Homeowners battle over Frieda Lane

What it comes down to is which side of the fence you're on.

As Frieda Lane homeowners put the finishing touches on a private road, neighbors on the Lantana side of the property argue they were robbed.

What was once open space is now a private road within 5 feet of their backyard fences.

Frieda Lane homeowners argue the property never should have been part of Winhaven.

At stake is a 21Ú2-acre parcel of open space that stretched behind 23 homes on Lantana as a buffer between the Winhaven and Frieda Lane subdivisions.

The Lantana homeowners claim they paid up to $5,000 extra for their lots with the guarantee that the property belonged to the Winhaven Homeowners Association.

The disputed property was quitclaimed for $1 to the Frieda Lane homeowners.

Lantana resident Katie Spencer organized her neighbors to fight the property quitclaim, a move she argued was illegal.

She has submitted a claim to the real estate division of the Nevada Department of Business and Industry.

"They'll get the road in before we resolve this. Then, they're just going to have to tear the road up," she said.

For the past several months, Spencer has tried to enlist the help of the Minden Town Board to stop the property quitclaim.

The town board said the issue was a private matter between the homeowners' associations and, therefore, it lacked jurisdiction.

They advised Spencer and her neighbors to hire a lawyer.

But Spencer said she'd been told it would cost $10,000 for an attorney to just to look at the case.

"That was the cheapest lawyer we could find," Spencer said.

And she doesn't relish the idea of suing her own homeowners' association.

"I would like to see the property reverted to the Winhaven homeowners and the people who live on this street and paid a premium for their lots," Spencer said.

According to Spencer, homeowners association president Larry Lyle and member Rene Cardinal circulated a petition more than a year ago to all the residents except the 23 Lantana homeowners whose property abuts the disputed open space.

"We checked the signatures," Spencer said. "Thirty-two of the people who signed were renters. One guy was just rollerblading up to a Winhaven garage sale, and he signed it."

Cardinal died in September 2005, and Lyle declined to be interviewed. He referred calls to Frieda Lane homeowner James Darrough.

To Darrough, Lyle was the voice of reason.

"After years of across-the-fence shouting, Larry Lyle had a calming effect on everybody," Darrough said.

"This started about 18 years ago. Where Winhaven is now, was one of the most productive hayfields in the Valley. Western Nevada Properties originally agreed to build us a road, to give us the land behind Winhaven's southern boundary.

"There never, ever should have been a question about that land belonging to the Frieda Lane homeowners."

Darrough said the road will be closed at one end, with ingress and egress for the fire department. It will be used just eight Frieda Lane families.

That's small consolation to the Lantana residents where homes list for $450,000.

"I feel like I'm being punished for something I did wrong and I don't know what it was," said Cindi Otto.

"It kind of feels like an earthquake right now," Otto said as construction crews graded the within a few feet of her property.

Lee Rathbun, who like the Darroughs, has lived on Frieda Lane for almost 30 years, said the road will be an improvement.

"It was never treated like open space," he said. "It was more like a weed patch."

He admitted that tempers flared in ongoing discussions between the two subdivisions. He, too, credited Lyle with resolving the dispute after a particularly emotional outburst.

"I was being very rude," Rathbun said. "I had had enough. It had been building up over 18 years and spilled over. He (Lyle) went home, read the agreement and apologized. 'I was wrong,' he said. 'Frieda Lane was supposed to get that property.'

Rathbun said the Winhaven board collected signatures and quit-claimed the open space to the Frieda Lane homeowners.

"We're going to build a road," Rathbun said. "It (the road) is going to be a very good improvement to the entire area. It's going to be much nicer than the weed patch. We're going to landscape it and take care of it."

Rathbun has lived on Frieda Lane since 1979, before Winhaven was built. At first, he said, he was opposed to the idea of sharing the old Godecke ranch with 250 homeowners, but, over time, changed his mind.

"What the Winhaven people have done, I have no complaints," Rathbun said. "The people who live adjacent to us are quiet. And they do a wonderful job of keeping their areas up."

Spencer said the dispute is far from settled.

"We will not be stopped. This was an illegal title transfer and the (state) ombudsman has the authority to stop this."

She's waiting to hear from the state real estate division and in the meantime got elected to the homeowners' association board of directors.

Her previous success was the installation of speed bumps to slow down traffic in the upscale Minden subdivision.

"I guess I am a muckraker. I'm sorry, but when people are wrong, they're wrong."

She also took her name off her mailbox.

"This wasn't how I intended to spend my retirement," said the former costume designer. "I'm a gardener."


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