Contributed photo 

The Walker Lake homeowners association is once again trying to get money from homeowners who don’t live in Walker Lake to pay for using a beach to which those homeowners have deeded lake rights. 

Walker Lake trying to squeeze neighbors

Long history of battles

SHOHOLA, PA — Allen Sherer lives in one of about 60 homes in Maple Park. All of those homes have deeded rights to use a beach on Walker Lake. In 2013, the Walker Lakeshores Landowners Association (WLLA), which is a homeowners association for Walker Lake, acquired the beach by accepting it as a donation from the man who formerly owned it. In exchange, WLLA agreed to cancel a court judgment declaring that the owner, Charles Swezy, owed WLLA some $5,000. Walker Lake is adjacent to Maple Park.

The WLLA board apparently believes their ownership of the beach trumps the deeded rights to the beach and lake, and they believe they may therefore charge Maple Park residents $325 a year to use the beach, even though a judge has ruled in a separate case that WLLA has no authority to do so.

On August 12, Sherer was enjoying the beach when Pennsylvania State Police officer appeared and told Sherer he was not allowed to be on the beach and asked to see his driver’s license. According to Sherer’s account, he refused to hand the officer his license because he was not driving a car. Sherer had his deed with him, and he told the officer this was a civil matter, if WLLA wanted to keep him from using the beach. The state police officer left the beach and did not return.

A few days later, Sherer was once again enjoying the beach when the Shohola Police Chief Scott Carney appeared on the scene and demanded to see Sherer’s license. Sherer initially said no, but Carney threatened him with arrest and the impoundment of his vehicle, so Sherer complied, and Carney issued him a ticket for trespassing, even though Sherer’s deed and a court judgment say that Maple Park residents do not belong to the Walker Lake community and are not subject to WLLA rules.

Later, a man working for WLLA replaced a cable across the access area with a more expensive chain and two locks. Sherer told the man he would return and cut one of the locks, which he did. Carney showed up again and issued Sherer two more tickets. Sherer has a court appointment on October 4.

This is hardly the first time the board of the WLLA has forced residents of Maple Park into court. Amelia and Bill Pearn battled the WLLA in multiple legal venues over the course of seven years, with the WLLA claiming at one point that the couple owed them thousands of dollars. The couple spent thousands of dollars instead on legal fees in battling the WLLA, which paid for its legal fees from dues paid by the more than 836 households in the Walker Lake Community.

Ultimately, Judge Joseph Kameen ruled that Bill and Amelia lived in Maple Park, were not part of the Walker Lake Community and that the WLLA has no right to charge them any fee at all, including a fee for lake rights, with the exception of a $10 a year maintenance fee (see “Shohola property rights legal battle,” August 24, 2017, bit.ly/2OxndI4).

Lawyers for WLLA appealed the decision, but withdrew that appeal in November 2017, which means that the judge’s ruling stands. But Bill and Amelia received two bills in January for “lake assessment” and “membership fee” totaling $375, despite the direction from the court that WLLA was in the wrong in this matter.

This case set a precedent in the matter, and Sherer believes it should inform the actions of WLLA President Janice Kahn, vice president Carol Reynolds, and police chief Carney. None of the three has responded to a request for comment.

There are other notable irregularities with the actions of WLLA board members. A treasurer’s report dated November 18, 2017, after an audit of WLLA’s books by the accounting firm Zavada and Associates says, “[I]t appears that there has [sic] been numerous unauthorized cash withdrawals from the WLLA checking account totaling at least $22,000 in 2016, over $21,000 in 2015 and over $44,000 in 2014 for total of at least $ 87,000 for the years 2014 through 2016.

“In addition, it appears that Zavada’s review of the bank statements indicates that WLLA has also been paying for charges of a personal nature that is [sic] not related to Association business, such as cable [television] and electric expenses for a personal residence, dental and medical expenses, and others—the amounts have yet to be quantified but are expected to be in the thousands of dollars.”

When it came to light that board president, Fran Orth, had not been paying her dues, she said she never received a bill and promptly resigned.

There are now mostly new WLLA board members in place, but apparently they are not familiar with the decision from Judge Kameen.

 

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