By Alex Bridges
Residents of a Warren County neighborhood plan to rely on each other to quell illegal gunfire and trespassers in their rural subdivision.
The board of the property owners association for Thunderbird Farms voted unanimously earlier this week to withdraw its request to add the neighborhood to those in which the county prohibits the discharging of firearms. Board President Sharon Fisher said Wednesday the nine panel members contacted each other by email to carry out the vote.
"We didn't cast it to the whole community," Fisher said. "The board, which is nine members, voted unanimously, just to say 'we need to step back from this and make sure that this is an issue the community in its entirety wants to pursue.'"
Polling 247 property owners would have taken several months, according to Fisher.
"There's no easy way, given the size of our community," Fisher said.
In the meantime, the association board decided to order signs that would alert visitors to certain restrictions pertaining to private property.
The incident that involved someone shooting a gun while in a vehicle traveling on a road in the neighborhood has occurred before but does not happen often, perhaps three times in the past 13 years, according to Fisher.
Residents have experienced more frequent problems with trespassers on property along power lines through Thunderbird Farms, Fisher said. Even though the land looks like public access it is private property. The owners have allowed the utility providers access to that property by way of an easement, Fisher explained.
"So it's just this really attractive area for people to be zooming up and down on ATVs or thinking that they can do whatever they want because it doesn't look like my backyard," Fisher said. "But it is somebody's backyard."
The association board sees a benefit in signs but also is encouraging residents to lean on each other to uphold the neighborhood rules, according to Fisher.
She said they will try to post signs that say this is private property owned by a homeowner.
"We're hoping, too, that if community members know who might be doing it that they help inform other people not to do it.
"I'm hoping that with all our different covenants people understand that those are promises people made when they joined our community and that the easiest way of enforcement is everybody agreeing to live by the covenants, and when there's a disagreement first talk to a neighbor about it," Fisher added.
Language on the signs needed to be specific because some roads in the neighborhood are private while others are public, Fisher said. The association board is working to determine where the neighborhood can and cannot post signs, she added.
The county Board of Supervisors addressed the request at its meeting earlier this month. Supervisors decided to delay action on the matter so the association board could take extra time to communicate with residents about the request.
Supporters of the request say the neighborhood needed to take action because of an ongoing problem with people entering the subdivision and firing weapons across private property. The neighborhood's covenant prohibits firing guns except in self-defense, but residents said inclusion in the county's ordinance would help enforce the ban.
Opponents of the request said such inclusion could not guarantee the shooting incidents would stop. Foes also criticized the association for not communicating with more residents that the board intended to make the request to the county.
The association group has sent a letter to the county informing the Board of Supervisors of the neighborhood's intention to withdraw the request, according to Fisher. The association board plans to send out a newsletter via regular mail and email to the residents advising them of the recent action.
The motion approved by the association board also calls for the group to allocate funds for a special neighborhood newsletter. The newsletter will state that at the membership's request the association board shall put the shooting prohibition item on the agenda of the next annual meeting in October, Fisher said.
Contact staff writer Alex Bridges at 540-465-5137 ext. 125, or firstname.lastname@example.org