A survey to help the Village of Four Seasons update its Comprehensive Plan has raised the ire of the the Four Seasons Property Owners Association, effectively reigniting a tug-of-war between the two groups.

A survey to help the Village of Four Seasons update its Comprehensive Plan has raised the ire of the the Four Seasons Property Owners Association, effectively reigniting a tug-of-war between the two groups.

POA spokesman Steve Yoder told the Village Board of Trustees last week that some of the questions on the survey are divisive and do not enhance that group's desire to strengthen the relationship between the Village and POA.

"We have no problem with the survey, with getting the feedback of residents, but we ask that you temper those questions regardless of whether you want to stay out of it," he told the board. "I can tell you far and away that the POA board is trying to do what it can to cooperate, to try to get along, to try to unite the community to grow the community. We have revenue sources from different sources and and we can agree to disagree as to what comes first — does commercial development come before residential, or does residential come before commercial."

The Village of Four Seasons discovered last year that it had not updated its Comprehensive Plan since first adopted in 1993.

Village Trustees contracted with Missouri State University to draft a plan, and a Planning Committee of volunteers was appointed to lead the charge. Part of the process was to survey residents of the Village -- many of whom live in the POA -- based on questions posed during a kickoff workshop in March.

Among the philosophical discussions by the board has been how to move the Village forward -- through development of a commercial base first or residential. The challenge has been how to blend the incorporated Village's laws and ordinances with the POA's covenants.

But the POA is now taking the Village to task, believing the Village is attempting to influence the outcome of the survey and the Comprehensive Plan. Village officials have stressed that they want the survey to be objective and have purposely remained independent.

The POA doesn't see it that way.

"With all due respect to trustees wanting to stay out of the questions, the fact of the matter is the questions are coming out as The Village," Yoder said. "One of things that has been an elephant in the room is the historic argumentativeness or divisive nature between the POA and the trustees."

"A question that was a real tripwire for us, the one that pushed the six directors off the cliff, is the one that asked if residents would be in favor of the Village assuming all services provided by the POA if the Village received POA assessment fees in the form of a property tax. That does nothing more than to put a bug in everyone's ear of things that can't be done, and it cedes the dissent that's going on between the two operations."

Another question that concerned the POA board asked "What, if any, is the ideal relationship between the Village and POA?"

"'If any,'" Yoder asked rhetorically? "That's a misleading question and it's divisive in our eyes," Yoder said.

Yoder reminded the Village Trustees of a 2008 suit brought by the POA against the Village over building permits and other issues relative to control of the two organizations. A settlement was eventually mediated.

Village Trustee Jim Holcomb, who is the point person on the Comprehensive Plan Planning Committee, argued that the Village has intentionally not been involved in the process to avoid any appearance of conflict or influence.

"This is not within the Village," Holcomb said, "this is the Comprehensive Planning Committee set up separately, and the trustees have nothing to do with it."

He noted that questions on the survey came from the March workshop during which residents of both the Village and POA had an opportunity for input.

"That very well may be," Yoder said, "but the Village is still promoting it by carrying it under the Village's nameplate online."

Holcomb said he learned of the POA's concerns when he received a phone call from POA official Mary Bustin, who said the POA's Association Press would not promote the survey.

"I told Mary, contrary to what she thought, that we the board of trustees did not have any input in this survey, did not want any input," Holcomb said. "If we start trying to control the contents of that survey, the impression would be if not actually controlling the survey then it would appear we're controlling the meetings and what came out of the meetings. We can't be objective if we are involved that way."

Yoder requested that the Village pull the survey from its website to avoid further appearance of conflict of interest.

"Or, if you insist on asking the questions, ask them (MSU) to word the question so that it doesn't refer to the dissolution of the POA," Yoder said. "Remember, this is still a survey under the Village nameplate, not MSU."

Holcomb wondered if the answers to the survey might be too sensitive for the POA.

"I'm afraid it's not so much a concern about the questions, but the potential answers," Holcomb said. "We are not in the process of trying to control this, but we think the survey has to move forward."

Village Attorney Todd Miller said tinkering with the questions now could appear that the Trustees are attempting to influence the survey.

"The problem now is that if we intervene in the survey and it comes out whether or not in favor of the POA, it would look like we had influence. That's why they're trying to stay so neutral," Miller said.

Yoder replied: "I understand, but I do think you have to recognize this is your nameplate on these questions. You've got to take some ownership."

"This is one of pre-eminent groups in state that does master plans, but there are few communities that have the situation of two governing groups like we do here. They may not have run up against this before," Miller noted.

Part of the defugalty between the POA and Village goes back to when the Comprehensive Plan Planning Committee was formed last winter, and the Village did not invite anyone from the POA to be involved.

Holcomb explained the board's intent was not to involve any groups that might have an appearance of impropriety or vested interested in the eventual outcome of the Planning Committee. That included the POA, the Horseshoe Bend Road District, the Lodge of Four Seasons and the Board of Trustees, Holcomb said.

"We deliberately made an effort to pick those people who would be independent, or who would intentionally or unintentionally have any influence on the outcome of what they would do," Holcomb said.

Without the survey on the POA Association website, and if it's pulled from the Village website, the Planning Committee will have to seek other ways of distribution.