Cloister Ownership “Fee Simple” and Confused Old Ladies

In 2008 the state of Tennessee passed The Tennessee Condominium Act. This act set the legal ground rules for condominium sales, association rules and ownership. This is a copy of the act:

The Catholic Dioceses and Cloister Home Owners Association reached an agreement within the new law which allowed new owners to obtain a mortgage and title insurance when they bought a Cloister Condominium. The former leasehold arrangement made sale of a Cloister Condo nearly impossible as the future life of the individual condo leases became shorter than 30 years.

A small group of mostly confused old ladies, apparently frightened of any change in their lives, objected to the purchase arrangement and declined to purchase “Fee Simple” ownership. They were advised that the cost of ownership would increase over time. So far it has increased from $12,000 to $14,000 and will continue to increase according to the notices we have been given from the Catholic Dioceses.

Recently we have seen news coverage in both The Tennessean and The West Side News. Here are what appear to me to be the real facts. (I have bought the Fee Simple ownership and am familiar with the situation. I feel I have made a good investment.)FeeSimpleNews2FeeSimpleNews1

Rochford Construction has built nearly identical communities in Bellevue, Franklin, Columbia, Murfreesboro, Williamson County and Mt Juliet. Mr Rochford knows what he is talking about.


Hospitals, Emergency Rooms, Clinics and MD’s

I'm not surprised...

I’m not surprised…

Recently I had several disturbing experiences with Doctors, Clinics, various healthcare employees, and Hospitals.

For years I have gone to the same heart doctor, taken tests at the same clinic, and went to the same Emergency Room affiliated with the MD and Hospital Clinic. Times have changed and healthcare has changed. I need to consider making some changes myself.

Recently a great deal was made about name changes of several local hospitals.

  • St Thomas Hospital is now St Thomas West
  • Baptist Hospital is now St Thomas Midtown
  • Middle Tennessee Medical Center is now St Thomas Rutherford

Do the name changes improve the health care we receive? I think not.

The harsh fact is that the health care situation is changing all around us but I have failed to notice and I changed nothing.

What has happened recently?

  1. A major Medical Center is firing 1000 healthcare workers. Does firing 1000 healthcare providers and replacing them with temporary contract employees improve the healthcare we receive? I think not.
  2. St Thomas Hospital administrators, Baptist Hospital administrators, and MTMC  Murfreesboro administrators all now report to a St Louis Hqtrs.
  3. Replacement central management is located in St Louis, MO , Ascension Health, now runs the show while also managing 69 other hospitals, they now also  manage all three St Thomas facilities. Should this improve the healthcare I receive? I think not.
  4. I waited 8 1/2 hours for treatment when I was recently taken to an Emergency Room by ambulance.

My recent experiences suggests that Emergency room practices at Saint Thomas facilities are no longer decided by doctors and nurses on site but rather by standardized “Standing Orders” most likely issued by lawyers and administrators. Are they followed for primarily legal reasons rather than that they are necessarily the best medical practices?

I am disturbed that many hospital and clinic employees walk around with their ID badges reversed so we can see neither their name nor the credentials of the person who is involved in procedures or testing. “Is the person a nurse, a technician, a clerk? Are the people working in their area of expertise and training, or are they doing on-the-job training outside the area in which they have been trained?”

I have recently gone through two tests which I had done several times before. In both cases the so-called technicians had difficulty in skillfully performing routine procedures like inserting an IV (he was more concerned about wiping the blood  soaked chair arm rather than stopping the blood flow poring from a vein in my arm)  or performing an ultrasound test (after much fumbling she found it necessary to call for a nurse to help her complete the procedure).

A major medical center can’t possibly function with 1000 less healthcare providers so their clear intention is to replace them with temporary, contract employees thus saving the cost of benefits packages for the original employees along with paying less for contract employees.

I have a lot of interaction with various health providers and their organizations. I am sometimes aware that they suggest behavior on my part that only makes their jobs easier and benefits their organization rather than improving my health. My hard earned experience suggests some actions I can take about the healthcare I receive.:

  1. Don’t blindly follow a doctors referral to another specialist. Most practices have a website that identifies each doctor and their education, training, and special expertise/interest. Check them out and pick a MD that most closely matches your need and ask for a referral to that doctor.
  2. Have your doctor thoroughly describe every new drug he prescribes and exactly why he is prescribing it to you. What are the plusses and minuses and side effects.
  3. During any testing and hospital stay do not eat any drug or allow anything to be put into your body before they tell you what the substance is, what it’s for, and what the dosage is.
  4. Read the nametag for every person involved in the delivery of healthcare to you for their name and exactly what their credential is.
  5. If someone seems to be having difficulty with any procedure, ask them what the problem is and if perhaps they need to call for help.
  6. In serious situations, a second opinion regarding diagnosis and treatment is always a good thing.
  7. I cannot ignore the most important fact that it is my body and my health and I have to accept some personal responsibility for the healthcare I receive.


Part of the problem is there is so much to know about the health care reform legislation: the theory, the law, what is political rhetoric and what is fact and how to apply the real information to our day to day lives.

“Obamacare”, health care reform, and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) are all used to reference the same law. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA) was passed three and half years ago and set for full implementation January 1, 2014. The primary goal is to help the 16% of Americans without insurance gain access to quality affordable health care.

Tennessean about The Cloister Neighbors


Article in the November 5, 2013 Tennessean

Seniors at Belle Meade community must pay $15,000 to keep homes

Residents say diocese didn’t tell them rights to land under their condos had expiration date

Early in 1997, Imogene Shea, then 71, moved into a neat community of 240 single-story brick-front condominiums for senior citizens in Belle Meade.

A retired nurse, she expected it to be her last home. Now she’s not so sure.

“I paid $140,000 and now they tell me I don’t really own it,” she said in a recent interview.

She says she can’t afford the $15,000 fee she’s being asked to pay on top of mortgage payments, association fees, taxes and other assessments for living at the Cloister at Saint Henry.

So she finds herself caught up in a cautionary tale about planning for retirement — except that in her case, the diminutive 87-year-old is looking for relief from an unlikely adversary: a development company working on behalf of the Catholic Diocese of Nashville.

What Shea, a lifelong Catholic, and some others living at the cloister say they have been told is this: Yes, you do own your home, at least the inside of it. But not the ground on which it rests.

In an arrangement that most everyone agrees is unusual, especially in Tennessee, Shea and others purchased something called a leasehold interest on the ground beneath their condominiums. The lease severely restricts their ownership rights.

It’s not rare for condominium owners to share interest in community property around their homes. But attorneys locally and nationally say the arrangement at the Cloister is unusual in that the condo owners have only a leasehold interest in the land on which their property sits, one with a relatively short expiration date for a ground lease.

But perhaps more alarming was the news that when the leases begin to run out in 2043, they will not be renewed — and then ownership of the land will revert back to the development company set up by the diocese.

Many residents, Shea included, say they weren’t told at the time of purchase that their rights to the property had an expiration date. The residents say they’ve been told, but only within the past three years, that if they do not purchase something called a “fee simple interest” for the ground under their condo before the leases run out, they will lose their homes eventually. And while many don’t expect to live that long, they worry that their children and grandchildren essentially will be out of luck.

Of perhaps more immediate concern, the price of that fee interest has been climbing by $1,000 a year. It started at $12,000 and now stands at $15,000.

Program defended

Representatives of the development company and the diocese say the fee simple program was set up to benefit residents by making it easier for them to sell their property or get financing. And, of course , they note that participation was strictly voluntary.

“The intent was to provide reduced-price retiree  housing for people over 55,” said David Glascoe, an official of the diocese. “What was sold was a leasehold interest, and the prices reflected that.”

Glascoe acknowledged that the leasehold interest arrangement was unusual but said it helped make the units more affordable. Records show initial purchase prices ranged between $70,000 and $80,000. He said 70 percent of the residents had signed up for it.

Shea, who stands barely 5 feet tall and weighs less than 100 pounds, sees it differently.

“It’s a bad situation,” she said. “They’ve scared some of the people. Just two or three of us are standing up.”

“It’s grossly unfair,” agreed Helen Bratcher, who has lived at the Cloister for 18 years. “The church is money hungry. I don’t think it’s the right thing to do.”

Others were more supportive of the diocese. David Stansberry, an association officer, said he bought a fee simple interest when he moved into the complex, knew what he was getting into and has no problem with it.

“A lot have gone along with the program, a lot have not,” he said.

But records and statements by Shea and some of the other residents show that the battle has a long history, a history not fully disclosed to her and some of the other residents.

Donated land

The Cloister at Saint Henry, as it is formally known, came into being some three decades ago when the diocese decided to take part of a huge tract of donated land to develop a senior citizen community directly behind Saint Henry’s Catholic Church.

In 1999 a proposal was put forward to have the Cloister Owners Association purchase the land. A vote was held. The purchase was approved in a vote, although the margin is a matter of dispute, and Glascoe said the considerable rancor that followed led the board to drop the purchase plan.

Opponents had hired an attorney who argued that under the arrangement, the condo owners would be unable to get title insurance, an argument Glascoe says is false.

Caldwell Hancock, the attorney for the opponents, said the proposal called for each condo owner to pay $8,500, an amount that was set despite the fact that the supporters had not paid for an appraisal to base it on. Hancock, whose mother lived in the development at the time, said residents erupted angrily after the sale won a slim vote of approval.

In the latest effort, residents have been greeted with a steady stream of messages, most delivered in newsletters about the advantages of buying the fee simple, along with warnings about what could happen without it. Fee simple units sell for higher prices, but the homeowners may not be able to get long-term mortgages because the lease will run out in 30 years, the newsletters warn.

“The diocese and the Bishop cannot and will not extend or otherwise amend the existing ground leases. This is a valuable asset,” a July 2009 newsletter stated.

A separate newsletter published by the cloister association quoted Gino Marchetti Jr., a lawyer for Bishop David R. Choby and the diocese, addressing the residents’ concerns.

“Despite the numerous discussions surrounding this issue,” Marchetti wrote, “I don’t think anyone has provided any reason why this property should be given to current unit owners or the leases extended free of charge.”

Shea said she regards the messages and statements made by officials of the diocese at meetings as threatening.

“They have done all kinds of intimidation,” she said. “There should have been a meeting and a vote.”

Glascoe says a vote was not required.

“I’m sorry that they feel that way,” he said. “It is totally voluntary. I don’t know why they would feel that.”

Little choice

While Shea and Bratcher say they will stand firm, attorneys not directly involved in the fray take a more cautious view. Wes Turner, a Nashville attorney, said the lease is going to run out and the residents don’t have much choice about what to do.

“The best course would be to apply for the fee simple,” he said.

Michael St. Charles, a Chattanooga real estate lawyer, said the legal structure of the Cloister condominium was extremely rare. “There can’t be more than a handful across the state. There are none in Chattanooga that I know of.”

Meanwhile, Glascoe said the owners are now being asked to approve a merger of the new condo association with the old one. And if it doesn’t pass, he says that will have no effect.

“I imagine they’ll just have another vote,” he added.

Claire Calongne, who bought her Cloister condo in 1994, says she hasn’t gone for the fee simple and is not concerned about the ongoing debate — though she knows she may lose out in the end.

“My heirs will have to deal with it,” she said.

Contact Walter F. Roche Jr. at 615-259-8086 or

Blogger’s Note:

If all three women lose their homes when the lease expires the youngest will be 101 years old, the oldest will be 117 years old. Many dozens of Cloister homes have been sold since the start of the Fee Simple program. If necessary, a Fee Simple purchase is made at the closing resulting in a valid Title Guarantee and the ability to obtain a mortgage but will make a difference in the selling price of the home. Attempts to sell a Cloister home without Fee Simple Ownership results in a considerably lower final price.  I would not be surprised if the cost of a fee simple purchase does not go up by another $1000 next year.

.CloisterSales 2011-Oct 2013

GJCC Just a Mile Away


INDOOR-SWIMMING-POOLHidden, just two blocks from The Cloister, at the first traffic light past St Henry Catholic Church towards Bellevue is the Gordon Jewish Community Center. GJCC LogoThe GJCC complex includes a day care, an elementary school, and the Community Center building with meeting rooms, a large auditorium/theater, organized children, adult, and senior programs, a large group exercise room, a superbly equipped exercise/conditioning center, and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. The indoor pool has four swim lanes and a two lane area dedicated for aquatics exercise groups and individual water walking and water exercises.

Just as you don’t need to be a Catholic to own a home at The Cloister at Saint Henry, you don’t need to be Jewish to be a member at the GJCC.

INDOOR-SWIMMING-POOLThe senior rate is : $45 for a single and $63 for a couple.  Senior age starts at 70 but if you are eligible for Silver Sneakers, that is 65.  Silver Sneakers is a health facility subsidization program from Healthways that is covered by six different insurance companies.  Those companies include: AARP Medicare Complete/Secure Horizons, AARP  Supplement/Medicare Medigap, AmeriGroup, HealthSpring, Humana, and BCBS 65+.  Silver Sneakers members’ enrollment is paid for by their insurance companies.GJCC SilverSneakers

I have been a member for over 5 years. Besides aquatic exercise in the indoor pool my wife and I enjoyed the Bridge group and TGIT(Thank God It’s Thursday) Lunch and Learn programs featuring some interesting speakers.

The most welcoming group at the GJCC is The Prime Time Group for active senior adults. They host a huge variety of activities including monthly dinners with interesting programs, monthly meetings, day and overnight trips, parties, brunches and lunches, monthly casino day trips, overnight casino trips, holiday programs, varied classes, cultural events including plays and the TPAC Broadway series, concerts, pot luck dinners with original entertainment, and opportunities for group participation in community events. The Prime Time group also hosts a yearly retreat or trip.

The GJCC people welcome Cloister residents to drop by and use the facility with a free trial guest pass..