Money at root of Index fight

By Leslie Moriarty

Herald Writer

INDEX — Little did R.E. Rogers know when he designed the community of Mt. Index Riversites on the Skykomish River South Fork near Index in the late 1950s that years later some residents would end up at war with each other over the roads in the development.

But that’s just how Ben Van Dusen describes things in the community of about 150 full-time residents.

The problem? He says nobody is sure who is in charge.

"Ever since I’ve been here, there’s been a homeowners group," said Van Dusen, a resident since 1996. "But when I looked into things, I found out that the group has no legal rights to collect dues."

That’s news to Lynne Kelly, president of the Mt. Index Riversites homeowners association, which traditionally has maintained the roads in the private development. Kelly said the group is legal and since 1962 has been the official mechanism for keeping up the roads, bridges and providing security to the 1,102 original lots.

"Technically, we are a community club," she said. "We are nonprofit, and we do collect and administer the financial work for the homeowners in Mt. Index Riversites."

Accounting shows more than $89,107 spent in the past fiscal year, including more than $54,000 on roads and bridges, and $15,000 on security. Another $150,000 is in reserves for a bridge project.

Kelly said a Snohomish County Superior Court decision in March 2001 gave the group the right to collect dues.

But at least a dozen year-round residents aren’t comfortable with handing over their $200 a year homeowner’s dues. They refer to an earlier court decision that the group’s bylaws are not enforceable covenants, Van Dusen said.

"What’s at the heart of this is that the association is wanting to increase the assessments to homeowners, and we’re not willing to go along with that without some way to know that they are accountable for the money," he said.

The need for more money came after a bridge in the development failed. The development consists of three areas, and included in those areas is everything from large new summer homes to old cabins and deteriorating shacks.

The bridge replacement is expected to cost $250,000, and while all homeowners will help pay for it, less than a third of the property owners need to cross it to get to their lots.

There are as many as 500 property owners in the development, but many no longer keep up their cabins. Some don’t pay dues, either, which leaves a larger burden on the others.

Some residents have tried to get Snohomish County to condemn the roads and bridge, but Van Dusen said the county has to initiate that process.

"That isn’t something they want to do right now, because the county doesn’t want any more roads to have to keep up," he said.

Van Dusen, a biologist by background and now an inventor and entrepreneur, said one problem is that some property owners don’t stay in touch and are rarely on-site.

Kelly welcomes Van Dusen’s interest and said she thinks the board wants to work with all residents.

"We’ve been very open about how we do business," she said. "We detail every penny we take in and we spend."

You can call Herald Writer Leslie Moriarty at 425-339-3436

or send e-mail to moriarty@heraldnet.com.

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