CARRBORO - Condo owners voted after a contentious discussion last week to levy a special $5,406 repair fee on 332 units at the Collins Crossing complex.
Aspen Square Management also agreed to consider several suggestions, including whether to let the owners of 75 individually owned condos pay the fee in installments over the next few years.
Most owners were concerned the fee would be a major burden on lower-income residents. Some said it could price them out of their homes if they had to pay it by spring.
Resident-owner Christine MacPherson said the lack of a payment plan suggests Aspen wants to foreclose on individual owners. She and her husband live on Social Security disability and her part-time job, she said. Even installments over two or three years would help, she said.
“There’s no way that I can come up with $5,400, even in three months,” she said.
National supervisor Brenda Wishart said Aspen would have to research its options. More details could be available by the annual Old Well Owners Association meeting, typically held in February.Vote a formality
Aspen owns 77 percent of the condos, so Wednesday’s vote was largely a formality. Association President Jeff Strole, who is also Aspen’s vice president, was the only board member present.
Strole said he had proxy votes from other board members who couldn’t be there but declined to name them.
Carrboro Mayor Mark Chilton, representing condo owner Empowerment Inc., a nonprofit housing group, asked for more details about the work and urged Aspen to set up monthly payment plans.
The company has a majority and can do what it wants, but residents who own their condos have the most at stake in trying to make Collins Crossing a better place to live, he said.
“I’m a lawyer that has a lot of extra time on his hands. … We don’t want to be getting into the nitty-gritty of this in an ugly way,” he said. “If y’all are going to try to make (these residents) pay $5,000 over the course of three months, I’m going to find a way to stop you.”
While most support the long-delayed repairs, they asked Aspen officials to prioritize the work, provide a detailed budget, seek competing bids for the work and fairly allocate the cost.
The association is only responsible for common areas, which doesn’t include repairs to windows, doors and stairs, residents said. Landscaping, swimming pool repairs and architectural details also aren’t immediate needs, they said.
The fee could raise roughly $1.8 million to completely renovate the building exteriors and landscaping. That cost includes $470,950 for windows, $547,500 for roofing and $249,000 for plants. About $90,00 would be spent repairing stairs, which town officials ordered the company to do after a 10-year-old boy fell and was hurt in November when a concrete stair tread gave way.
The town posted condemned signs Dec. 13 outside stairwells at 25 buildings.
Earlier this month, the town gave the company a March 4 deadline to make the repairs, but Assistant Town Attorney T.C. Morphis Jr. has since advised the town that state rules also require two notices and a hearing.
If the work is not completed on time, the town could sue Aspen Square and force them to make the repairs or the town could make the repairs and charge Aspen Court for the work.
Strole said the repairs would reduce liability, while improving safety and residents’ quality of life.
“When you let it go for years and years, which is unfortunately what happened here, you run into some major repair work that has to be done,” he said.Dates to 1970s
Aspen paid Tar Heel Companies of Raleigh nearly $7.1 million in June to buy 252 units at the former Abbey Court complex, where some buildings date to the 1970s. Individual owners sold them another five units since then, and the remaining 75 are privately owned.
The complex is home to mostly Latinos and African Americans and some immigrants from Burma, who have complained for years about neglected housing, crime, drugs and discrimination. The complex is also one of the area’s most affordable places to live, with two-bedroom apartments starting at roughly $500. Wishart has said the rents will go up as tenants renew their leases. The Collins Crossing website lists a two-bedroom apartment at $725 a month and a three-bedroom apartment at $940 or more.
The Massachusetts company also owns Berkshire Manor and Berkshire Manor West on N.C. 54 West in Carrboro, and Ashford Lakes on South Churton Street in Hillsborough.