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Fairview Estate residents taking charge
Fairview Estates residents to finally control HOA
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Correction: Newton County is overseeing the construction of the public park in Fairview Estates. The non-profit company IECDG is overseeing the purchase, rehabilitation and resale of previously foreclosed homes.

The residents of Fairview Estates aren’t willing to wait any longer; they want control of their homeowners association as soon as possible.

A group of around 40 neighborhood residents told county officials Thursday that they don’t want any part of the expansive, long-term neighborhood revitalization plan, presented earlier this month by the non-profit community development group IECDG.

Instead, they decided at Thursday’s meeting to hold a community meeting March 21 to finally form a homeowners association and elect a board of directors to oversee the future development of the neighborhood.

Because the fourth and final phase of Fairview Estates was never completed, an association was never formed, and the residents have been left in a state of limbo since the developer went bankrupt in 2008.

Fairview Estates, located off Fairview Road, has been in the news since May 2009, when Newton County announced plans to build an 18-acre public park in the neighborhood, as part of the federally funded Neighborhood Stabilization Program.

Because county governments are limited in how they can handle land transactions, the program required the county to work with a non-profit partner. Newton County was able to purchase foreclosed lots for the park directly from Suntrust, but it selected Conyers-based IECDG to purchase, rehabilitate and resell select foreclosed homes.

In September 2009, some residents expressed opposition to a public park being placed in their neighborhood, because of concerns of increased crime and traffic. Ever since that time the county, IECDG and residents have debated the benefits of the stabilization program, with dozens of meetings taking place during the past 18 months.

During the next several months, more and more of the community began to support the park. While some were truly convinced that the park would raise property values, others were only concerned by IECDG’s promise to help establish a resident-run homeowners association.

As time moved on, IECDG’s goals in the community became more ambitious. The community had been plagued by foreclosures and plummeting values, but IECDG CEO James Hellams Jr. wanted to address the underlying causes. His company began partnering with the federal government and other agencies to develop financial literacy and homeownership courses.

With no visible progress being made toward forming a homeowner association by September 2010, many of those who had supported IECDG because of that promise lost faith in the company.

When IECDG unveiled its 18-page revitalization plan earlier this month, it called for IECDG to remain in control of the homeowner association, to build an amenities package and to build a "Skills Academy," which would focus on financial literacy and homeownership preparedness.

The residents wanted the amenities, but they didn’t want any other buildings and they didn’t want IECDG to remain in charge. On March 21, they’ll have a chance to change that.

"We don’t have any problem with them; they can do whatever they want to do. We said you have two options: we can support you or you can go forward on your own," Hellams said Friday, after being told about the outcome of the meeting.

IECDG still owns 27 vacant lots in the county, and Hellams said his company will build houses on those lots during the next few years and sell those. Those lots also give IECDG 27 votes to use at any homeowners association meetings, and Hellams said the company will continue to work with the neighborhood to help it develop.

"We’re not going to abandon the community. The community is abandoning the comprehensive plan, but our goals is still to do work with the (Neighborhood Stabilization Program) and work to develop homes," he said.

He said his goal had been to infuse around $12 million into the community, by working with other private companies and applying for federal grants. IECDG will still work to develop their ideas in other counties and states, Hellams said.

District 3 Commissioner Nancy Schulz, who led the meeting Thursday, said the county will meet with IECDG Tuesday to inform the company of the residents decision and to plan how to move forward.

For the residents of Fairview Estates, all they want is a chance to control their own destiny.

"Do we know whether we’re going to be able to take on this task? No. Is it scary? Yes. Will we have some bumps in the road? Yes," said Rev. Sharon Collins, one resident who has stepped up as a community leader. "Any change is scary, but change is the only constant in life, so we have to move forward."