Neighborhood protests pave way to HOA changes

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Caleb Audia

The sun sets throughout Mustang Lakes after an email sent out to all homeowners announcing the opening of most amenities to open up for residents, following Celina’s COVID-19 safety protocol. Ater months of protests and negative reviews, residents said they are relieved to be able to enjoy the amenities that they pay for with their home owners’ association dues. “I’m definitely curious to see how they are going to handle the social distancing and sanitizing everything,” junior Karolina Rubio said.” I just hope everything is handled correctly and safely.”

Caleb Audia, Reporter

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Since the start of January 2020, the worldwide pandemic of COVID-19 has changed the way community children and students to adults and employees go about their normal lives. In Prosper, struggling jobs and businesses are on the forefront, but what community members don’t see is what goes on behind the scenes. Neighborhoods have struggled with adopting and applying the protocols that will keep their residents safe and not drive down property values in experiences and in sales.

Mustang Lakes, a large-scale neighborhood off of Frontier Road, is located on the line of Prosper and Celina. While zoned for Prosper ISD, the Mayor of Celina issues and restricts COVID-19 protocols, including Insight Association Management, the home owners association that controls the amenities, events and public displays of the neighborhood.

Regardless, residents and homeowners alike living in Mustang Lakes have shown their disapproval for their HOA’s COVID-19 closures and rules. Back in March, the association decided that because of pandemic-related health concerns that  Mustang Lakes will be required to close all amenities, including playgrounds, pools, parks and gyms. Even though many members understood the need for affirmative action at that time to keep the neighborhood safe, the residents soon realized that even with the closures, their HOA fees would remain the same.

“I was not surprised, as they, clearly, did not have a system in place,” Mustang Lakes homeowner Melissa Audia said. “I would have appreciated if they closed it and said that it would remain closed as we try to find a solution, but they never communicated with us.”

As the summer neared an end, the fees continued to remain their standard price, even after threats of lawsuits and possible refusal for payments were promised by residents.

“Some kind of incentive would have been appreciated,” Audia said, “I just do not trust what they have been telling us when other surrounding locations with the same HOA management were being (opened) and operated differently than we were.”

Finally, after weeks of considering gradual openings or lowered prices, the HOA committee promised they would refer to Celina Mayor Sean Terry for what action will be needed to re-open the pool, per the majority of residents’ requests.

Yet, even after the mayor gave all businesses the “good-to-go” to open up outdoor facilities, as long as social distancing and mask policies were followed, Mustang Lakes amenities remained closed.

Because of the refusal to follow the mayor’s recommended actions, Mustang Lake’s residents decided to take the action. Yard signs reading “Keep Calm, Open the Pool” were sold throughout the neighborhood, as well as reports/videos of residences hopping fences to access the closed pools and tennis courts. Videos of residents even swimming in the “no-swimming” signed lakes surfaced as well.

“I thought they were lowkey kind of funny, but also tone-deaf to the terrible pandemic going on,” junior Karolina Rubio said. “I did expect (Mustang Lakes) to give in to the pressure and follow the leads of the surrounding neighborhoods.”

The protesting proved to not be enough to make a change to the HOA administration, so residents began to flood negative reviews for the neighborhood online through Yelp, Facebook, Google and more.

This is a great community, great neighbors, and I am glad to have lived here for three years. But, this rating is in response to the lack of preparation and forethought put forth by the HOA,” one reviewer, Michel Moffatt, said. “Who knows what will happen in the future during flu season? We are willing to sign waivers, and most are already getting together while respecting those that don’t.”

Many users reposted similar arguments throughout Facebook via text posts and social-gatherings pictures. As expected, the intensity of the disagreements between the residents and the committee began to have an effect. These efforts led leadership in the corporate office to promote a social-distanced gathering with the presence of the Celina/Prosper Police, Celina Mayor, a representative from the HOA corporate office. The plan included addressing questions and concerns that the residents had.

Tuesday, Sept. 22, the full in-person meeting, which was also available to members virtually, discussed topics such as promises from the committee, payments to the HOA, scientific evidence of the spread of the virus, other neighborhoods in the same city that have fully opened up, and action plans that could be implemented. The meeting ended within two hours.

When it seemed as if nothing changed after the meeting, Thursday, Sept. 24, Insight Association Management sent a resident-wide email to all homeowners and residents announcing the opening of the neighborhood pool, parks, playgrounds, and each protocol implementation needed for safe enjoyment of the residents.

“Even though no one wants to go to a pool in October, I am happy that things are finally opening up,” Audia said. “However, the limited hours are not convenient for us between what was sold to us and what is now being promised.”

While no apologies, lowered costs, or even special events given, residents said they at least felt relieved that they were able to move in a positive direction.

“I’m definitely curious to see how they are going to handle the social distancing and sanitizing everything,” Rubio said. “I’m also nervous about potentially catching the virus from any of the amenities, especially since my family and I are all high-risk (when it comes to COVID-19). I just hope everything is handled correctly and safely.”