WENTZVILLE, Mo. (KMOV.com) - A group of local homeowners say they have no control over their own neighborhood.

A developer controls their homeowners' association (HOA) and the residents want to know where their money is going. The developer is connected to the scandal that sent former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger to prison. The Villages of Huntleigh Ridge is a Wentzville neighborhood that certainly has its perks. But some homeowners tell News 4 there's one serious downside.

“I feel abused, honestly, and used,” said Kayla Hatcher.

“We are being taken advantage of and we have been, this entire time,” said Danny Vehlewald.

Because of the housing crisis and other starts and stops, the neighborhood is not yet fully developed. meaning the developer of the properties controls the homeowners' association. In 2017, a company called Glarus, LLC took over. P. David Glarner and his brother Robert B. Glarner, Jr. run the business together.

“Something obviously shady is going on,” said Hatcher.

Ever since Glarus took over, homeowners say they're increasingly unhappy.

“He came into a pretty well-funded HOA when he took over, and over the past four years, he's spent over a quarter of a million dollars. And a good fraction of that is money that cannot be justified,” said Vehlewald.

The Glarners' name is one you might recognize. Both brothers were named in a federal subpoena in the investigation that ultimately took down former St. Louis County Executive Steve Stenger. The St. Louis County Council's Ethics Committee blasted the county's lease agreements at the Northwest Plaza in St. Ann, owned by the Glarners, especially because they had made hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign donations to Stenger. But neither were ever criminally charged in the Stenger investigation.

“I am not casting any stones, I didn't read up on the case, I don't know what happened there, I don't really care, all I know is that as a citizen of Wentzville and as a part of this HOA, we are being ripped off,” said Vehlewald.

Without a single seat on the HOA board, currently comprised of the brothers and their mother, homeowners say they're at the mercy of the developers' spending. Even with the ability to look at financial documents, they say stuff doesn't add up. For example, Husch Blackwell, the same law firm that represented the Glarners during the Northwest Plaza problems, has been paid at high hourly rates for things like telephone calls and draft letters.

“That's more than 10 times the cost of what it should be,” Hatcher said.

Sums of money also go to the developers' own companies, though homeowners say it's not clear why that money is being paid. 

“He seems to only get one bid for taking care of the pool, the lawn care, and it seems like at the end of the day, he will write a check to his company,” said Vehlewald.

And costs for common ground maintenance have soared, according to residents.

“I think he is paying his own bills with our HOA money,” Vehlewald said.

They're so concerned, they even filed a report with Wentzville police.

“I think he thinks he can get away with it, and from what we have seen, he might be able to, and that's not fair,” Hatcher said.

“This area of law is not as straight forward as anyone would like it,” said Todd Billy, an attorney specializing in community association law.

Billy said developers, of course, have an interest in subdivisions early on.

“Build a quality home, sell it and move on, great, we are happy about that too,” Billy said.

But he added that just like regular HOA boards, developers have a fiduciary duty to do the right thing.

“You cannot use the funds or the goodwill of the association for other means, it has to stay for the goodwill of the association,” Billy said.

With homebuilding ticking up again in our area, he said when it comes to developer-controlled HOAs, reading the fine print is growing ever more critical.

“Please read these things before you buy your home, and if your developer is not willing to share or have that discussion, then you have to decide if that community is for you,” he said.

And he notes that in Missouri, a developer can turn over control at any time.

"There is no reason for [them] to hold on, and get involved in fence requests and things of that nature,” Billy said.

“All we want is simple: we want control of our finances and we want control of our HOA,” said Vehlewald.

News 4 wanted to talk to the developer for this story, but instead we were informed by the HOA’s attorney they would only answer questions "in writing rather than via an interview."

The attorney wrote they were "not aware of any outstanding specific questions about how the finances are being handled," and further said that "following the sale of 50% of the lots in the full subdivision, homeowners will be elected by members of the HOA to the HOA board."

He estimated that might be some time next year. He also wrote that they "unequivocally deny" HOA funds were used for anything other than HOA expenses, claiming bids were sought for common ground maintenance.

When it come to the legal fees, the attorney wrote, "The services of Husch Blackwell have been will continue to be necessary, even more so, unfortunately, because of continual threats of legal action against the HOA."

Now homeowners say they're considering other desperate measures like a sign warning buyers to avoid purchasing in the area. Some have even just stopped paying their dues.

“Who is going to stop us? I think that's where we are at, at this point,” Vehlewald said.

Copyright 2021 KMOV (Meredith Corporation). All rights reserved

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