The meeting was called to order at 7:05 by HOA President, Mary-Alice Lynch. Board members were introduced: Charlie Ducar, Vice President, Rick Sturm, Treasurer, Preet Akula, Technology/Communications, and newly appointed Board member, Anu Dhruv. Forty-three residents were registered attendees.
President’s Report—Mary-Alice Lynch:
Mary-Alice explained the primary purposes of the meeting: updating members on Board activities and accomplishments, seeking advice on issues relevant to the owners, preliminary discussions on proposed Declaration changes and 2013 budget, and general information exchange.
General Board Responsibilities:
Fiduciary responsibility for the HOA to include such things as setting and receiving assessments, taxes, insurance, legal affairs, accounting/audit, RFPs (Request for Proposals) and contracting for common land maintenance, providing process for and performing Architectural Review of individual properties, and enforcement of the regulations in the Declarations.
HOA Board priorities of the Year:
- Develop better technological infrastructure to support better communications.
- Tackle manual revisions.
- Add spring meeting to get input on Declaration amendments and 2013 Budget.
- More aggressive enforcement of declarations.
- Develop better process of welcoming new neighbors.
Report on Maintenance of common land:
- RFPs were sent to 5 companies for lawn maintenance.
- Contract let for common land bi-weekly mowing, and mulching and early spring and fall weeding of front and back entrances to Revelations Lawn Care.
- Contract let for monthly field mowing to Art Luke’s son. (Art passed away last winter.)
- HOA does not have funds for additional or improved upkeep without additional assessment.
Upcoming Board vacancies:
- There will be three vacancies on the Board this fall; residents are urged to consider running for a Board position.
Vice President’s Report—Charlie Ducar:
- Charlie introduced Architectural Review Committee: Janet Amedio, Robin Cohn, Bryan Kelly, and Jodi Schoen.
- ARC Requests: 5 requests have been reviewed to date, with 6 more currently under review.
- 18 compliance letters have been sent out so far in 2012 concerning such things as visible garbage cans, holiday decorations not being removed in timely manner, overnight parking, etc. Charlie noted most residents complied promptly.
- Charlie reminded owners to get ARC requests in early before project commencement. The Manual allows 60 for review, although turn around has normally been much shorter than that.
Treasurer’s Report—Rick Sturm:
- Rick introduced members of the Finance Committee: Wayne Mondelblatt and Larry Schoen.
- Assessment report: Rick announced 100% of assessments have been collected.
- Rick described collection process: bills sent out by second week in January. Second invoices sent out in mid-February with reminder that a 10% penalty will be applied if not paid by March 1.
- Preet introduced Hiren Pathak, who has volunteered to recreate web site.
- Domain name: southwickmeadows.org.
- Website will not have public access, but available via password to Southwick Meadows residents only.
- Website content will include ARC forms and guidelines, Declarations, Bylaws, newsletters, etc.
- Preet requested everyone to be sure to provide their email for future information distribution.
- Website’s costs will be minimal.
- Cathy DeLeonardis: Will coordinate a neighborhood garage sale on July 14th; noted that there was a sign-up sheet in the back of the room for those interested in participating.
- Tiffany Van Clef: Will be working with a team to coordinate fall neighborhood picnic again this year. Date will be Sept. 18. Everyone will be asked to bring a dish to share. 107 people attended last year. To communicate with organizing team, please use the following email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Robin Cohn announced a once monthly “ladies night out” dinner at the Halfmoon diner. Please contact her if you are interested in getting on the distribution list for the dates.
Board looking for advice:
- Is the best time for HOA general meetings on a weeknight or on a weekend? Unanimous vote: week night.
- The common area needs substantial clean-up of debris and garbage. Should we budget money for this task for 2013, or are owners willing to step forward to do the work?
- A show of hands indicated a large number of owners were willing to pitch in to clean up the common areas; a sign-up sheet was circulated to collect names and contact information.
- A volunteer was solicited to coordinate. Davide Maioriello volunteered.
- It was suggested that twice a year, in spring and fall, when there is little or no foliage would be the best times for clean-up.
- Dan LaMarche volunteered to donate the use of one of his trucks to collect debris items.
- Discussion of fines for non-compliance—how much should they be?
- Mary-Alice explained that if owners did not respond after notice of non-compliance, the Board had the right to impose fines. If there is still no compliance, and fines go unpaid, the Board can put a lien on an owner’s property, and could ultimately foreclose on the property. Obviously, this is something we hope never happens. The Board is looking for input on at what level the fines should be levied.
- Comments from owners: Fines should be as high as possible to get people’s attention; should vary according to offense, and enforced after time is allowed to correct the non-compliance issue. They should also rise as time progresses, and that Board should not be reticent to impose fines to garner enforcement.
- Discussion of proposed amendments to the Declarations:
Mary-Alice explained that while the Board initially wanted to gain more experience before proposing any potential amendment changes, it has become obvious that there are problems and inconsistencies within the Declarations that cannot wait. While a full rewrite might be preferable, that might take years to get through and result in legal fees we cannot afford at this time. Therefore, the Board has decided to move forward in proposing some amendments that would address the most problematic issues. The Board wanted to bring them forward to the general membership for input and discussion. They will then develop drafts to send to the HOA attorney for review, and bring back to the membership for a final vote in the fall. The goals with the proposed amendments are to reconcile declarations with reality since Amedore threw out some requirements during development, create clarity, equity, and fairness for all owners, maintain the overall intent of the Declarations, provide reasonable solutions to issues that have arisen, and eliminate ambiguity for the future. Proposed changes include:
- Eliminate vinyl siding from the list of prohibited sidings since all homes in Southwick have vinyl siding.
- Eliminate requirement of each owner contracting for lawn maintenance while retaining required standards of upkeep.
- Eliminating the prohibition of garden sheds, but include standards and requirement for review by ARC.
- Eliminate the requirement that all children’s play equipment be surrounded by at least 12 trees, but leave any required screening to the discretion of the ARC depending on lot location.
- Change in language regarding satellite dishes since advice by HOA lawyer is that it is legally unenforceable as written.
Attendees suggested some language and concepts to be included for some of the amendments, but were overwhelmingly supportive of moving forward with all.
- Discussion/input on development of 2013 budget:
Treasurer Rick Sturm went over details of 2012 budget, which is a very bare bones budget, and provides for minimal maintenance of common areas. Board feels strongly that assessment for 2013 should be increased substantially for the following reasons: More frequent mowings and better care of common areas, to build up fund balance to make repair to sign, maintain retaining wall, repave walking trail when necessary, etc.
- Suggestion that since 75% of owners must approve any amendment changes, the ballots should indicate that a non-response will be counted as a positive vote since there was concern that all owners might not take the time and initiative to vote. Conclusion: Interesting idea! The Board will check with HOA attorney about this approach. (Note: HOA attorney judges this to be “counter to the Declaration’s intent that changes be approved by the overt and intentional acts of the owners,” and therefore of questionable legality.
- An owner who was unable to attend, has suggested that the HOA hire a management company to perhaps more efficiently and effectively run the HOA on a daily basis. Discussion: The owner felt enforcement of Declarations might be more prompt and successful. Assessments would need to be doubled without any elimination of current budget lines, and Board would still need to hire and oversee Management Company and retain fiduciary responsibility. Consensus was that Board was doing a good job, and Management Company would add unnecessary expense.
- Is there a possibility of lighting sign at entrance? Response: Both initial and ongoing costs are prohibitive given current treasury. Board would be willing to consider a solar light option if someone wanted to research and develop proposal that was affordable, effective and feasible.
- Question regarding requiring owner’s lamp posts be on in evening. Response: This is personal preference and is not in HOA declarations.
- Question regarding reducing speed limits or putting up Children at Play signs. Response: The Board approached the town regarding these issues when they were raised at the last owners meeting, but town policy would not support either suggestion.
- Other topics brought up included the ability of the HOA to borrow money, the possibility of requiring owners with sheds to move them directly behind homes, etc.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:35.