When I moved to my little homestead in 2014, I was not aware the “Beasley Spring Acres Neighborhood Improvement Trust” even existed. As far as I knew, I was buying a nice little piece of property in Madison county Alabama with no HOA and a deed that specially allowed for livestock and a barn. That was WHY I bought the property. I brought several miniature cows, two mini pigs and a small flock of chickens onto the property, which is about 2.5 acres. My neighbor across the street turned out to be a Trustee, and he didn't like it.
The Beasely Springs Acres Trust was created as a result of the settlement between the Trustees, homeowners in this housing area, and a company that wanted to build a CVS across the highway from them, along with the homeowners who wanted to sell their propetry to the CVS builders. The Trustee neighbors prevailed (HUN ES TU MALADE? # 16, LLC v. Richard TUCKER et al.
The Trustees prevailed but the CVS was already built so the court awarded the Trustees damages to manage on behalf of the neighborhood for improvements. Turns out the only thing the Trust has ever spent money on is attorney's fees.
The Trust initiated litigation against me in Feb 2017, and they prevailed. They didn’t actually sue me directly; they added me to the lawsuit against the CVS builders that was decided in 2006, a case settled more than 8 years before I even moved here.
The Trustees conducted surveillance of my property for nearly 2 years, from 2015 to 2017, and maybe they still do, I’m not really sure. During the Discovery process, the Trust provided an appalling and frankly very creepy number of photographs taken of my house over the 2 year period and specifically of my bedroom windows. They also provided copies of emails circulated among the Trustees discussing when I was home, or not, or whether my son was home, or not, or what other cars and people were on my property. Cars drove by here day and night, slowly, watching, taking pictures, talking on cell phones.
The Trust sued me for having commercial activities on the property, but since I never did, they could not prove that . So they changed the complaint during the legal “grinding” process, which I didn't realize was even allowed. The next allegation was that I was not following state agricultural and animal husbandry laws, but I was, so the Trust abandoned that tact too. Then 8 days before the hearing, after 2 years of surveillance, interrogatories, discovery and other legal persecution, the Trust introduced a nuisance complaint. This was literally the first time anyone ever communicated this complaint to me.
In Alabama, farmers are, in theory, protected by the Right to Farm Act and Homestead Laws. If a nuisance complaint is not made with 12 months of the establishment of agricultural activities, the farmer is protected. And Alabama makes no distinction between commercial fams and hobby farms with regard to the application of agricultiural laws. Hobby farms are held to the same standards and in theory, are protected by the same laws. My attorney brought this up, but the judge didn't even take that into his consideration.
The Trust set up their own articles of organization and Judge James P. Smith is the only judge who can hear any matters related to the Trust. If you have an issue with the Trust, or if they have an issue with you, there is only one judge who will hear their case, James P. Smith, and that is specified in the court order. It’s quite extraordinary. In 2008 Judge Smith was arrested for DUI in Tennessee, refused a breath test and had to take a leave of absence for a while from the bench for “health issues”.
You just have to Google Judge James P. Smith, Madison County Alabama to verify, or use this link:
Deep relationships seemed to have been forged between some of the Trustees and the judge during that troubling time and I can’t help but wonder what effect that had on the outcome of this matter and the mandate that only Judge Smith can see what the Trust is doing.
I have spent nearly $30,000 of my savings on my defense so far, and after the initial finding “in favor of the Trust” without any specific finding of fact in any deed violations on my property, Judge James P. Smith also awarded the Trust recovery of their legal costs which at that point was nearly $28,000.
The Trust has been spending “Trust Funds” they got from the CVS settlement. They have nothing personally invested in this exercise of power except time.
I have been spending my savings, my retirement funds, and my daughter’s college fund, not because I wanted to, but because there was no point at which I could walk away. The Trust sent me a letter in Feb 2017 with concerns about commercial activities to which I responded honestly that I am not and have never engaged in commercial activities on this property. Their next step was to sue me, to their singular venue before Judge Smith.
I believe that the Trust’s actions are grossly out of proportion, malicious and self serving. I hope you think so too.
Some people like cows and that kind of thing; some people don’t. Some of the neighbors may be glad I lost and may even think the behavior of the Trustees is acceptable. But even though I didn’t know anything about the Trust before I moved here, I have discovered that there are a couple of things that are well out of the ordinary about how the Trust operates.
Although the Beasley Spring Acres (BSA) Trust has established itself as a Homeowner’s Association (HOA) with the IRS, it does not function as an HOA, and for prospective buyers of neighborhood property, the Trust does not self-identify as an HOA. The Trust is not elected and if one member needs to be replaced, the remaining members get to choose who is on the Trust. As a homeowner here, you have no choice who manages the Beasley Spring Acres Neighborhood Improvement Trust or how they use the Trust’s resources. Likewise they do not report to the homeowners unless they choose to, or if a neighbor asks a specific question. Even then you are unlikely to get a very specific answer.
According to the Final Order of the Court that established the BSA Trust, the five-man Trust – Richard Tucker (who is also the Director of the Huntsville Internation Airport), Mike Gunnells (President and CEO of Talaus Technologies, Inc.), Mark Wise (Engineer for Lockheed Martin), Henry Scheuer (Retired), and William Kruse (Retired), were put in charge of over $1.3 million potential funds. In the course of my defense, I was given access to some BSA Trust records and was able to account for about $400,000 of that in the records they provided. It isn’t self-evident from their public communications, but in my research I discovered the only thing the Trust has EVER spent any money on is lawyers. They were court mandated to plant trees, build fences and erect signs but they never did any of that.
The Trustees maintain a near constant vigilance in the neighborhood. One Trustee walk/rides his bicycle around with his wife to keep an eye on everything. Every time Mrs. Trustee is out walking alone, she pauses near my driveway, looks around my property, takes out her cell phone, and makes a call. This has been going on for years.
In sworn testimony in the hearing, Willian Kruse, Trustee, and neighbor who started the whole proceedings against me, testifying under oath, when asked if he ever looked into other peoples’ windows, replied: “Sometimes.”
In their recent letter to the neighborhood (the first such reporting ever made as far as I know), the Trust asserts they didn’t realize a Volkswagen dealership expansion (which covers 3 lots along the highway in plain sight) was being built until it was too late to influence the situation. “Unfortunately” they wrote.
Given their diligence about my property, and everyone else’s, that just seems very difficult to believe. The Trust was broke – out of money and in debt to their latest law firm, before the VW expansion and the fee for the conversion from residential to commercial was paid to the Trust. They were pursuing the litigation against me in spite of the fact the Trust had no funds to do so, and several of the Trustees started to make personal “loans” to the Trust to keep the litigation going. Saved by the car dealership, it’s no wonder the new business was well underway and bulldozed clean before the Trust “noticed” it was happening. They just had to keep it going long enough to get in front of Judge Smith.
Smith apparently recovered from his DUI conviction and his “health issues” because he was available to hear the Trust’s case against me in late 2017. The Trust, with their prosecution of my case, to Judge Smith, the only judge who can hear any actions with regard to the BSA trust, established that they could add any neighbor as a defendant to a lawsuit that was settled in 2008, regardless of what you are doing, whether it is in any way related to the original case, or when you moved here.
Judge Smith directly told the Trustees at the closing of the hearing in Oct 2017: “I don’t know what I can do to help you, but if I can help you, I will.” My experience seems to indicate that the law, your deed or any factual evidence doesn’t seem to bear much weight with Judge Smith. If I prevail in the appeal as I expect, that will certainly support my supposition.
With my prosecution, the Trust established that they, through Judge Smith, and regardless of the law or your deed, can dictate to any BSA resident, any of the following:
• What pets, (or livestock, if your deed allows, as mine does) you may keep on your property, regardless of what your deed says;
• What vehicles, including trailers, you may have on your property;
• What buildings you may have on your property (unless you are a Trustee, then apparently the deed restrictions don’t apply);
• If and what kind of fences you may have, and;
• What kind of freestanding objects you may have on your property.
The Trust sent me one letter alleging that I had a commercial farming operation. Clearly I didn’t, but I responded by letter in some detail to address their alleged concerns. Their response was to sue me, or more specifically, to add me as a defendant to the 2008 lawsuit with CVS.
Given the very specific language of my deed, and the law, and the outlandishness of the very situation, I never imaged I would lose. But I did.
I am now subject to not only enormous legal costs, I will lose the value of all the infrastructure I built for my homestead. My barn is new and is in fine shape, better than several others in the neighborhood. The fences I have to take down are identical to the fences on the property 20 feet away enclosing the pasture of several horses. Mine has to go - their's does not. I have to move my trailers off the property - no one else in the entire neighborhood does. It seems the objective of the Trust isn't to protect the neighborhood but to crush all opposition. I am the example of what happens if you cross the Trust.
And if you lose, you pay for everything. It wasn’t enough that I have been ordered to remove my livestock and take down fences and buildings, move trailers, and submit to Trust oversight of my landscaping practices, Judge Smith also ruled I have to pay the Trust's extravagant legal fees, in addition to the cost of my defense. To appeal I have been told that I may have to post a bond and submit to mandatory mediation (with more legal costs, of course.) At the end of this, even if I prevail, an obscene amount of money will have been wasted.
Right now the attorneys for the Trust are preparing to file liens and garnishment orders against me to collect their money – even though they have $132,000 in their bank account and are not in any way adversely affected by waiting for the appeal. If I have to post a bond – which will be at least $35,000, I will be absolutely unable to help my daughter with her college expenses and in fact, she will probably not be able to go.
I can't even sell my house, although it seems like that would make the Trust happy. Until I pay off the legal expenses they were awarded (the $28,000) they have a chokehold on my deed.
So, if you think this is a little over the top, even if you didn’t particularly like the cows, as a Beasley Spring Acres homeowner... what to do?
Short of revisiting the establishment of the BSA Trust to the Alabama Supreme Court, the Articles establishing the Trust has one built in termination clause: When the Trust expends all of their funds, they are to dissolve.
If the Trust had undertaken the activities directed by the court in 2008 they would already be a footnote in history. But since they never did any of the things they were directed to do, they retained all their fiscal assets to keep attorneys on call.
A quick check of Zillow indicates that nearly all of the property in this neighborhood has increased in value over the past several years, ironically because of the development across the highway the Trust sought to prevent. An unfettered band of litigious old men is a greater threat to property value than a pharmacy or a few cows will ever be.
I am pursuing an appeal with the Alabama Supreme court to defend my right to use my property as specified by my deed. I have no hope of recovering any of my costs without initiating another lawsuit which would have to go back before Judge Smith. Even if I win, I will have lost, because the game was rigged from the start.
If I lose, the Trust will have literally drained my retirement, and my daughter’s education fund. I don’t think, at my age, I will ever be able to recover.
But if I lose the appeal, you lose too. We all lose. We lose the fundamental right to use our property, within the limits of the law and our deed restrictions, as we see fit, not subject to the whims and preferences of people we did not choose to represent us. We lose the freedom to live without being bullied and persecuted.
Since 2006, the members of the Trust have participated in legal undertakings as kind of a hobby. If for whatever reason - a sudden dislike of horses, or pit bulls, or the type of car you drive, or the flowers you grow, this Trust decides you are their next target of interest, they will go after you because they can, and because they enjoy it. You will be sucked into their game, and you will have to pay to defend yourself, while the Trust spends Trust funds. And the Trust will continue to single out people to persecute. I did not violate one single deed restriction, but it did not matter. It’s not a matter of whether this Trust will do this again, they will.
I hope you can help me stand up to these bullies. We have become not a nation of laws, but a nation of resources. Unless you can afford to defend yourself against people like the Trustees, well funded power hungry old men, you will be beaten into submission.
I never imagined it would turn out like this. Please help me fight.
My kindest regards,
Allison A. Rowland
- Theresa Tucker
- Kat Gomez
- Britney Ashford
- Bob Matsuoka
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