Thanks to all the neighbors who were able to attend the August HOA meeting to learn more about the previously board decided new clubhouse build which has since been modified/retracted. Your attendance was greatly appreciated and a sign to the board that the neighborhood is not comfortable with what was at the time, the already made decision by the board to build a new million-dollar clubhouse. There was no documented information, research or financial disclosure provided to you, the property owners of Timberwood Park for this previously made decision. Not to mention, there was never an opportunity for the entire community to provide a vote either supporting or disagreeing with this proposed substantial expenditure (even if this vote was not required, as the board has stated in the September newsletter issue, it would appear a good business practice toward open, transparent management to allow community participation and understanding of the project). It is noted that the board has indicated in the September newsletter their willingness to allow a vote by property owners on this project following discussion at the August meeting.
And as a result of the August meeting, we now have the September issue of the newsletter, which speaks in large part to the August meeting. The board discusses the topic of the relevance posts which have taken place in the past using social media resources and indicates that those resources cannot and should not be trusted when communicating with you the property owner. Yet the board uses social media on several fronts like Crime Watch, Music in the Park, etc. to communicate with you, the property owner as a legitimate means of doing so.
Additionally, we are back to the “if you want to know what is going on come to a meeting” quote which we can all agree is not only not always possible, but sometimes conflicts with other responsibilities we all have in our personal lives. It is not reflective, however, of a lack of interest in our neighborhood. So apparently unless information is brought to property owners by the board through social media, it may not be correct or accurate according to the board in the September newsletter.
Let’s review what has been posted recently through social media sites and what, if anything posted was inaccurate:
- The posts alerted you to the fact that the board had previously decided, and announced that decision publicly in HOA meetings and issues of the newsletter, to build a new million-dollar clubhouse. The September newsletter, unlike earlier editions, changes the board’s position and now states they have “begun preliminary planning on a clubhouse project”.
- The posts alerted you to the fact that to date there had been no written supporting research, written documentation, written due diligence on behalf of the neighborhood, written financial detail, that would support making such a large decision on behalf of the community.
- The posts alerted you to a discussion that the board used wherein approximately 600 responses to an electronic survey which was put out seeking “what improvements property owners would like to see in the existing clubhouse” were the basis for this decision.
- Do we know if the 600 responses were in fact from 600 different homes or repeats since the survey went out 3 times? What didn’t that survey do?
- No mention of a new build.
- No financial plan to support a new build
- No feasibility study to quantify why the need for a new build and its size, design, etc. as it applies to how it supports our community
- No money saved by the HOA board over the last 5 years since turnover took place to make this project a reality without obligating the community to a debt service for a want not a need or essential
- No question asking if you, the property owners of Timberwood Park, wanted a new clubhouse
- The posts alerted you to other issues in the community which property owners should be aware of:
- Like the lack of adequate reserve funds established in spite of the fact that dollars available over and above our operating needs are spent for new improvements on a regular basis each year rather than save money to afford the luxury of a want down the road.
- If we commissioned and paid for a reserve study, why in the world wouldn’t we follow its recommendations and ensure that fundamental maintenance was possible for existing assets and improvements before we spend money on extras?
- And, even if you felt it was not necessary to fund the entire projected figure to completely fund the reserve account (which is discussed in the newsletter as well), why wouldn’t we put away a reasonable number of funds to ensure we can maintain what we already have in existence properly before we add more to maintain? If approximately $560k is reserves according to the study for everything, why not reach for at least 50% of that covered as good stewardship and management of the property owners existing assets and fees spent to assure those are maintained? Do you believe $120k is adequate after 5 years of operation given the total dollar amount the study outlined?
- An independent audit performed the same year outlined the same dollars and also discussed supporting good business practice which includes setting aside enough dollars to support maintenance and upkeep of our existing improvements and assets. Have we done that?
- The posts alerted you to the fact that several large projects already undertaken by our current HOA board have been poorly planned for and have had less than favorable results:
- If we are building a new clubhouse, what about the thousands just spent remodeling the kitchen? The exercise room upgrades/remodel?
- The lake repair project – the lake leaks
- The tennis court expansion project – now one court is resurfaced into a basketball court after the expense of building the additional tennis court(s) which are almost never used, and almost never completely full as witnessed by numerous property owners on a regular basis.
Anything listed above inaccurate or untrue?
A variety of opinions and discussion on any large scale project is a positive sign that there is ample participation and involvement by the group it impacts. Likewise, feasibility studies determining actual need versus want or “what would be nice” make great use of facts and statistics to work toward the best decision on behalf of all property owners for whatever is being studied on behalf of the community it will serve. And of course, thorough, written financial analysis of costs associated with a project are essential for property owners to understand why something costs what it does and whether or not it is affordable and reasonable. Transparency means that all these steps are followed and publicly reported to all property owners to ensure that those represented feel as though they are valued and a part of the decision making process and that their dollars are being spent in the best manner possible on behalf of the entire community and in keeping with general HOA standards and practices. What would it take to reach the funding goal of the project? Is it saving a certain dollar amount each year for a number of years to pay cash for the project? Is it finance the project at an additional cost to property owners in financing fees, etc.? So many questions unanswered and still needing to be addressed for the best interest of the entire community.
Of course we aren’t all going to agree on what the best plan is, but open, frank discussion is a cornerstone to transparency and inclusion of the entire population of Timberwood Park, not just a small sampling of it when making large scale decisions impacting everyone in the neighborhood. To date, have you felt that this whole process has been transparent to all property owners?
Food for thought:
Unless we as a community of property owners are interested in turning our private park into a commercial entity do we need a clubhouse of this expense built? At this point that remains to be seen with actual factual presentation of statistics, feasibility, financial obligation, etc.
If the goal is ultimately, in addition to use by property owners, to rent out the clubhouse, park and pavilion for public events which are not property owner use of the facilities, like private weddings, parties, business gatherings, etc. as an income source then the feasibility study should include what that does to our park. For example, if that is one of the reasons to build new and double the size of the current building, is it because it will be used as an income source? If not, is a clubhouse of this size and cost is necessary or needed for this community?
Likewise, if we are discussing renting the facilities out commercially, this can signal a change in the park’s tax exempt status, and a change to our association taxes because we are now actually using the common areas as money making venues rather than for the use of property owners only and as a private park not open to the public.
At the end of the day, it may well be determined that a new build is the right approach to this project. However, until enough research is completed, the actual scope of the project determined in full, and property owners have had full opportunity to review and participate in the discussion regarding this project, it seems like it shot out of the gate rather pre-maturely as a “new build of 8,000 square feet” before any real tangible research was completed to warrant such a decision.
On another front:
The September issue of the newsletter provides a number and variety of candidates running for office to fill 3 slots which will be coming up for election this December. The slate of candidates includes 3 incumbents seeking re-election. It’s amazing to see so many people step up to run for office when in the past we have had few candidates to choose from and thanks to each person who took the time to decide they could offer their time and talent to volunteer on behalf of our community!
Cycling representatives in our community on our HOA board is not only an opportunity for someone new to have a chance to help shape our neighborhood, a fresh perspective can be gained by the addition of those who have not served previously. It also allows those who have served for a period of time already – 3 to 5 years in most cases – an opportunity to take a break knowing they have served our community and moved it forward from turnover to present. Please take a look at all the candidates and if you have the time, come to the October meeting to hear them all speak to the audience about what they might be interested in accomplishing on behalf of the neighborhood if elected to serve.
The purpose of this post, as has always been its purpose, is to continue to provide property owners with information regarding community wide issues and concerns which may be of interest to the reader. It is up to the reader to determine whether the information is factual, relevant, and appropriate to them. It has never been intended nor has it ever conveyed it was the only source for information to the neighborhood.
It is important as discussion continues about any and all topics of interest to our community including our upcoming elections that everyone is heard, regardless of opinion, and no one uses personal attacks or intimidation to make their point. We are a great community of wonderful, caring neighbors. Let’s continue to work to keep it that way and work toward everyone remaining civil in all dialogue and opinions regardless of their position on the topic of discussion.