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July 28, 2014

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Tuscany ready for change after Jim Rhodes’ departure

Despite current complaints, HOA residents worried fees might increase after settlement

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Justin M. Bowen

Empty lots are a common site in Tuscany, where home sales and construction have been slowed by Nevada’s dismal economy. Residents of the Henderson development say the problems have been exacerbated by Jim Rhodes, who they accuse of mismanaging their homeowners association.

Tuscany

A partially constructed home in Tuscany is one of hundreds of homes in the development that are expected to be built or completed by a new developer. Creditors for Tuscany's original developer, Jim Rhodes, are expected to take control of the development next year and sell it to another home building company to complete. Launch slideshow »

Tuscany

A September announcement that developer Jim Rhodes will be walking away from the Tuscany development in Henderson is coming as welcome news to residents, who say Rhodes has done a poor job managing the project’s beleaguered homeowners association.

Rhodes agreed earlier this month to turn over his Tuscany and Rhodes Ranch developments to creditors as part of a bankruptcy court settlement involving his homebuilding company, Rhodes Homes. Lenders are expected to sell the projects to other developers, who will complete and operate them.

Residents of Tuscany, a high-end golf course community whose development has been stymied by the recession and foreclosure crisis, say they hope the entity that assumes control of their community will do a better job managing the homeowners association than Rhodes did.

“(Rhodes leaving) is a good thing,” said William Dibendetto, the secretary-treasurer of the Tuscany Homeowners Association and only resident elected to the board. “Mr. Rhodes might be good at building homes, but he’s inept at managing HOAs.”

In a statement from Rhodes Homes, the company said it has a history of working to provide dedicated management for Tuscany.

“While there has been turnover in the management of the Tuscany Homeowners Association during the past two years, Rhodes Homes has been, and remains, committed to ensuring that the Tuscany HOA is run in as efficient and financially responsible manner as possible,” the statement read. “The HOA pays less than market rate for these management services and receives significantly more focused attention. Specifically, the association has been provided with a full-time manager exclusively focused on Tuscany as opposed to the standard third party arrangement where the manager is responsible for a portfolio of associations. The cost to provide Tuscany with a full-time manager results in a loss to Rhodes Homes on the management services.”

State statute provides for the board of directors of a homeowners association to be appointed by the developer when the association is created, then transitioned to resident-elected directors as certain sales benchmarks are met.

Between the economy and Rhodes’ business struggles, however, only about one-third of Tuscany’s planned 2,000 homes have been built and sold, meaning residents have only been able to elect one of their own to the board, with the remaining members, including the board president, appointed by Rhodes.

And that, Tuscany residents say, has been the problem. They accuse Rhodes of not taking the community’s leadership seriously, as the homeowners association has seen six board presidents come and go in the last four years and gone through nine community managers in the last two.

“How do you establish continuity when there’s a changeover twice a year?” Dibendetto said.

Though the imminent departure of Rhodes and the possibility of a new management company taking over under a new developer sometime next year has Tuscany residents hopeful for change, it also brings uncertainty.

The new developer expected to be installed next year may choose to not subsidize the association’s budget, as Rhodes has done, meaning residents could be facing drastic fee increases or cuts to amenities.

Tuscany homeowners pay about $145 a month in homeowners’ fees; residents of the community’s townhomes pay a little more. Those figures are calculated as if all 2,000 homes planned for the community were constructed and occupied by fee-paying residents, not just the 700 or so that have been built thus far.

“During this period of slow growth, where homeowners dues are insufficient to cover management and common area costs, Rhodes Homes has been voluntarily contributing approximately $200,000 per annum to balance the budget,” the statement from Rhodes Homes continued. “This voluntary contribution has been on-going for years. As a result, Tuscany residents have 24-hour guard gated security, a full recreation center, lush common landscaping, and other amenities at a lower monthly cost than the majority of other master-planned communities with fewer amenities.”

While attorneys and a federal bankruptcy court sort out the matter of Tuscany’s completion and future management over the next few months, residents will have to wait for answers. But after years of what they call questionable management for the community, many residents are optimistic that things will change for the better.

Tuscany Social Club President Evelyn Daumeyer has a long list of complaints about the community under Rhodes. She said she had to fight with the homeowners association for months to be able to hold community parties and events in the recreation center. Matters like that, which are usually considered routine in other associations, become problems at Tuscany because there doesn’t seem to be anyone in charge, she said.

“Without clear management coming from the top, it trickles down,” Daumeyer said.

Residents said they have yet to see the golf course clubhouse they were promised when they purchased their home -- the course’s operations continue to be run out of a doublewide trailer. Then there are landscaping repairs that are neglected, missing street signs not installed and rusted fences around the golf course.

Last year, their monthly fees were increased by $5 per month so the pool at their recreation center would have longer hours and flowers could be planted in common areas. The pool extended its hours, but the flowers never came. In June, a group of frustrated residents banded together and held a rummage sale to raise money for flowers, then planted them themselves.

One good thing to come out of their experiences, many homeowners say, is that the adversity has forced them to unite and, as a result, they say they are closer to their neighbors than in other communities they’ve lived in.

Residents say they still strongly believe in the concept of Tuscany and are committed to staying. Even if they wanted to leave, Daumeyer said, falling home values have made leaving an unviable option.

“People love the community, don’t get me wrong,” Daumeyer said. “I love the quality of my home and the concept of the community. But there’s a big difference between this community and, say, a community back in Virginia that I bought in, where the developer had his ducks in a row.”

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