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Timberlane neighbors clash over tree cutting lawsuit | Covington
A neighborhood dispute inside the Timberlane community in Covington spilled into the streets Tuesday and has grown into a full-blown feud.
A group of homeowners have raised questions directed at the Timberlane Home Association board members concerning money spent on a lawsuit against two homeowners, Mark Bews and Brandon Drake. The suit is over six trees the two cut down in 2007 that are alleged to have been located on the association’s property.
A group, which included Bews and Drake, gathered at the intersection where the Timberlane Clubhouse is located Tuesday and waved signs protesting the pursuit of the lawsuit.
Wendy Brooks is one of the homeowners raising questions about the money expended on the lawsuit, which has been going on for more than 18 months.
“The issue isn’t the lawsuit.” Brooks said. “The heart of the whole thing is the money, the finances.”
Brooks said she began looking at the financial actions of the association and believes, “there are poor standards with accounting practices.”
The tree cutting incident that incited the dispute occurred Oct. 19, 2007 when Bews and Drake cut trees down on and near their property.
The Covington police were called and according to the report filed Oct. 19, Bews and Drake told the officer they cut down the trees to “make the properties safer as well as to better their appearances.”
The report went on to state the “homes do not have fences or markers showing the property boundaries.”
The officer noted the homeowners association manager and Bews and Drake were disputing the property boundaries.
The report was filed as a “civil problem over tree cutting.”
According to Nancy Nieves, board president, following the tree cutting incident the board tried to negotiate a settlement over the cost of the trees with Bews. Shortly after the incident Bews became a board members and was sitting on the board while the negotiations were continuing.
According to Nieves, Bews eventually was removed from the board for not attending three meeting. Nieves said this action is allowed under the rules governing the board.
The board president said a settlement was reached with Bews.
“He gave us a number and it was $6,000,” Nieves said. “We agreed and everything was fine. A letter was sent reiterating what we were charging and he (Bews) refused to pay it.”
Bews said Wednesday during a phone interview, “I never agreed to pay the fine. I never agreed to pay a red cent.”
Nieves said once Bews refused to pay, the board had “no other recourse but to go to court.”
The lawsuit was filed in Feb. 2009 and requests $36,000 for the trees plus damages and attorney costs. According to Nieves, the $36,000 figure was arrived at after an arborist was consulted.
Nieves said she believes the suit must move forward because, “if we allow him (Bews) to cut trees down anyone can cut trees down and there is nothing we can do about it. If he felt those trees were unsafe there is a procedure to follow.”
The board president said she believes Bews has changed his story “three times” since his Oct. 19 statement.
“My story has always remained the same,” Bews said. “These trees were at risk of damaging my home. I contacted a licensed, bonded tree service. I asked for and received verbal permission from the Timberlane manager to have the trees removed. I also paid for this removal and clean up.”
Bews said he gave the wood away to members of the community.
Nieves said, “the truth is he never heard anyone from the board or Cindy (Ramsdell, association manager) tell him he could cut those trees down.”
Brooks said she heard about the lawsuit earlier this year and began asking questions about the money spent pursuing the suit.
As Brooks sees it, if the association moves forward with the suit and wins, Bews will declare bankruptcy and the association will be stuck with the legal fees.
If the association loses, it will again be stuck with legal fees.
Brooks said she believes the heart of the issue is a personality conflict between the former board president Leonard Stewart, Nieves, association manager Cindy Ramsdell and Bews.
She believes the association should review its policies regarding the trees in the green belt. She noted the boundaries are not clear and stated Tuesday at the gathering, “nobody knows where their property lines are and where the green belts are.”
Brooks said there has not been equal enforcement of association rules throughout the community was not equal.