will continue to work with the system to come up with an amicable solution,” Cooley wrote.

Resident reports of occasional “dirty tap water” are a result of old and failing pipes in the community, and as the utility finds out about them, they are replaced, Sullivan said. He encouraged customers to contact the utility company, should they experience these issues.

“I want you all to feel assured that we’re staying on top of this and doing everything we can to get you clean drinking water,” Sullivan said.

Cherokee County Commissioner Steve West, who represents the district including Lake Arrowhead said Thursday that representatives of Johnson Development, the Lake Arrowhead Utility Co., a Lake Arrowhead engineer and a hired consultant met with West, Commission Chair Buzz Ahrens and county staff on Tuesday afternoon to update them on efforts to “resolve issues with their water systems.”

West reaffirmed that the county will not issue developers any new building permits until Lake Arrowhead leadership can come up with a plan that satisfies the EPD. He said he recommended that executives develop a master plan that better lays out plans for future development in the community, allowing the county better oversight.

Road maintenance

For his part, Haslam told residents that the private roads of the community and their ongoing maintenance are the responsibility of the LAYCC and the LAPOA. He said the LAPOA functions as an “advisory body” to the LAYCC.

Lake Arrowhead dues come in to the LAYCC monthly and are used for the management of the privately-owned portions of the neighborhood, Haslam said. While the developers are responsible for the roads and infrastructure in areas under development, those areas that are complete become the responsibility of the property owners, he said.

“I understand that you guys pay property tax, the same as everybody else, but this is a private, gated community. The public can’t access the roads, as a general rule, so they’re our responsibility to fix,” Haslam said. “I noticed there was some discussion about having Johnson, the developer, provide funds (for maintenance). That is not his obligation… The money that comes into the LAYCC… (has to be used) judiciously. We make every effort to spend it wisely and get the most value we can… But I would say, by and large, the roads get what’s left at the end of the year.”

Future meetings and opportunities to ask additional questions are expected, Roe told residents at the meeting.

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(31) comments

Anonymous Commenter

Radium 226 & 228, found in the now closed LA well, and which was TWICE the MAXIMUM state and federal level allowed for radon, is only dangerous when used for drinking or cooking. No worry about showers. But the alpha particles from ingestion are absorbed into the digestive tract and distributed throughout the body into tissues and bones like calcium. Unlike calcium, this can diminish the immune system, affect fetal development, and lead to increases in bone, liver, and breast cancers. The US government EPA's Enforcement Compliance History Online (ECHO) database informs that the LA water system was in violation from 2015 into 2017 and was considered a "serious violator" for four quarters into 2017. When was this well first used and tested and when did LA management first become aware of this problem?

Anonymous Commenter

Activated carbon filtration will trap radon in water filters but if water is pumped thru the air and allowed to release radon outside, it can also be used safely. This Old House did a recent segment on a homeowners radon- water problems. The UGA site on radon also states there is no action level at the federal or state level concerning radon levels in water, so someone should ask the LA management for anything about those high radon levels in the closed well and if you have a basement also consider having a radon air test in your home.

Anonymous Commenter

Radon is NOT radium. Two totally different topics.

Anonymous Commenter

Lake Arrowhead is a wonderful neighborhood of great neighbors who take care of each other and this beautiful lake and the wildlifeliving here. Just like any other community, we have some issues. The passion around this request is more around the recent abuse of this area by the owners and developers. Any indication of care beyond sheer greed would ease tensions in the community. This is a community that easily gets behind needs to help within and outside of our gates. The approach to announcing this plan to the community tells the story.

Anonymous Commenter

The subsidies for the Golf Course and Clubhouse restaurant are running over $400,000 yearly. Add the 10 percent off the top that Johnson Development takes off the top from our dues and it’s no wonder the funds left are not enough to maintain the roads in LA. The cafe and fitness center operation and maintenance costs being forced on LA homeowners will add to the drawdown of money badly needed for infrastructure. Instead, Johnson gets free marketing tools and we homeowners will be forced into dues increases to keep our community functional. They are reaching into our pockets at will.

Anonymous Commenter

Who are the four peple for this project?
Could they tell us why they are for it?

Anonymous Commenter

If johnson is going to spend 18 million on the village, who don't they in good faith spend 5 million on the roads and infrastructure, when the pipe in the lake goes, it is going to be too late

Limit construction traffic to southgate only, with a Bond, that when tge village fails, we will have the funds to fix the roads.
Of course Highland Vistas is such a failure over a decade and tgere are still almost 200 home sites left and spec homes built sitting empty, if we are lucky they will not build amenities, like in phase 2 the marketed a water park and other things that were never built

Anonymous Commenter

It is such a shame that Johnson fails to engage with the Community. Everything they do seems to be done without regard to current residents or any kind of future for the Community or their stake in it. Short term thinking; is it greed, stupidity, blindness, thoughtlessness or something else?

Anonymous Commenter

Shouldn't the current homeowners get a vote on amenities we don't want and can't afford

Anonymous Commenter

Safety, safety, safety
Water, streets, fire rescue
That should be our 1st concern

Anonymous Commenter

"While the developers are responsible for the roads and infrastructure in areas under development, those areas that are complete become the responsibility of the property owners, he said."

This is incorrect!!! Johnson, and the deplorable Majestic Lifestyle Builders, are still building throughout Phase I. They build on any Phase I lot they can buy, even building spec homes with no buyers. Their equipment damages Phase I roads, for which they claim no responsibility. Additionally, they clear the lots of every last tree!

Anonymous Commenter

So true

Anonymous Commenter

If they’re “private “ roads and Johnson refuses to maintain the roads they’re tearing up, Why ca they be told to find another way to get to their lots with their heavy trucks that the residents don’t drive???

Anonymous Commenter

Why is it such a problem for Johnson Development to contribute an impact fee per home unit that would help with maintaining and rebuilding the roads that their construction traffic is destroying and increased water capacity they are creating? it will be hard to sell homes with crumbling roads and exorbitant home owner fees. This would go a long way toward improving relations with current and future residents. Right now it seems that relationship is not of any concern. Strange sales strategy?

Anonymous Commenter

Word of mouth is the BEST marketing

Anonymous Commenter

I believe they do collect a impact fee but they keep it! Several new residents said they were charged.

Anonymous Commenter

We think this is a private community. How can that be when you can drive up to the gate and say you are going to the clubhouse yet you go to the pool to swim. No it's not a private community. Anyone can play golf here and use the lake.
Johnson has to drive our roads to get to the area they are developing, tearing up our roads so have them repair them at their expense, not ours.

Anonymous Commenter

Indeed

Anonymous Commenter

I don't think anyone is agaist building of 70 home or even 200 homes, but you can get to them but by old crumbling roads.

If tge homes where moved to a different location and existing amenities renovated and added to, that would be a GREAT compromise, if the county could help with modification of the PUD and the developer release feasibility studies in budget analysis I think the community could be happy and the developed her possibly could make money which they haven't done on the failed Phase 2

Anonymous Commenter

Why with 1600 homeowners, do only 200 care one way or the other? This is our community.
Is there a community activists or real estate attorney in the county that would help us, mediate negotiate come to a compromise

Anonymous Commenter

LAPOA president is an attorney.

Anonymous Commenter

My understanding Johnson came up with their ARC had picked without even interviewing homeowners recommend by the HOA board. Pick your puppets and tge can pull tge strings

Anonymous Commenter

That is par for the course. Someone needs to get an attorney and do whatever necessary to assure these so called "for the people" appointees are walking the lines and doing things according to the covenants of this community. It's time for all this nonsense to stop, NOW!

Anonymous Commenter

ARC has no authority saying they are advisory is a stretch. Hand picked or not it doesn't matter.

Anonymous Commenter

I wish everyone could just step back and not let their ego get in the way (Johnson)
You can't get to your new development but two was, both which have crumbling infrastructure. Your plan may have work 13 times in Texas and at bridge mill but but we have a jewel up here that needs a better option and your option of increasing our HOA from 130 to over 500 this still will not cover the roads and dam you need for your "lost city" amenities that once they are turned over we will be unable to afford, empty building with no staff...we couldn't even afford full staff lifeguards at our pools cafe empty when vendors realize tgere no profit.

Once the jenie is out of the bottle, you can put him back in.

Anonymous Commenter

I agree whole hardedly. Besides limited lifeguards, the pools we have are in terrible shape and not taken care of as is. Will they build another pool to handle additional residents? The ones we have are over crowded and since LAYCC doesn't check ID's anymore, many outsiders are using them. It is not a good experience to even go to them anymore. The guards at the South Gate don't really even look at you or your car anymore for the sticker as you drive in. Haven't lived here but a few years but the change has been very apparent. Johnson needs to take care of the current community it has and its current issues before adding more. And for the life of me, I don't understand how Johnson can say the crumbling roads that their construction trucks have caused are our problem not theirs. If it weren't for THEIR construction trucks, our roads wouldn't be in the shape they are in. They should at the very least offer some compensation to LAYCC for this mess.

Anonymous Commenter

I agree, like Steve Roe said at the meeting there are only two ways not the new village center my our roads, didn't see a heliotrope pad or teleporter in his renderings

Anonymous Commenter

P p0l7

Anonymous Commenter

Thanks thomad, for showing all sides, could you dig a little deeper

Anonymous Commenter

I fail to understand how adding a lot of small condos and townhouses in a small area increases property values. The intended Café and exercise facilities will become another thing the home owners will have to subsidize, like the current Restaurant and Golf course that has never shown a profit. I guess that is no concern of Steve Rowe. Refurbishing the current condos and townhouses would enhance property values.

Anonymous Commenter

Would make a much better business plan and a better steward of our community

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