End of an Era for Verde Village Property Owners Association?

Dwindling membership may mean end of Verde Village Property Owners Assn.

The Verde Village Property Owners Association is in trouble and is threatened with ending its services to the unincorporated community. There is just a lack of interest in the camaraderie that built a once-thriving organization. One old timer also believes the community simply does not have the kind of leadership that once made the community strong.

About 30 people attended the membership meeting last week. Only 200 families of the 3,800 property owners pay the meager $25 annual dues. That is not enough revenue to allow a large association to operate.

Now there is talk about cutting back the hours of its community swimming pool to just morning hours, leaving many children out of the water. If the apathy continues, all services will only be found in Cottonwood, whether citizens want to be part of the city or not.

Neil McLeod came to Verde Village in 1978 and is still active in the association. He wrote the history of Verde Village and tells about its Ned Warren beginnings. Warren, who became emblematic of land fraud in Arizona, built the Verde Village community with few services and a poor road system under the Queen Creek Land and Cattle Company.

"He was in the business to turn a dollar," said McLeod. Lots started selling in 1968.

The company built the duck pond to woo future homebuilders. That pond on Del Rio Drive continues to flow with Verde River water, thanks to the efforts of the Village Association.

In 1972, enterprising homeowners formed the Verde Village Property Owners Association and formed architectural guidelines two years later.

A second company eventually bought out Queen Creek's holdings to use as a tax write-off, but contributed funds to the association for a period. The financial reserve grew to $50,000 that it used to build the clubhouse that stands near the river today. One volunteer carpenter led 16 to 20 volunteers to build the Verde Village Ranch House by hand.

The women's association then held fundraisers that outfitted the kitchen with some of the best equipment available for $30,000.

A newsletter was circulated in the community that regularly printed 24 pages and the clubhouse was the scene of numerous and crowded potluck meals.

In addition to its get-togethers, the association was intended to make sure that the quality of construction and maintenance in the community remained high.

Mal Otterson is the current president of the association. He says many residents aren't aware of what the property owners association can and does do for the community. "We wouldn't have the firehouse in the Village if it wasn't for the association," said Otterson.

The organization also enforces the codes, covenants and restrictions. "The county doesn't have the time or money to do that. It is frustrating because people don't seem to want to be part of a community any more. More people are interested in avoiding their obligations than participating in the community," said Otterson.

The PANT drug enforcement agency often finds methamphetamine houses in Verde Village. Otterson says there is even talk of a house of prostitution operating from a travel trailer. "How far away does the problem have to be before it doesn't impact you?" he asks.

"When the bylaws were established in the '70s, there was very little out here and people were not mandated to participate," explained Otterson.

That was a big mistake, McLeod believes. "Queen Creek didn't want mandatory dues, because people wouldn't be interested in buying property."

But, as the regular income to the association dries up, so does the enforcement. The covenants will also expire in 2018.

Margaret Paddock wrote a letter to the editor last week. She says the Village has the opportunity to have more recreation. "There are four parcels in the Villages that have been set aside with the hopes of building a park, ball field and other community uses. Wouldn't it be nice to have a local place to walk, picnic and see kids play. We would have so much more opportunity if we had a bigger membership."

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