Uprising at Louisquisset Condos as residents protest decisions

Uprising at Louisquisset Condos as residents protest decisions

Nearly all residents who attended last Wednesday’s meeting on the future of the Louisquisset Condos raised their hands when asked if they thought it was time for new leadership. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)

NORTH PROVIDENCE – A condo development known locally for representing the height of idyllic living is in turmoil, with residents there seeking major changes in its management and expressing a lack of confidence in financial decisions being made.

Three movements within the Louisquisset Condo Association, where condos surround lush golf fairways and greens, are seeking a new path forward for the residential development, with 200 or more residents joining together last Wednesday, Oct. 3, at the Knights of Columbus Dillon Council on Douglas Avenue for a meeting to discuss protecting their interests.

Residents at 1 Overlook Circle are calling for an audit of all money spent by the condo association, a complete overhaul of the association’s bylaws, and a revamping of the association’s board of directors, among other changes.

Topping the list of concerns here is a new plan to invest $14 million into a seven-year vinyl siding project residents say isn’t needed and could cost them some $25,000 per unit. This is the latest in a string of what they’re calling poor financial decisions that are leaving them asking whether the board of directors can be trusted.

Board member Sean Greenfield said Monday that he’s not sure why there’s a belief being spread that there are a lot of issues at the condo development. There are 409 families represented at the Louisquisset Condominiums, he said, and “I don’t think you’re ever going to satisfy 409 people.”

Those 409 families represent more than 700 residents in this exclusive collection of condos located off Angell Road near the Lincoln town line.

Asked specifically if the vinyl siding project will move forward despite intense opposition, Greenfield said, “I’m unable to answer if it is or it is not.”

Board Chairwoman Cheryl Hodgdon, who is the target of widespread criticism from condo owners, did not respond to requests for comment. Calls to Great North Property Management, which runs the facility, also weren’t returned.

Asked to indicate if they would like to see new leadership on the condo board, nearly everyone in the room last Wednesday raised their hands. Many hands also went up multiple times as residents were asked if they want to see the association’s bylaws changed, whether they believe the board structure should be revamped, and whether they would be willing to serve on any number of committees that make recommendations to the board.

Areas of concerns presented in a PowerPoint presentation during last Wednesday’s meeting included:

• Lack of objective, complete information about important decisions

• Lack of communication

• Delayed work orders

• Substandard performance on work orders

• Safety/health concerns

• Landscaping issues

• Building 2 and its assessment

• Deteriorating appearance of community

• And diminished common areas, such as the loss of the development’s restaurant.

Condo resident Karen Bell, whose effort to bring about change seems to be gaining the most traction and who led much of last week’s meeting, emphasized to The Breeze that she’s not seeking a board position of her own, but said operation of the condo development surrounding the Louisquisset Golf Club needs changes badly.

“It’s kind of a special and unique place,” she said. “A lot of people are recognizing that maybe it’s their responsibility to step up and help out.” She said she hopes board members “accept the offers everyone’s making” to contribute.

Due to the size of this condo association, as well as the scope of the amenities and the fact that the buildings are all different, it’s becoming apparent that many more people should be helping run the facility than just the five-member board, said Bell. “They have a lot on their plate,” she said.

Bell and others are concerned about an additional estimate of $180 being added to the $370 they’re currently paying in monthly homeowner association fees to pay for the vinyl siding.

Some homeowners at last Wednesday’s meeting expressed fear that the higher HOA fees will make it harder for them to sell their units if circumstances keep deteriorating.

Mayor Charles Lombardi, who lives at the condos, said the situation at the condos is “a mess,” though he said he tries to stay away from getting involved in their operation.

Resident A. Raphael Lombardi (no relation to the mayor) has gathered more than 170 signatures on a petition questioning a recent assessment residents feel was unjustified. A third petition is circulating in hopes of removing two board members residents feel have made questionable moves. Raphael Lombardi brought with him as a handout letters he’d written to previous boards overseeing the condos in 1993, 2004 and 2013, detailing complaints about financial decisions and golf club operations.

Vincent Martino, a resident of one of the condos, said residents have struggled to make changes due in part to a clause Hodgdon pushed to count a no-show by a unit owner as a default yes vote on the budget.

“People are ready to revolt,” he said.

Martino cited a “string of bad financial decisions” sending the association in a downward spiral. He cited several examples, including a unilateral board decision to spend more than $22,000 to explore the viability of the vinyl project with no approval of unit owners, and undocumented work performed on a unit that was modified by contractors with no liability insurance, leading to homeowners having to pay for the damage caused by a collapsing roof.

Long-time resident Glenn Maurice agreed on Martino’s opinion of the $22,000 in spending, saying he can’t fathom how someone walking around with a video camera to assess the buildings could add up to that total. He said he wants a complete accounting of all money taken in and how it’s spent. Maurice recently lost his wife to cancer, and told The Breeze he attended last Wednesday’s meeting because she had wanted a better future at the Louisquisset Condos and he’s committed to seeing her dream through.

Resident Paul D’Agostino, a resident for 25 years, called for a spirit of cooperation between the board and unit owners, but he ripped the idea of the vinyl siding project as far too expensive. The money the condo association is taking in is “more than sufficient” for what residents are getting, he said.

“We don’t have an income problem, we have an outcome problem,” said D’Agostino.

Other residents said they were attracted to the Louisquisset Condos for the beauty and ease of living here, and were not bargaining for what they’ve encountered.

For Bell, this uprising of sorts is about “trying to bring everybody under the same tent.” It’s human nature to want to cast blame on someone else, she said, but “if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.” It’s easy to become complacent and expect everything to be done perfectly for you by a volunteer board, but people are realizing now that they might have to play a bigger role themselves.

“Two messages echo consistently  from my fellow unit owners: appreciation for Louisquisset’s  unique and beautiful environment and a desire to participate more fully in keeping it a premier place to live,” said Bell.

Just as there aren’t “cookie cutter buildings” here, “it’s not a cookie cutter population” either, she said. Vinyl siding might be one way of dealing with the exterior appearance, she said, or the best option might be painting or going with Rhino Shield. The point is that people with available time and expertise in different areas should know the pros and cons well enough to “make a little more sense” about what’s being proposed, she said.

One of the biggest factors in success going forward will be better communication, said Bell. Residents last week spoke of creating an internal messaging system of sorts where condo owners can talk with each other about problems.