In 2001, my wife’s retirement from the US Army was imminent and we decided to start looking for a home to purchase. Between the two of us, I was the only one who had “bought” a home. My agent was my father (working for Tommy Laird in Ashland, Oregon), so there was never any doubt about his honesty or that of the agency he worked for. I didn’t do anything; my father literally did everything except sign the papers for me and my wife at the time. My wife when this all started had never purchased a home. We trusted that our bank and our real estate agent would be honest. Between the bank’s policy of not making loans on encumbered properties and the assurances of a real estate agent that our selection was unencumbered, we purchased a home in Ocean Shores.
We had learned a few things about real estate, primarily that unencumbered properties are of greater value than encumbered properties – that’s why banks insist that liens be paid off before they make loans and why we don’t understand why they made a loan to us for an encumbered property. We also had learned that there are instances where you may have to pay for extras – like condo or home owners dues, so we avoided looking at places like that and, as I said, our agent in Ocean Shores said the property was “free and clear” – which it wasn’t. He did, however mention the club, but having no interest in anything like the club, we figured we could just drop out.
When the title insurance came, the only thing about the club was:
“Liability to assessments by Ocean Shores Community Club, as provided in instrument recorded October 30, 1989, under Auditor’s File No. 891030041.”
This innocuous statement says nothing about a lien and since we were in an incorporated city, it didn’t even dawn on us that a private club could have a lien on property for dues to a recreational club. We purchased our home in April of 2001 thinking the dues for the club would expire in a year and that would be the end of it.
Before I go any further, there are a lot of people that were mislead or lied to by real estate agents in Ocean Shores. The agents loose a third (according to our agent) of sales because of the club, many realtors simply wouldn’t mention or out and out lie about obligations to the club. Thus, many people like ourselves end up in the same situation. The majority of those have to “grin and bear it” because the expense of an individual lawsuit over a $144/year dues simply isn’t worth the trouble, but there were a many who tried to fight.
In April of 2002, we received our bill for the dues and we promptly filed it in the trash can. A few weeks later, we get this threatening letter informing us that if we don’t pay our dues, they can begin foreclosure and then they tacked on late fees and interest. No warning what so ever; they went directly to threats. So, we asked them to explain this and they club sent us to Mr. Michael Valdez.
Both Mr. Valdez and I served in Vietnam and using that fact, he immediately tried to schmooze with me. As someone who had just been threatened to have his home taken away from him for a recreational club bill, I was not in the mood. This was not the time or place to reminisce about our war experiences, so, I cut him short and asked why we had to pay dues to a club that we didn’t want?
His response (beware of those who answer a question with a question) was: “Don’t you want to add value to your house?” It was at that moment I knew we were dealing with a pettifogger (Originally: “ ). The conversation went downhill from there – if it was ever up to start – and included the declaration that the club would “fight to the death” to keep the dues collection enforced with liens.
The first thing I did was to verify with three local real estate appraiser that the club does not add value and found it isn’t even considered. So much for that argument.
The next thing I did was to begin writing letters to the editor of the local newspaper and the one in Aberdeen, the nearest city of greater population. I soon found there were many like myself and by 2004 a bunch of us got together to try to do something about the club. The Citizens Against Forced Enrollment (or the Café Society) formed and someone who favored moving the club to a voluntary enrollment organization was found to run for the Board.
By this time, there was an adversarial attitude against the Café Society for its desire to change to voluntary membership. The folks that wanted to keep forced enrollment threw out all the excuses: that’s the way it is and you can’t change it; the dues are cheap; adds value to property; and the biggest excuse of them all: it would destroy the club. It might. But, isn’t that the prerogative of the members to decided and not the club’s attorney and a few members by themselves?
On the Opinions page, there is a report by Alice, one of the Society members, about the club meeting on March 27th, 2004 and shows the animosity towards the Society and the arrogance of the club’s attorney. It was at this meeting the “loyalty oath” was initiated without discussion or the approval of the members – a violation of the Articles of Incorporation and By-Laws.
Another thing to notice is the Society was not advocating disbanding the club, but the according to the club, we were and they would not allow someone to serve whom THEY believe would destroy the club (and the attorney’s ability to make money and force those who actually use the club to pay their own way instead of on the backs of other members). It is, however, easy to show this simply was not the case.
The club managed to make sure anyone favoring voluntary membership didn’t get elected and with the loyalty oath, insured that no one would.
2004, for me, was a turning point. Up until that time it had been a fight trying to change the club; after that time is was a battle for my property rights. I had been sold property encumbered by a corporation whose only purpose was to provide recreational activities and for which I was forced to pay – against Washington state laws. With the loyalty oath, that corporation had just taken away my right to seek office on the Board and told me to “get over it”. Coming from a military family, there was no way I was going to get over giving up the rights I (eight years service, including Vietnam), my wife (a career Army officer and Desert Storm Vet), and my father (a career Air Force officer and P-51 pilot in WWII) put our lives on the line to ensure for our fellow countrymen. This is how we’re repaid? So some sort of oligarchy led by some pettifogger can force others to pay dues without representation? Isn’t that why we had a revolution in this country: taxation without representation?