Dickie Foster, Joan Natali Taken off Bay Creek Board
CAPE CHARLES WAVE
March 16, 2015
Threatened by a palace revolt, Bay Creek South owner Keyser/Sinclair has removed founder Richard “Dickie” Foster as president of the Bay Creek Community Association. Cape Charles Town Council member Joan Natali is also being removed from her position as a voting board member of the Association.
The action was announced March 11 by Bay Creek South LLC President Gary Dorsch at a property owners meeting. Dorsch appointed longtime Foster associate Oral Lambert to replace Foster as president.
Bay Creek neighbors Dr. Paul Strong and Steve and Susan Husak led a threatened legal challenge to Dorsch for his company’s failure to charge monthly dues to Foster for the 75 lots he still owns through his two companies, Bay Creek LLC and Baymark Construction. Operating under the name “Bay Creek Citizen Group,” Strong and the Husaks alerted fellow residents to the fact that while they were being charged $155 a month for each lot they owned, Foster had not been charged anything for the past seven years following his sale of most of Bay Creek to Keyser/Sinclair. More than 200 Bay Creek owners signed on to the Citizen Group’s complaint.
The Citizen Group also charged that Bay Creek South (Keyser/Sinclair) had been unable to substantiate its claimed costs for various improvements used to justify its own exemption from paying property dues. “When residents attempted to exercise their right under both the Declarations and Virginia law to examine the records substantiating these costs, they were told they had been ‘lost,'” the Citizen Group said.
The issue is complicated by the fact that Bay Creek property owners do not have control over their own Community Association. Instead, owner Keyser/Sinclair, known as the “declarant,” controls the Association. The by-laws call for control to pass to the actual property owners not later than 2021. In the meantime Dorsch controls the Community Association in the name of the declarant.
Another wrinkle is that the majority of dues go to pay for grounds maintenance — and the company performing the maintenance is owned by Foster. There is no bidding — the Association simply pays whatever Foster charges.
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Almost three years ago, former Foster business partner Paul Galloway foreshadowed the events of this past week. “It’s called a homeowner’s association but it’s really Mr. Foster’s association,” Galloway said in 2012. “If this [Bay Creek] development has any hope for the future, the homeowners, not Mr. Foster, need to be given control.”
But in fact, while no longer president, Foster still has considerable control in that he tells the Association how much they must pay him for property maintenance.
It was not explained exactly why voting member Joan Natali is losing her position, but according to the Citizen Group, Dorsch has promised that all property owners now will be allowed to vote for one member of the Association. Natali is losing her position to make room for one popularly elected at-large Board member, and the election should occur “within the next few months.”
Under the Association by-laws, each neighborhood gets one voting member, and Natali represented the Hollies neighborhood — coincidentally (or perhaps not) the same neighborhood where Strong and the Husaks live. The by-laws ensure that the declarant (Bay Creek South) has more votes than all the neighborhood voting members combined.
Bay Creek residents Natali and Steve Bennett constitute two of the six members of Cape Charles Town Council, and have also been close to Foster. Bennett headed Foster’s company Baymark Construction until Commonwealth’s Attorney Bruce Jones suggested Bennett could have a conflict of interest by also sitting on Town Council. Bennett kept his Council seat, but within a week he no longer worked at Baymark.
During Natali and Bennett’s time on Town Council, the town bought seven vacant lots on Randolph Avenue from Foster for $100,000. Previously the town had leased the lots from Foster, although no purpose for the lots was ever demonstrated other than to exhibit a welcome sign. Under the lease terms, Foster paid no property tax to the town for the lots.
Foster has been steadily reducing his presence in Cape Charles, although he still owns considerable real estate. County tax records list 78 properties owned by Bay Creek LLC and another 50 properties under the name of Baymark Construction (both owned by Foster). As of March 2015, Bay Creek LLC and Baymark Construction owed Northampton County some $86,000 in back real estate taxes, which does not include any amounts that might be owed to the Town of Cape Charles.
In addition to back taxes, Foster will now be required to pay $140,000 annually to the Bay Creek Community Association.