That dispute over a golf cart path in East Amherst is going from heated to down right nasty.
Amherst police were called Monday night to restore order during a meeting of the homeowners' association.
Between 20 and 30 residents attended the board meeting, and the discourse between board members and some audience members grew testy.
Mary Ellen Sanfilippo and others fired off sharp questions, interrupted at times, and spoke beyond the five minutes they are allowed under the board's rules, according to witnesses. Sanfilippo, in particular, drew the ire of Gene Zambarda, the board vice president, who repeatedly said she was out of order. When she refused to stop interrupting, he called the police to remove her from the room.
"It was an absolute free-for-all, it was horrible," said Sanfilippo.
Sanfilippo said board members treated residents rudely and would not respond to questions on how homeowners' $350 annual fees are spent.
The residents pressed members of the Ransom Oaks homeowners' association board to provide more information about the association's strategy in the lawsuit against one of its homeowners and the neighboring Glen Oak Golf Course and about how the board spends its roughly $394,000 budget.
"The residents are rallying together," said resident Jamie Weissenberg, whose wife is named in the lawsuit.
But Pete Calinski, the association's president, said the vast majority of Ransom Oaks residents support the efforts of the board to battle for the association's legal interests.
The Ransom Oaks homeowners' association represents about 1,100 single-family homes, townhomes, condominiums and patio homes in East Amherst next to the Glen Oak Golf Course. The association filed suit four years ago against the golf course and against a homeowner, Andrea Weissenberg, who turned over control of a portion of her property to Glen Oak. The parties are fighting over a path that golfers use that winds through the backyards of several Ransom Oaks properties.
The legal question is whether property owners in Ransom Oaks must get permission from the community before selling off any part of their land. Ransom Oaks also is seeking repayment of the money it has spent on legal fees – $121,000, since 2013 – money that comes out of residents’ yearly association fees.
Sanfilippo said she left the meeting room at the request of one of the two officers who responded, and she later went to Amherst Police Headquarters to ask if an officer could be posted at future board meetings. She said the lieutenant on duty replied that the department wouldn't get involved. Amherst Police Chief John Askey did not return a message seeking comment Tuesday.
"It was bad," said Jamie Weissenberg. "That's not how a community board meeting should be run."
Calinski said the board did its best to maintain order given the disruptions of Sanfilippo and a small number of others. "We could not carry on the meeting" until she left, he said.
The next scheduled appearance for the case is a conference set for March 28 in State Supreme Court.