Cumberland Green marks milestone of achievement
Last updated 12/3/2020 at 12:03pm | View PDF
Newer residents of Cumberland Green may not know about the tough times this metropolitan district has behind it. But people who have worked tirelessly to keep it solvent recollect how far they've come in the last decade. The district just marked the 10th anniversary of the appointment of its first ever Resident Board of Directors, and several of those directors recall the challenges faced back then and how far the district has come.
"It was a terrible time for our community back then that many new residents today probably are not aware of," recalls former Director Ernest Coleman. "When I first purchased my home in January 2008, I looked for a premier community where I wanted the property value to continue rising and that meant a well-kept community that was appeasing to the eyes. But somewhere along the way something went terribly wrong."
The Investor Board of Directors held its last meeting on December 10, 2008. Over the next two years, things fell into disarray. Streets became overgrown with weeds and shrubs that grew out almost 3 feet tall from the cracks of the road and along the curbs. The park grass resembled a dried desert field. The trees along Jimmy Camp Road were all dying. Former Director Arnold Lewis remembers going to the park with his children.
"One day we went out to play and noticed the grass was brown and losing its beauty," Lewis recalled. "Then I drove down Jimmy Camp Road noticing the weeds growing out of control on the side of the road. I then realized that the contractors were not taking care of the park and roadways. I believe that is when we got together and notified a reporter who came out to the park and did a story on our situation and the builder."
Lewis teamed up with four other residents (Phillip J. Thomas, Brandi Lewis (no relation), Wendy McNeill and Ernest Coleman) to investigate why the District was in such bad shape. What they discovered shocked them: since the Investor Board hadn't met in two years, basic maintenance jobs were not being performed. The District's accounting firm could not legally disburse monies without board meetings, which meant it couldn't pay contractors to maintain the landscape. The District Manager could not be paid to oversee the District. The landscape maintenance water bill was not paid, nor was the Community Management firm which enforced the covenants and design reviews. The District could not pay basic accidental insurance, the El Paso County Treasurer could not be paid for its services and the District's legal guidance bills were piling up. On top of all these maintenance problems, the company in charge of developing the District, Jimmy Camp Development Inc., had gone bankrupt. As a result, Oakwood Homes could not continue building homes beyond what was already developed.
The five residents started out by lobbying in the streets along Jimmy Camp Road. They tried to convince residents to adopt a section of the landscape to maintain or use their personal lawn equipment to help since the District had no money for basic lawn care.
Then on Oct. 28, 2010, the Fountain City Council declared the Cumberland Green Metropolitan District's Board of Directors vacant since the Investor Board of Directors didn't meet the statutory requirements for serving as Directors. The Council then authorized a Notice to Fill Vacancies to the local newspaper, informing city residents that a new Board of Directors was needed to fill the vacant position. On Nov. 9, 2010, the aforementioned five residents appeared before City Council and were appointed as the Cumberland Green Board of Directors. Brandi Lewis, who served on the Board as director and as vice president, recalled the challenge and excitement after the new Board was formed.
"I think the biggest thing for me looking back was how many of us went from not even fully understanding what a special tax district was to having to learn how to step in and run one," Lewis said. "There was a huge sense of accomplishment as we transitioned from 'clueless residents' watching our neighborhood fall into shambles to stepping in and taking the power away from a bankrupt, detached developer who never cared about us – because he wasn't one of us. I remember a huge sense of accomplishment as we took our own personal lawn equipment and policed the neighborhood and went door to door handing out flyers to invite neighbors to the first ever public meeting. It was hard work, but we were now in control of the fate of our neighborhood."
Eleven days after the appointment, the Board held its first meeting. They had a full agenda going back almost two years trying to catch up to past, current and future actions. Since they had no experience with operating a special district and no help from the defunct Investor Board (one director stated, "The Investor Board simply turned their backs on us"), they had a great deal to learn in very little time.
Board members reached out to the Special District Association of Colorado and other Special District Board members throughout the state to learn what they needed to know. Several Board members took over maintaining the District's landscape, park and common areas using their own lawn equipment. Sometimes concerned residents pitched in to help with lawn care during their spare time.
The Board also made a series of moves to save money as much as possible. It took on the management role and administrative actions, and replaced the existing management and accounting firm as well as the law firm with new ones that were within the District budget.
With the developer bankrupt and future development stalled, the Board teamed with Oakwood Homes and city of Fountain to force the bonding insurer to fulfill its obligation to finance the failed development projects. The bonding insurer brought a lawsuit against the Board and District, the matter was settled out of court and the development for the District eventually got the funding needed. Later, the Board made an agreement with Oakwood Homes to take on the role of District Developer and Oakwood Homes gave the District a $1-million cash bond to help get the District back on track. The Board refinanced all of the District's outstanding bonds and consolidated to a lower interest rate that provided the District more revenue to operate.
Today the District is thriving. Residents credit the Board of Directors' hard work, as well as great contributions by the subsequent board members, including Robert Wilson and the current Board as well as Design Review Committee members Jeffrey L Brooks, Anthony Petrone, Brandi Lewis, Patrick Lewis and many others. By stepping up to the change, residents picked up where the Investor Board failed and kept the District going.