The small community of Bonita Creek, north of Payson, has erupted into a convoluted conflict as a property association whose existence some deny seeks to take ownership of a water company that belongs to the homeowners association.
The dispute centers on whether a name change from Bonita Creek Land and Homeowners Association to Bonita Creek Property and Preservation Association actually took place.
Opponents say all the organization’s bylaws require all homeowners association members to vote, and not just board members.
Preservation association President William Glaunsinger, who resigned over the weekend, says the move was legitimate.
The vice president has resigned as well, according to Vickie Goulette, who leads those opposed to the water company transfer. She spoke at the recent board of supervisors hearing for the transfer.
Supervisors avoided inserting themselves into the dispute, instead telling the warring factions to sort things out. Even the parties’ locations illuminated the stark divide. Those opposed to the transfer lined up to speak at the podium in Globe, while those who spoke in Payson generally supported the change.
The factions agree on one thing — trouble has overrun the peaceful community with just 54 homes and 10 full-time residents.
“It has been a mess,” said Lita Washburn, who served as the association’s treasurer before an election in September, during which voting irregularities surfaced in yet another unresolved point of contention.
“I just think it’s time for the community to heal,” said Washburn.
The Bonita Creek homeowners association started in 1992 when it took ownership of the water company.
Glaunsinger says association board members legally voted on the name change in both 2004 and 2005.
However, even two women who served as board members during the questioned 2004 meeting disagree about whether it happened, according to county documents.
Washburn, the association’s secretary in 2004, says the community should pursue the name change, but then-treasurer Linda Soto disagrees. Soto signed a letter saying association members never properly voted on the issue.
Opposed residents say that Glaunsinger changed the HOA’s name by circumventing a bylaw that would have required all members to vote, and not just board members.
“The membership in the Bonita Creek Land and Homeowners Association was illegally taken, along with their bank accounts, and then efforts were then taken by Mr. Glaunsinger to cover up this little mistake by falsifying documents and lying,” a letter signed by 15 Bonita Creek residents read.
Glaunsinger didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Washburn disagrees. “There was no malice in trying to change the name,” she said.
Washburn says she didn’t attend the 2004 meeting, but that members were concerned that changing the name would be a long, expensive process despite Glaunsinger’s assurance of an easy change.
Glaunsinger believed a new name could help increase the association’s membership, said Washburn.
To avoid repeating future problems with disputed minutes, the meeting summaries and agendas now need two signatures, Washburn added.
Opponents don’t care if the preservation association continues to exist, but they want the homeowners association to keep control of the water, according to a letter submitted to the county.
Washburn said that the association should complete the name change because it has already spent $600 to start the switch, and it would cost more money to reverse a process already started.
“It’s not just the name change,” said Goulette. “It’s the water company,” and the manner in which the board has proceeded with the changes.
Goulette, along with her husband John, have filed a complaint with the Arizona Corporation Commission pleading for commissioners to refrain from transferring the HOA’s assets to the preservation group.
While compiling information for the supervisors’ hearing, county officials asked Glaunsinger about several inconsistencies, including why the meeting minutes from 2005 had a heading that read, “Bonita Creek Land and Homeowners Annual Meeting.” The board allegedly first approved the name change in 2004.
Glaunsinger wrote, “I can’t remember how this happened.” The error may have been typographical, or perhaps the heading wasn’t changed until after the 2005 vote, he added.
When a county official asked Glaunsinger why the association voted on the name change twice, Glaunsinger wrote that a member asked to add the topic to a 2005 agenda.
Yet, opponents say that the name change never appeared on the 2005 agenda.
The dry side
Bonita Creek resident Ron Allen chalks the dispute up to who has water and who doesn’t. Homes on one side of the creek have water while the others don’t, he said. “That’s what this issue is all about.” He alleges that Glaunsinger lives on the dry side, and wanted to change the association’s name to somehow control the water.
Goulette, from Globe, said the creek doesn’t contain enough water to supply all the homes in Bonita Creek, as people sitting in Payson gasped at the thought.
“That’s just not true,” one person murmured.
Doyle Warner, who operates the water company, said the creek holds more than enough water to serve the entire community. No matter the water company’s name, Warner said he wants to ensure the water stays protected.
Resident Betty McRae said Allen’s attitude “appalled” her. McRae just wants her peaceful neighborhood to regain its composure.
“We need to protect each other,” said McRae. “We are neighbors in one of the most beautiful places in Arizona.”