As I wrote last month, there was confusion on the part of our fantasy homeowners association as to whether Inmirsan had renounced its authority to manage Mirador San Jose. Turns out it hadn’t. But Inmirsan’s lawyer did agree to discussions of an orderly transfer of powers, once all lots had been sold and the urbanization was complete.
For its part, on 6 January 2020 city council and the chief judicial lawyer at Montecristi hosted a special commission on Mirador’s fate, in public, with a full auditorium and standing room only in the back. This first meeting was to settle three points of contention between Inmirsan, our fantasy HOA, and the so-called Group of Ten.
Point the first: Is Inmirsan legally allowed to charge maintenance fees, or should it be forced instead to cede ownership of the common areas to the HOA? Second: Does the HOA have any legitimacy, at all, given that it constituted under several highly dubious claims, including the vote of a general assembly to which only 21 people were invited? Last: Should CNEL be permitted to sell power at discount to Inmirsan, who then resells it to us at something of a markup?
Don’t ask me where that third point came from. Apparently, it’s quite the pet peeve of our HOA president.
An Alarming Display
The commission chair opened proceedings by stating, quite emphatically, that there would be no rabble-rousing at this event. Respect for all positions, he warned, and no shouting out of turn.
First to present was HolaEcuador’s lawyer for our fantasy HOA. She gave an impassioned speech about the rights of free assembly and some other stuff I couldn’t hear because I was seated beneath a rattling Petri dish of an air conditioner and everyone behind me was speaking furiously in Spanish. I got up and moved to the front of the hall.
Next came Inmirsan’s lawyer, who read chapter and verse from the contracts we all signed when we purchased our lots. There was no arguing that point. And yet…
One of the Brownshirt Wives, who is known throughout our community as a verbally abusive bully, sat one row ahead of me and to my right. She made faces at and mock-pantomimed Inmirsan’s lawyer during his entire presentation.
I and others around me were shocked by her vulgar performance. But then it occurred to me: What rational adult behaves this way in public? She may, in fact, be unwell. Mental illness carries acute social stigma and manifold discriminations. Rather than condemn her, perhaps we owe this woman our sympathy and support.
Chantal and I never lowered ourselves to her crass, middle-finger-waving level. But I have seen others at Mirador San Jose reply in kind. We might, all of us, reconsider our response to her vicious provocations. If it were any other type of disability, we’d be bringing flowers.
The Meeting Deteriorates
Regardless, few who attended rose to the spirit of this occasion. When Inmirsan’s lawyer scored an obvious legal point, many in the anti-HOA crowd clapped in approval. When the HOA’s lawyer retorted with a finely worded opinion that didn’t have much to do with our contracts, or the law of the land, the entire HOA crowd hooted and hollered.
This soon turned into a contest of who could make the most noise. They clap, we whistle and jeer. They whistle and jeer, we roar. They roar, we thump our chests and light bonfires.
This will to one-upmanship was utterly absurd. The commission chair had to sternly reprove us, on more than one occasion, for our behaviour. I found the entire ordeal to be beyond embarrassing. We were hardly Canada’s finest representatives that morning.
To be fair, at least half the attendees arrived in chambers only to listen. Another quarter wanted to ask questions, or to express their displeasure with the fantasy HOA’s secretive ways and coercive methods. But that other crowd, the final twenty-five percent, seemed to think it would help their case more if they engaged in performance art for the learning impaired. As usual, they defined the moment on their own terms. Because people with loud mouths and few social constraints get to do that these days.
Within minutes, the meeting descended into a wild shouting match between Inmirsan’s flamboyant legal representative and one of the city councillors. That prompted a full-on war of words among our community stormtroopers and their usual targets for harassment. Chantal and I left, in disgust, to pay our property taxes: the wickets were near empty and literally across the hall. When we were done, ten minutes or so later, everyone else was wandering out of chambers avoiding eye contact.
I asked around and learned that the commission had handed down its verdict. It was not able to judge whether the HOA had been properly constituted, because that’s provincial jurisdiction. It was, however, well within its lane to inform our fantasy HOA, in no uncertain terms, that it has no authority to force Inmirsan to surrender its privately held assets; or to threaten Inmirsan’s employees with termination; or to charge homeowners fees for maintenance and “administrative” services; or to seize properties from homeowners who refuse to pay those fees. (As you might expect, that last one raised a few pulses here at Rancho Loco when the HOA announced it.)
The commission also expressed its misgivings for CNEL’s reseller agreement with Inmirsan. There again, and to stifle the outlandish cheers that went up among the HOA contingent, council cautioned that it has no jurisdiction to intervene, since CNEL is a state energy provider and its contractual relationships are its own affair.
In the end, the commission advised all parties to put aside their differences and talk to one another – you know, like grownups – at future sessions to be mediated by city council. Each side (Inmirsan, our fantasy HOA, and the majority of homeowners whom the HOA does not represent) will send three delegates to draft a realistic timeline for completion of the urbanization, and to discuss the transfer of authority over the common areas to a group that represents our collective interests. Which may or may not be our fantasy HOA. The commission took pains to underscore that point.
Choices to Be Made
Does this change anything? Hard to say. The status quo surely remains – at least, until Inmirsan and HolaEcuador finish punching each other silly in the courts. How that plays out over time is anyone’s guess.
But it seems to me that we now have pivotal choices to make, as a community.
The HOA can take nothing from this experience and continue its strategy of maximum confrontation, with Inmirsan and with us. Or it can be a good-faith partner in this mediated transitional experience. Those are their options. I hope they draw enough wisdom from their overstimulated ranks to decide appropriately.
Inmirsan and HolaEcuador must put an end to their inane legal skirmishes and get on with the business of finishing this site. HolaEcuador’s obvious strategy – withhold millions of dollars in property sales, invite a lawsuit, and then hold up court proceedings with jurisdictional shenanigans – is to drive Inmirsan into bankruptcy and then acquire the company for pennies on the dollar. To which I say: shit or get off the pot, Gord. Montecristi’s starting to lose its sense of humour about all this. It isn’t alone.
As for the rest of us, we should recognize that the members of our fantasy HOA received a humiliating and very public defeat, at a special commission they themselves set into motion. You could see it written on their faces when council adjourned.
I have no doubt they were convinced of the righteousness of their claims. I have no doubt they acted in what they thought were the best interests of our community. But their noxious deeds, and the fact that they did not anticipate the outcome of their own special commission, speaks only to their unfitness for the roles they elected themselves to assume.
It will be a very bitter pill, indeed, to negotiate in good faith with people they claimed to represent and who rejected their will to lead. It is not the moment to rub noses where noses don’t belong. There’s such a thing as being a gracious winner.
I would remind everyone where they are and why they’re here. The sun is out, and our better angels could use a good airing.