When retirees Thomas and Charlene Butler moved into their modular home on Lake Martin 14 years ago, they expected it to be their last move.
When they learned their lease would not be renewed, the Butlers, along with many of Pleasure Point Park and Marina’s roughly 80 residents, felt blindsided.
“They gave us until June 2014 to move our homes, destroy our homes,” Charlene Butler said. “We’re trying to sell our home. … We’re going to take a beating. We’re going to lose an awful lot. But something’s better than nothing.”
On July 19, 2013, Alabama Power Company received a notice of violation from the Tallapoosa County Health Department listing a number of septic tank violations and grey water discharge issues at Pleasure Point.
Alabama Power spokesperson Brandon Glover said there were too many structures for the amount of property. After sending out engineers to assess the situation, Glover said the company decided "the best way to address the issue was not to renew the lease with Pleasure Point management."
Alabama Power owns the 37 acres containing Pleasure Point and has been leasing it to the park for 47 years. Tenants, in turn, lease individual lots from Pleasure Point owner Lausanne Walter.
“When they canceled her lease, they canceled our lease,” Butler said. “They issued permits for people to improve their piers, add boatlifts… knowing this was going to happen. … (Walter) knew this was going on, and she still let people buy from other people.”
Walter declined to comment on the allegations.
John Colley of Lake Martin Voice Realty speculated Walter leased lots to too many homeowners.
“It’s really kind of been a question mark for a little bit,” he said, adding a real estate database showed there had been two homes sold on the property in the last 12 months.
The most recent was sold on July 16, just three days before the Tallapoosa County Health Department sent a notice of violation to Alabama Power. The home sold for $9,000, and was at one of the addresses listed as in violation on health department documents.
Across the road from the Butlers, Don King burned leaves on a warm winter morning. He has owned a vacation home in Pleasure Point since 1996, and many of his family members also own homes in the park. He has another place, but worries about Pleasure Point families that don’t.
“You’ve got people in there that, I don’t know what they’re going to do,” he said. “Some people put everything they have into this.”
King said the Pleasure Point community was unaware of the septic issues.
“There’s no reason in the world it can’t be worked out,” he said. “They’ve got another proposition Alabama Power won’t even listen to. They won’t even talk to you. It’s a mess.”
After receiving the notice, Pleasure Point residents formed a homeowners’ association, hired an engineer to estimate the cost of fixing the septic problem and presented it to Alabama Power in early November. The company considered the proposition for more than two weeks before declining, residents said.
“Think what it’s going to do to the community out here. You think it’s not going to make an impact on it?” King asked, noting the park’s roughly 80 families support area businesses. “It’s going to hurt all of us. Every single one of us. … I don’t think Alabama Power really cares one way or the other.”
Glover said the company has never encountered a property with “septic issues of this size.” He added the company does not have any planned use of the property.
But some Pleasure Point homeowners, like Auburn resident Bob Sergen, aren’t convinced.
Sergen speculates Alabama Power requested an inspection to evict lessees from an appealing piece of lakefront property.
“It’s probably, in my opinion, one of the most desirable spots on the lake,” he said. “I think they want to let millionaires have it. I think in a decade, when we look back at the story, there’ll be mansions there.”
REMAX Lake Martin real estate agent Toni Adcock said Alabama Power has been divesting itself from some of its 750 miles of lakefront property.
“The power company, this year, has been selling a lot of property. They released probably about 25 lots… near Dadeville,” she said. “They had appraisals done this year.”
But John Colley, of Lake Martin Voice Realty, estimated it might take five or 10 years for Alabama Power to do anything with the Pleasure Point property.
“They’re not a real estate company, so everything’s not for sale,” he explained. “They’re very deliberate. The take everything into consideration before they put something up for sale. … They usually plan things out years and years in advance.”
As June 30 draws near, homeowners say they aren’t giving up on pleading their case with Alabama Power.
“We can’t fight Alabama Power. We just can’t,” Sergen said. “We can’t fight them in court, even though we probably will for a while.”
But the Butlers have already started packing up their home. As his wife rattled off names of neighbors and where they might end up, Thomas Butler looked past the cardboard boxes stacked on his kitchen counter and focused on the lake.
“I guess I’m going to miss that back porch more than anything.”