Attendance: Preet Akula, Anu Dhruv, Charlie Ducar, Larry Schoen and Rick Sturm
48 homeowners were present
Rick convened the meeting promptly at 7PM with the following:
Rick began the meeting by thanking all attendees for taking the time from their family life and from their work to attend this very important meeting.
Rick introduced the members of the Board and thanked them for their service. Rick thanked Ginny Ducar, Jessica Dembo and Janet Amedeo for handling the registration table.
Rick began with the following:
IF YOU HAVEN’T HEARD THE REASON, THE HOA BOARD WAS PETITIONED BY ABOUT 46 HOMEOWNERS BECAUSE OF THEIR CONCERN ABOUT THE 2013 HOA FEES AND BUDGET. SPECIFIC CONCERNS RELATE TO THE BOARD’S AUTHORITY TO SET THE BUDGET AND THE BOARD’S ESTABLISHMENT OF THE RENOVATIONS AND MAINTENANCE FUND – $100 PER HOUSEHOLD.
THE PREAMBLE OF THE PETITION FOLLOWS:
“THE SOUTHWICK MEADOWS HOMEOWNERS ASSOCIATION FEES WERE INCREASED FROM $175 IN 2012 TO $375 FOR $2013. THIS REPRESENTS A 115% INCREASE IN A SINGLE YEAR. ASIDE FROM THE EGREGIOUS CHANGE IN FEES, THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS MAY NOT HAVE ADHERED TO THE DECLARATIONS THAT GOVERN THE ASSOCIATION’S ABILITY TO CREATE A BIDGET AND LEVY ASSESSMENTS TO SUPPORT THAT BUDGET. ARTICLE V OF THE DECLARATIONS STATE THAT A CHANGE IN ASSESSMENT, WHETHER IT IS A MAINTENANCE ASSESSMENT OR SPECIAL ASSESSMENT FOR CAPITAL IMPROVEMENTS, REQUIRES THE “CONSENT OF OWNERS BY AN AFFIRMATIVE VOTE OF NOT LESS THAN SIXTY-SEVER PERCENT (67%) OF AUTHORIZED VOTING MEMBERS” IN ORDER TO CHANGE THE BASIS OF ASSESSMENTS. A VOTE WAS NEVER TAKEN TO INCREASE THE ASSESSMENTS. THE HOMEOWNERS OF SOUTHWICK MEADOWS REQUEST A SPECIAL MEETING WITH THE BOARD OF DIRECTORS TO DISCUSS THE INCREASE IN ASSESSMENTS. THE PETITION WAS SIGNEDBY NEARLY 46 HOMEOWNERS.”
THE BOARD AND I THANK EVERYONE FOR THEIR INVOLVEMENT AND CONCERN FOR OUR COMMUNITY. WE ACKNOWLEDGE THE DIFFICULTIES AND DILEMAS FACING THE BOARD IN TRYING TO MEET THE NEEDS AND ADDRESS THE IDEAS AND CONCERNS OF SUCH A DIVERSE NEIGHBORHOOD.
PUT ANOTHER WAY, HOW CAN THE BOARD REPRESENT WHAT THE COMMUNITY WANTS AND ADHERE TO THE DECLARATIONS AND BY-LAWS WHEN A LARGE NUMBER OF HOMEOWNERS DO NOT SUPPORT THE PURPOSE FOR WHICH THE BOARD EXISTS.
BOARD MEMBERS AND I HOPE THAT TONIGHT’S MEETING WILL BEGIN A PROCESS TO RESOLVE THE DISPARITY OF OPINIONS RELATED TO BOARD AUTHORITY AND FUNCTIONS. WE HOPE MORE HOMEOWNERS WILL BECOME INVOLVED AT THE SPRING AND ANNUAL MEETINGS; IF UNABLE TO ATTEND, WE THINK IT REASONABLE TO EXPECT HOMEOWNERS TO READ BOARD MINUTES AND CONTACT THE BOARD WITH ANY QUESTIONS/CONCERNS. WE ALSO WELCOME HOMEOWNERS TO STAND FOR ELECTION. THERE WILL BE 2 VACANCIES TO BE FILLED THIS FALL.
THE BOARD FULLY AND COMPLETELY UNDERSTANDS THE CONCERNS IN THE PETITION. WE PROPOSE TO STRUCTURE THE REST OF THIS EVENINGS MEETING TOWARD FUTURE IMPROVEMENT.
AS EACH PERSON SPEAKS, I ASK FOR BREVITY. AND FOCUSED ON 2 AREAS… ITEMS DONE WELL AND ITEMS NEEDING IMPROVEMENT
I HAVE FLIP CHART SHEETS WHERE EACH COMMENT WILL BE RECORDED.
AFTER THE MEETING, THE BOARD WILL ASSESS THE COMMENTS TOWARD DEVELOPING A PLAN FOR THE FUTURE WHICH WE BELIEVE WILL IMPROVE OUR NEIGHBORHOOD WELL INTO THE FUTURE.
AS I OPEN THE FLOOR FOR COMMENTS, I ASK THAT COMMENTS BE POLITE AND RESPECTFUL WITHOUT PERSONAL ATTACKS.
At this point, the Board turned the meeting over to Mr and Mrs. Arena
Concern: 2013 Budget Process:
Chris Arena – Started by addressing the significant increase in the 2013 budget recommending:
- Future Assessment should stay same for the small community
- Home-owners should vote for any future increase and also have a say in how the money should be spend. Consider amending By-Laws to have vote in Change of Budget increase/decrease.
- Use Power wisely
JESSICA: In budget -> to better clarify the budget, lay out more details
Sandeep Gupta – Why did the board not ask for a vote
Rick : Per By-Laws, the Board is elected by the homeowners to operate the HOA. One aspect of this operation is to set the budget. At the beginning, the new HOA Board had limited knowledge re operations. This was rectified through experience during the past couple of years.
Suggestion -> Instead of changing by-laws, could there by a non-binding vote?
- Present to home-owners estimate/proposal of cost when asked to be vote?
- Suggest different budget levels for vote.
Lisa -> How much would it cost to hire a management firm to operate the hoa? rick explained that the past quotes approximated $5000. rick also reminded those present that we would Still need board as the management company cannot make policy decisions. only certain actions can be performed from them.
Concern: Legal cost spend for Special Meeting
PAUL: Why was $1000 spend for this MEETING? Suggested finding lawyer who takes less money.
BOARD: Read out petition for why they approached lawyer.
- Did not know how to handle as this was a legal issue.
- Fee included consulting and letter to petitioners to confirm that what the board did was legal and per the by-laws where the board will prepare and approve the budget.
DAVIDE EXPRESSED concern that home-owners were not asked before spending the $1000.
Rod agreed and said it was the right thing to spend money as the Board is legally liable. Petition accused board of nonfeasance.
Rick added that the board is subject to be sued.
DAN: We as home-owners vote the board to ACT IN our best interests and need to trust they will spend the money in the best interests of the homeowners. The community cannot hold up decisions pending vote from all home-owners.
Chris Arena : How was the $100 Reserve determine for bike path?
Board clarified that they got an estimate from paul Amedore. Carrie suggested to get additional quote. rick replied that a Committee is in place that is already addressing this as part of how they can drive down cost for community.
Davide suggested that the Board may be able to spot repair the bike path vs. replacing it. In 15 years – future generation might not use bike path with concrete – other options might be there.
Jessica: What is the value of assets of Community under HOA? Town conducted assessment. Board not sure how this was derived. Rick explained that the financial statement value is the full value assessed value as contained on the HOA’s school and property taxes.
Question asked by Dan to home-owners
- How many meetings did home-owners who signed petition attend as the increase should have not come as surprise?
- During Fall meeting – home-owners who attended voted for the type of lawn care to determine spend of budget.
Rod: Asked that the petition be read aloud.
Concern: Improve Communication
How to increase awareness and communication.
- Rick stated face to face communication is required. When getting home-owners to vote for by-law change, required going door to door to get signatures.
- Could there be more than 2 meetings annually to address concerns and allow for home-owners to participate? Schedule can be challenging.
- Website : Could google docs of Facebook be used. Attempt has been made to get the website and google docs working in the past – but they have been challenges.
- Jay Cao volunteered to help website to see if cost to build website could be eliminated. Preet to connect Jay with Hiren for website.
Kaushal : Petition and meeting like this create atomicity. We need to keep this as a great community and come together.
Sandeep: Need to find mechanism to come together.
Dan -> Board has been very transparent. Conducting more meetings could be a means. If we need homeowners to vote, then that will require a change in the by-laws and there is a cost.
Carrie -> Did not want to attack board and thanked for the board for all the work.
In the past many, many committees have been formed with little action taken. Understand this is all volunteer time from home-owners.
Many home-owners asked the question as to why the home-owners can’t do more – like maintain parts of community. Examples given where home-owners asked to volunteer but it is the same set of volunteers, i.e., for the front and back planting – same people both times).
Dave asked if homeowners were informed that Board would set the budget.
Clarified in letter that went out prior to Fall meeting, opening letter did address this.
- Jay Cao to look at way to communicate Facebook
- Jay Cao to connect with Hiren Pathak on website to take it further.
- Carrie – Offered to lead up Communication team to increase more communications
- Davide interested to run for Board.
Topics for Board Consideration
- Suggest the Amend By-Laws to have home-owners vote for change in budget.
- Have a non-binding budget vote at Annual meeting
- Vote for suggestion on maintenance of community
- Put in Non-Binding Vote to home-owners -> Input to Board for decision.
- More MEETING (vs. digital media)
- How to collaborate more?
- Eliminate Mailing – Seek digital confirmation
- Would require waivers for requirement for annual meetings
- Phone/In Person communication to increase communication.
- establish communications committee