The entrance of the Police and Courts Building in Royse City was bustling with angry residents in early April following news of plans to build model homes in the Verandah subdivision.
Residents told the Royse City Herald-Banner they had come to the March 26 council meeting to protest plans for model homes, as land in the project had been promised to be used as future amenities.
But council members have responded saying they have little control over the situation, as the subdivision is in a Municipal Utility District, or “MUD.”
In order to create a Municipal Utility District, a majority of property owners in the proposed district are required to make a petition to the Texas Commission of Environmental Quality. Districts also have their own “MUD” tax.
Centurion American Development Group, the developers of the Verandah subdivision, went through three years of negotiations with Royse City officials before reaching an agreement March 2007.
And though the Verandah subdivision is not located within Royse City and is part of Hunt County, it recently started receiving some services from the city. Its water and sewer services are also handled by Royse City.
“They have fire and police this year,” City Manager Carl Alsabrook said. “Even that took a special agreement.”
Alsabrook said he does not see the subdivision becoming part of Royse City anytime soon, though some residents had mentioned hopes of being annexed.
“I can tell you we’re not going to have an in-city MUD if we can help it,” he said.
Multiple residents who attended the March council meeting said they were told that the neighborhood was part of the MUD, but said they were also given the impression that the subdivision would eventually be annexed into Royse City.
They also shared screenshots of the Verandah HOA website that showed Royse City prominently featured on the “About the Community” page, sharing details about the city’s history along with a golf course near the area.
The Royse City Herald-Banner also found a different website, managed by developers of the subdivision, stating that the subdivision is located inside Royse City.
“Verandah located in Royse City, Texas across some 500 acres, features a master-planned community located in northeast Dallas nestled in the industrial corridor region of the state,” the description read. The Centurion American website can be viewed online, https://bit.ly/2LbPd6I.
On April 10, Essex Management, which oversees the Verandah HOA, published a letter on its website that read:
“Some Homeowners have been inquiring about the amenities and when the community can expect to see more added. The Developer has reported there are plans to expand upon the current amenities just outside the existing pool and the plans for adding a soccer field are underway. The Soccer Park’s location is under review however, a tentative location will be behind the new Model Park area soon to be developed. The Developer will be introducing other new amenities as well as walking trails in the future as the new phases continue to be developed. Please watch your website for new updates as they become available."
The management company announced Wednesday afternoon that a town hall meeting has been scheduled 6 p.m., May 21 at the Verandah community pool.
Residents said promises that have been made regarding future amenities have yet to be kept.
“There was a sign in this big area where the pool is that was promised to be the amenities center that would include tennis courts, basketball courts and a soccer field,” said Ashney Avery, who moved to the neighborhood in 2012.
One of Avery’s friends, Maria Velasco, who moved to the neighborhood in 2017, told the Herald-Banner that she was told of the same future amenities that were advertised to Avery five years ago.
“I have a son and I want for him to be able to go outside to play and have things to do within the neighborhood where it’s safe,” Velasco said after the March council meeting.
And five years ago, annual HOA fees were $360. Last year, residents paid $432 for HOA fees, and in November 2018, they were told that they would be paying $518 in 2019.
Bruce and Adra Chim bought their home in the Verandah neighborhood in 2011.
Before he and Adra married and moved to the area, Bruce fled his home country of Cambodia at the age of five to escape genocide in the 1970s. He is a former police officer who is also getting ready to retire from the U.S. Army at the end of May.
“Adra really knows how it is day-to-day better than me because I’ve been stationed off in Killeen,” Bruce said.
He, like Avery and Velasco said, he was surprised to see HOA fees going up, having seen little to no change in the neighborhood. Responding to news of the model home project, Bruce said developers and the HOA should have been more open with residents about future plans.
“They could have shown us what they have planned, showed us what they’re doing and at least ask us what we thought,” he said.
Though they thought their home in the Verandah neighborhood could be a place they could retire and live out their lives, Adra said she and Bruce are having second thoughts. They don’t expect any financial trouble, but said they feel ignored by the people they pay to take care of the neighborhood’s needs.
“We were hoping this would be a forever home, but it’s not looking like it now. We’re looking at putting it on the market and selling after our daughter graduates.” she said.
A representative from Essex Association Management, a Carrollton-based company that oversees the Verandah HOA, had told the Royse City Herald-Banner in early April that the association is planning to have a meeting with residents to address concerns about the model home project.
“There is a plan to divulge what is going to come up in an open meeting,” the representative said.
Multiple requests for further comments on amenities at the Verandah subdivision near Royse City were not returned by the management company.
This story has been edited since its Wednesday morning print edition to include details of the May 21 town hall meeting.