Dear Dr. Johnson,
I’m one of the seven elected Board of Directors for our recently formed Lake Frederick Homeowners’ Association. As you may know by the many recent media stories, we represent the lessees of the 300 some lots your company now manages.
In the grand scheme of things, I’m sure we are nobody to you and you have highly paid and brilliant attorneys and strategists at your disposal who will advise you not to worry about us, Still, I wouldn’t feel I had done everything I could do if I didn’t make some kind of impassioned plea to you on our behalf.
You see, we were very blindsided by this, and still continue to scramble and look for hope wherever we can. So when we heard a couple weeks ago that you had contacted one of our team, we were very excited. We read up on as much of what we could find on who you were, and everything we read led us to believe you would be someone who might work with us. We thought you would see the potential in what we wanted to do. We were absolutely looking forward to meeting you and showing you what a community like ours is capable of getting done.
And then we heard you had come out to our area, taken a tour, and without meeting any of us, or getting the view the way we see it, decided against working with us.
I think I’m writing because I’m hoping the last part is not true and that you are simply just a very busy person who was unable to meet with us.
I am hoping to appeal to your humanity in this sea of corporate entities and government bodies. I know you have vast experience in both of those arenas, and I think if we could reach out to you with some of our ideas on how to save our islands, you might actually be interested in at least working with us, and maybe even helping us achieve some of these goals.
At a high level – we’re hoping to propose the nation’s first “model green community” in a floodplain/floodway. One where we can address minimal impacts to the environment if there is a major flood every 50-100 years. One where we live up to our reputation as mindful custodians of our environment. One where we use new ideas and technologies to solve graywater and blackwater issues, energy consumption and storage, waste removal, and more. It could make a great PR story right? One where in this age of divisiveness, we have so many instances of people vs. corporations vs. government stories out there that this could be one where federal & local government work together with corporate entities with and for the people, instead of against and without them, as is the norm. With your expertise, knowledge and passion in the areas of STEM and alternate energy, we saw you as someone who might not only support us in this endeavor, but join us.
Maybe all of it is wishful thinking on my part, but we really don’t have anything else to lose. As it stands now, we lose everything: our history, our community, our property, our investments, our serenity. I may be an idealist, but that’s where the best ideas start, right? With something someone else sees as an unattainable dream.
So to put a human face to this, and mine is only one story of many…
I am a single mom of two teenagers. My ex-husband left us 20 days before Christmas in 2001 when my children were only 3 and 1 years old. At the time I worked an entry level job in customer service and unbeknown to me we were 3 months behind in rent, car payment and all utilities. Within days of him leaving, I had utilities shut off, my car repossessed and was served with an eviction notice…all in the weeks just before Christmas.
Thankfully I managed to climb my way out of that hole. It took years of hard work, taking classes when and where I could, a little at a time, and working like crazy at a career I could maintain while raising two young kids and going to school. I’m in a much better position now than I was back then because of it. I made choices I may some day regret with regards to time I could have spent with them that I will never get back. A lot of their early childhood years are a complete sleep deprived blur for me. I did the best I could with what I had. I raised them in a city I could afford to live in, but the trade off there meant they were bullied, didn’t fit in well, and with few friends. Vacations were out of the question. There really wasn’t ever any money for extras of any kind.
So after 2 summers in a campground on land on the west side, we had the opportunity in 2009 to buy our lot on the island. Being at the river is in my blood. After retirement from 20 years in the US Navy, my father continued his career in service to our country by working in the State Department, Foreign Service and I got to grow up overseas. When we came back to the US every couple of years between posts, I spent my days at my Uncle’s place on Shelly Island. All of my best memories have always been here. I’ve literally lived all over the world and found no where else quite as special as this place. But, I digress, back to 2009.
A friend of ours was willing to sell our current lot to me on a payment plan. We had met him while we were staying in the campground for a summer, and as I mentioned before I had always dreamed of having my own lot out here on Shelly Island because every fond memory of my childhood is tied to our visits to it. As a single mother I had very limited means, so I had to be very careful about my purchase. It never occurred to me that license agreements would eventually not be renewed, even with the changing verbiage in the agreements we had to sign. They’ve always been there as far back as I can remember. Even the FERC application EIS published on the old Olympus site indicated that the lots would be continued for “decades”. I trusted we were in “compliance” when we purchased it because when we finished paying off our cabin to the original owner, YHPC came out and did an inspection for the transfer.
What this purchase meant to us is that my two kids, who never had vacations, finally had a place they could enjoy recreation all summer long. My kids didn’t learn to swim until they were almost 10 because in our city, there isn’t a place for them to swim that didn’t involve driving somewhere and paying a lot of money. They didn’t learn to ride a bike until later because they were often stolen and we lived on streets with a lot of traffic. But they learned to swim and ride a bike at the river. And they learned how to make friends, avoid poison, jump off a dock into the water with abandon for hours, cook a meal over a fire they started themselves, and sleep under the stars. It’s not for everyone, our river way of life, but it worked for us. My kids are older now and we’re financially much better off today. We could go out of town for vacations….some day we may…but this is how we choose to spend our summer,s now, supporting the local economy.
I have so many other things I’d like to share. Like the history of our island and Daniel Shelly who was hanged there as a traitor in 1802, the schoolhouse, the graveyards, the people and community who take care of those things and are the mindful custodians of the river environment. There are so many families out there with history, so many more stories just like mine. There are probably over 500 different stories of how we got here and why this is important to us and they all have the same theme. It’s not just the place, it’s the community we built. We would love nothing better than an opportunity to meet you or anyone on your team and show you who we are.. Please come meet us, spend a little time with us and give us some time to help you understand why this is so important to us. There just has to be a way we can stay.
This compliance agreement cannot be the only solution. I want to appeal to you on a human level, person to person. I have hope that while you represent a huge corporate entity, there is a person behind the title who will at least hear us out. I believe the information you receive from your legal staff is an inaccurate representation of the full situation. You’ll find we’re a people of multiple skill sets, we work really hard and we come together in crisis like no one else you’ll ever meet. Just as I worked hard to pull myself out of the hole I was in, I’ve seen these people do this over and over. I saw this happen after Tropical Storm Lee and again when my uncle’s cabin burned down. Every one of us is willing to work to try to address any concerns anyone has, but to unilaterallly terminate all of our lot licenses without at least giving individuals like me the chance to address floodplain concerns is so unfair. We desperately need your help. Please just hear us. Please give us a chance. I’m not above begging, as you can see. Please.
Very truly yours,
JoAnne Little, Shelly Lot 128