On Monday, former Daphne City Councilman John Lake was appointed president of the Lake Forest Property Owners Association. The previous president, Steve Sasser, sold his home in Baldwin County’s largest subdivision and promptly resigned his seat on the board, Lake said.
The change comes at a time when the POA is facing scrutiny from more than 1,000 residents who signed a petition last month urging the Daphne City Council not to do business with the POA until concerns are resolved about rising dues and transparency.
Last week, Lagniappe detailed those concerns and provided a financial overview of the POA, where monthly dues have been raised from $42.50 to $70 in recent years, generating a $2.9 million annual budget board members intend to use to repair aging facilities. But financial documents indicate most of Lake Forest’s amenities operate at a substantial net loss; many residents are concerned additional investment in those amenities will be a waste of money.
“I think we have some things we’ll be able to accomplish and the board is working together,” Lake said Monday. “Everybody understands and we’re hearing what the people are saying.”
Lake has lived in Lake Forest since 1974 and has been on the board for two years. Interviewed two weeks ago, he said he voted against the latest dues increase but believed the neighborhood would be better served by renovations to its outdated golf and yacht clubs.
While housing prices have soared in other neighborhoods on the Eastern Shore, those in Lake Forest have remained relatively flat.
“I wanted to see Lake Forest back where it was,” he said about his decision to join the POA. “One thing that hurt it, most of the people on this board inherited facilities that were decaying, because previous boards kept dues so low for long and they didn’t take care of the facilities. We’re trying to bring them back to where people expect.”
Even in its structurally compromised and outdated state, he called the yacht club (pictured above) a “gem.” In his two years on the board, he claims he helped push for improvements to the restaurant’s standard of service and cleanliness.
“I ate Thanksgiving dinner there last year and it was fully booked,” he said. “Many of the people don’t have access to the bay and that is their bayfront property … We have stepped up to the plate.”
Lake said the golf club, known as the 19th Hole, needs a more thorough examination before the board can make any decisions about its future. He also suggested the POA has been looking at a ceiling on dues or trying to incorporate more value-added amenities for members.
“We’re a blue collar neighborhood,” Lake said. “I don’t foresee a rate increase for quite a while down the road.”
The next POA meeting is Thursday, June 20, and Lake said applications will be accepted for the vacant seat on the board. The board will appoint a new member to the open seat, while an election of the general membership next year will determine five-year terms for three seats on the board.
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