Chandler homeowners fed up with HOA rate hikes

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The Board of Directors of Sunstone I approved a rate hike last month at an emergency meeting, bringing monthly fees to $222 starting in September. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The Board of Directors of Sunstone I approved a rate hike last month at an emergency meeting, bringing monthly fees to $222 starting in September. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
The hike means rates will be 53 percent higher than they were in late 2015, according to homeowner Janice McClellan. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) The hike means rates will be 53 percent higher than they were in late 2015, according to homeowner Janice McClellan. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
Despite the apparent budget issues, the HOA completed several large projects in the last year, homeowner Diane Park pointed out. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) Despite the apparent budget issues, the HOA completed several large projects in the last year, homeowner Diane Park pointed out. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
3TV/CBS 5 was invited to attend Tuesday night’s Board of Directors but a board member barred reporter Derek Staahl from entering, saying the meeting was private. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5) 3TV/CBS 5 was invited to attend Tuesday night’s Board of Directors but a board member barred reporter Derek Staahl from entering, saying the meeting was private. (Source: 3TV/CBS 5)
CHANDLER, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -

Some Chandler residents say their homeowners' association is “gouging” them on fees after yet another rate hike.

The Board of Directors of Sunstone I, a 116-unit condominium community near Warner Road and Arizona Avenue, approved a rate hike last month at an emergency meeting, bringing monthly fees to $222 starting in September.

The hike means rates will be 53 percent higher than they were in late 2015, according to homeowner Janice McClellan.

“A lot of us are retired, living only on Social Security. Some of the people who are seniors are saying they won't be able to afford their medications,” McClellan said.

In a letter to homeowners, board members explained the rate increase was necessary to maintain basic services like landscape maintenance, porter service, pool maintenance and site management because the association is operating at a $40,000 deficit.

“The Board recognizes the financial impact the increase may have on the membership but the Board also has a fiduciary duty to ensure that the common areas are properly maintained. Please understand this increase is solely intended to keep the current deficit from increasing and to be able to continue standard services,” according to the letter.

The Board approved the increase unanimously. Residents say there are three members.

The September rate hike marks the third increase since late 2015, and the explanation behind it has puzzled some residents.

“We don't have amenities,” said McClellan. “Just a small pool; no gym, no clubhouse, no garages.”

Despite the apparent budget issues, the HOA completed several large projects in the last year, homeowner Diane Park pointed out.

“Why would you do asphalt? What would you do painting? Why would you do construction? Why would you do new landscaping in one year,” she said.

The homeowner of nearly 30 years said she was considering selling her unit and moving out.

McClellan invited 3TV/CBS 5 to attend Tuesday night’s Board of Directors meeting at Chandler Public Library to find out more about the rationale for the rate hikes, but a board member barred reporter Derek Staahl from entering, saying the meeting was private.

Rooms at the library can be rented for a fee, and groups who rent them can control who enters the meeting space at the public facility, a City of Chandler spokesperson confirmed.

The letter from the Board of Directors warns homeowners that the latest rate hike won't solve the HOA's financial trouble.

"Additional assessment increases should be expected for 2018," it reads.

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This once-uncompromising "California guy" got his first taste of Arizona in 2015 while covering spring training baseball for his former station. The trip spanned just three days, but Derek quickly decided Phoenix should be his next address. He joined CBS 5 and 3TV four months later, in August 2015. Before packing his bags for the Valley of the Sun, Derek spent nearly four years at XETV in San Diego, where he was promoted to Weekend Anchor and Investigative Reporter. Derek chaired the Saturday and Sunday 10 p.m. newscasts, which regularly earned the station's highest ratings for a news program each week. Derek’s investigative reporting efforts into the Mayor Bob Filner scandal in 2013 sparked a "governance crisis" for the city of San Diego and was profiled by the region’s top newspaper. Derek broke into the news business at WKOW-TV in Madison, WI. He wrote, shot, edited, and presented stories during the week, and produced newscasts on the weekends. By the end of his stint, he was promoted to part-time anchor on WKOW’s sister station, WMSN. Derek was born in Los Angeles and was named the “Undergraduate Broadcast Journalism Student of the Year” in his graduating class at USC. He also played quads in the school’s famous drumline. When not reporting the news, Derek enjoys playing drumset, sand volleyball, and baseball.

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