Archives for August 2014

Mark Your Calendar for this NRC Meeting!

Posted August 22, 2014 at 4:21 PM
NRC Meeting
Tuesday, August 26, 2014
7:00 p.m.
Harbour Pointe Clubhouse

This meeting is very timely, and your participation matters. We will discuss a number of important issues and seek resident input for the BCA Board.

The agenda includes: Please communicate this information to your neighbors and encourage them to participate!

NRC Reps, please expect a reminder call regarding this meeting.

Highlights of August 11, 2014 Task Force on Abandoned and Rental Properties

Posted August 22, 2014 at 3:35 PM
Led by Director Greg Pearson, Task Force members Tommy Baer (Land's End), Tom Jacobson (Oak Springs) and Director Jack Bettin began their first meeting with Community Manager Bailey offering a working definition of "abandoned" homes. On-hand to participate in that discussion was Director of Property Management Al Raimo.

Discussion on Abandon and Vacant Properties

Manager Bailey first described an "abandoned" home as one whereby the homeowner has vacated the premises and neglected all obligations to the home (e.g., mortgage payment, assessment payment, maintenance of both interior and exterior of the home). Usually "abandoned" homes are called to the attention of the BCA by neighbors who report the property's non-maintained appearance.

Vacant homes, Manager Bailey noted, are homes owned by responsible parties, but for unknown reason, the homes may be unoccupied. Most of these homes are well maintained, and most times, covenant violations are reasonably quickly rectified. Majority of these homes are current with regards to assessments and real estate taxes.

Members of the Task Force received a list of identified abandoned and vacant homes; the list was not distributed to others as it contained confidential information. The discussion that followed illustrated that this list of homes is always in flux, based on property ownership changes. Property Manager Raimo commented that some of the homes that have been abandoned, have been "fixed up" and are now on the market.

Jacobson asked if the BCA had noticed any pattern with regards to areas of abandoned and/or vacant homes. Property Manager Raimo responded in the negative.

Director Pearson asked if the BCA had noticed if there was any pattern of abandoned/vacant homes starting in one part of a neighborhood and then spreading throughout the area. Property Manager Raimo again responded in the negative.

Baer summarized by saying that "abandoned homes don't necessarily mean vacant homes and vacant homes don't necessarily mean abandoned homes." He asked if there was anything that the BCA could do with either vacant or abandoned homes, if the owners were current in their assessments and the property maintained. Manager Bailey replied, "They're just vacant." Director Pearson offered the possible explanation that a homeowner may be trying to rent the property but the property may not have a sign on it.

Property Manager Raimo stated that the BCA does not particularly care who owns the property or where the owner is located, just whether the property in compliance or not. The manner in which the BCA deals with a non-compliance issue may vary based on specifics of a case.

Speaking generally to the process of non-compliance, Manager Bailey indicated (1) the property owner of record is first notified, (2) failure to correct a compliance issue causes the case to be presented to the Hearing Panel, (3) the Hearing Panel reviews the case and assesses a fee to the case (maximum of $10/day or a maximum total fee of $900 per incident), and (4) the case is referred for legal action.

A potential time hindrance in this process is getting proof of service to the property owner to appear in court. If the BCA does get a judgment, a lien is placed on the property.

Director Bettin observed from the distributed list of identified abandoned and vacant homes that most vacant homes are bank-owned, while most of the abandoned homes are still privately owned. Property Manager Raimo has observed that once a home becomes bank-owned (not privately owned), progress in maintenance can often be seen.

Director Bettin asked if it followed that most of the vacant and abandoned homes on the list were for sale. Director Pearson commented that several of the abandoned homes he had seen were not for sale, as they were in such bad shape.

Director Bettin observed that of the 15 listed vacant homes, three are presently going before the Hearing Panel. He asked if this represented a pattern of the vacant homes migrating to the category of "abandoned" homes. Property Manager Raimo responded that there may be a number of homes on the list that might migrate, but generally if the property is owned by a business entity, the properties generally don't completely deteriorate.

In a discussion about our Covenant's definition of "owner", Baer asked if notices of covenant violations were being sent to the renter as well as the owner. Property Manager Raimo commented that if the BCA knows that a non-homeowner occupies a particular home, notices are sent to both tenant and owner, with a note to the owner that the tenant has been notified.

With regards to difficulties in obtaining proofs of service, Director Pearson asked if, after sufficient due diligence, there was some way that the BCA could provide notice by publicizing such in a newspaper within that locale. Baer hesitated to make a conclusive legal statement about this because real estate is a special area of law.

Director Pearson noted that seven of the nine listed abandoned homes have paid their real estate taxes. Based on this, he inferred the County had means to contact the owner. He further stated that he had contacted the County to obtain information on the its policies on abandoned homes and their procedures for inspection of rental properties. He recalled that there was overwhelming support by the general public when the County implemented these policies and procedures.

Jacobson recalled his past experience with the County regarding proactive code enforcement along the Jefferson Davis corridor. Due to its success, in 2008 the County expanded the program to include other neighborhoods. He commented that code violations had generally occurred in older, lower income areas. There was also a County staff proposal about 12 years ago to implement a countywide rental program which failed to pass by one vote. The proposal included an annual fee to rental properties to cover the cost of a periodic interior and exterior inspection of the property. He did note, however, there are several jurisdictions that have accepted and implemented the concept.

Director Pearson asked if the fee indicated that rental properties required more attention. Jacobson responded in the affirmative, adding that the County had data/studies which showed "rental properties, on average, were in worse shape than owner-occupied properties". The State now has pending legislation that would allow municipalities to have such rental property programs.

Director Pearson asked if this was the case within Brandermill. Property Manager Raimo replied that the BCA had looked into this 4-5 years ago, and it could not conclude that rental properties were in any better or worse conditions than owner-occupied properties. He noted that at that time, the percentage of rental property within Brandermill was relatively the same as that for the County and that the violation ratio between owner-occupied and tenant-occupied properties were not significantly different.

Discussion about the BCA foreclosing on homes ensued, with Manager Bailey noting that the BCA has never had a policy to do so. Director Pearson asked if Manager Bailey's past experience at a previous HOA included foreclosures. Manager Bailey replied in the affirmative and noted that the typical outcome reflected purchase of the property by a new owner before foreclosure proceedings were finalized. Director Pearson asked if the HOA was able to recoup all its costs. Manager Bailey responded in the affirmative and noted that the property would then come back into HOA compliance.

Director Pearson asked if the reason the BCA has never foreclosed on a Brandermill home was due to the BCA Board not expressing its will to do so. Manager Bailey replied in the affirmative.

Director Pearson indicated that according to Brandermill documents, the BCA could proceed to legal means within 30-day notice of a covenant violation. Manager Bailey stated that generally more time was allocated for rectification of a violation because it further ensured a successful legal prosecution. Jacobson noted that the County also followed an elongated timeframe before processing.

Manager Bailey commented that the long timeframe is something that Brandermill residents don't necessarily understand because they see no progress in property improvement. Residents need to be aware that "things are happening behind the scene".

Jacobson suggested that perhaps notifying neighbors of steps being taken to enforce compliance might help with resident perception of the process. Manager Bailey said that BCA staff would like better clarification from the BCA Board on what information may be disclosed without violating law.

While he is sympathetic to owners who are financially distressed, Director Pearson said that he was more so for surrounding neighbors who may become distressed with a property being in violation.

Director Bettin confirmed that the goal of this Task Force was to get homes into compliance so they would have a positive influence in our community. Whether it's abandoned, vacant or rented - the only difference being who the owner is - he feels that the Task Force should establish a set of processes to achieve this goal. Director Bettin felt that the existing policies and procedures should be documented and presented to the BCA Board, with a follow-up question of "Is this enough? And if not, what next steps would it like the BCA to take?"

Director Pearson asked for clarification on how the BCA collects past-due assessments; he was particularly concerned about bankruptcies. He also recalled his past experience that generally the "squeaking wheel gets the grease".

Manager Bailey noted that he has had conversation with BCA staff about communicating possible liens on non-compliant properties. His past experience has indicated this generally increases homeowner's actions to become compliant.

Baer questioned if there wasn't the ability to fast-track some of the more egregious offenses. Director Bettin commented that he felt the BCA staff responds quickly to covenant complaints. He stated that 90% of all covenant violations are corrected; the question is what to do about the remaining 10%. He asked how aggressive should the BCA staff become?

Director Pearson stated that it appears that once a case is sent to the attorney, the BCA takes no further action. Property Manager Raimo commented that the attorneys give homeowners a 30-day notice to comply, before a suit is filed.

Jacobson concurred with Director Bettin in having the current procedures documented. He feels that this is a good start so Brandermill can avoid having any neighborhood quickly decline.

Property Manager Raimo noted that about two years ago, during a sectional drive-through with County enforcement officials, he received the comments that the County would probably not be involved in Brandermill because it had not become sufficiently "bad" when compared to other areas in the county. This is due to Brandermill's own internal covenant controls.

Director Bettin feels that the BCA has gone as far as it can go and that the BCA Board needs to give it more teeth if the staff is to go further. Director Pearson summarized this part of the discussion by saying, "The documents have given us the teeth; we just haven't shown them yet."

Baer added that a flowchart would be helpful but was concerned that vacant properties with egregious violations still required such a lengthy process for resolution.

BCA staff was asked to document the existing process and to flowchart the various steps.

Discussion on Rental Properties

Manager Bailey stated there was no process "hook" within the existing BCA documents, other than rules for allowing renters to vote (for which there are currently none), to identify rental properties.

Baer pointed out that the definitions within the existing BCA documents were not sufficient to require homeowners to notify the BCA of rental situations. Manager Bailey agreed and noted that a change in the Covenants might be needed.

Director Pearson asked if it was possible to handle this through the BCA by-laws. Manager Bailey felt that a change in the Covenant's definition of "tenant" would first be needed before the BCA Board could address the specifics of this issue using the By-Laws. Baer agreed with this viewpoint.

Jacobson asked if there was any concern that rental homes had a negative adverse effect on overall Brandermill home values. Manager Bailey cited his research with condos which noted that condominium developments with a 20% or more rental ratio became less viable because banks and mortgage lenders considered them risker loans.

Jacobson noted that the County tracked the percentage of renter-occupied vs. owner-occupied homes throughout the County. If there was an increase percentage of rentals within a certain area, the County saw that as a sign of potential deterioration issues within that area. As a result, Jacobson continued, the County used a 20% rental benchmark to begin proactive code enforcement. Deterioration became markedly noticeable when the ratio fell in the 25%-30% range. He asked what Brandermill's rental percentage might be.

Director Bettin said it looked like it might be 12%-13%. Manager Bailey noted that the list percentage may not be fully descriptive of the situation in Brandermill as there are no formal requirements mandating homeowners to inform the BCA of rental arrangements. He continued that many HOAs have policies which deal with rental percentages, but again, BCA documents are silent in this regard.

Director Pearson thought he remembered reading that Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae would not back mortgages in areas where there is a 20% or more rental ratio. These institutions hold roughly two-thirds of mortgages in the U.S.

Director Bettin noted that renters do not get the normal Brandermill disclosure statements that a homebuyer would get at closing. As a result, renters may not necessarily be educated about Brandermill covenants.

Baer indicated that the rental agreement should not be a concern for the BCA; the focus should be with the property owner, as that's where the contractual agreement lies.

Director Pearson asked for clarification that both tenant and homeowner get notices of violations. Property Manager Raimo reassured the Task Force members that both are getting the notices if the violations are minor, e.g. trash receptacles left on curb, but the owner is always notified.

Director Bettin commented that he would like the BCA to not only document current processes and procedures but to also share their recommendations.

Jacobson asked Manager Bailey to check with the County to see how they compile data to generate its renter/homeowner ratio. Their process, much like the BCA's process, includes comparing the property address with the property owner's mailing address. With the property address being different from the owner's mailing address and the home being occupied, a rental situation may be indicated. Director Pearson asked if the BCA could possibly get such a list from the County. Jacobson was uncertain but indicated that it would require more work on the County's part.

Baer asked for confirmation that there is nothing in BCA documents which limit the amount of rental property in Brandermill. Manager Bailey replied in the affirmative, adding he felt a change in the BCA covenants would be required to limit the percentage of rentals allowed in Brandermill.

Discussion on Process

Director Pearson volunteered to maintain the Task Force's minutes. He asked that the NRC and The Village Mill cover the progress of these meetings, as well as solicit feedback from residents on topics of discussion.

Manager Bailey asked if there might be an interim report that the NRC could use to hold a community meeting on the subject. Director Pearson felt that might be a good idea but remarked that he had tentatively indicated a final report to the BCA Board in January 2015.

Jacobson feels it's a good idea to get both input and feedback from the community.

Director Bettin suggested in lieu of an interim report, perhaps a status report would be more appropriate. Director Pearson agreed.

Jacobson and Director Pearson asked if there was any data available to evaluate the number of rentals receiving violations versus the number of owner-occupied properties being cited. Property Manager Raimo responded that the data would presently have to be manually compiled.

Director Pearson asked if BCA documents allowed for varying assessment amounts to be applied to homeowners. Manager Bailey responded in the negative. Director Bettin suggested that if the BCA Board elected to move forward with more aggressive steps to reach covenant compliance, these same steps might be applied to repeat offenders. Both Director Pearson and Jacobson felt that minimally the process should be expedited for repeat offenders.

The Task Force encourages community attendance at their meetings. The next two meetings of the Task Force are:
  • Wednesday, August 27, 2014, 5 p.m., BCA Office
  • Monday, September 15, 2014, 5 p.m., BCA Office

40 Hands Project

Posted August 15, 2014 at 2:32 PM
The 40 Hands Project is sponsoring a volunteer work party on Friday, August 22, 2014 from 8:00 a.m to 11 a.m. We are seeking volunteers to help a neighbor in need with landscaping and clean-up around her property. This is the second 40 Hands event. Our initial event in May was very successful, and we hope to expand this project of neighbors helping neighbors! If you are interested in helping, please contact Joe Herbst at 804-306-7657 for more information.

Highlights of August 8, 2014 BCA Board Meeting

Posted August 8, 2014 at 4:24 PM
Important Note: The below highlights are reported based on unofficial notes taken by NRC representatives who attended the above BCA meeting. Although we believe the below reporting is reliable and strive for accuracy, we cannot assure 100% accuracy. It is recommended to all readers that they read the approved BCA Board Meeting minutes when published.

Minutes of July 7, 2014 BCA Board Meeting

Director Hillman asked the minutes be amended to reflect her and Director Blom's request for a special meeting of the BCA Board. Director Pearson asked that the name of the task force be corrected to read "Task Force on Abandoned and Rental Properties". Both Directors Leonard and Blom asked that their votes be corrected in the motion to approve the July 7, 2014 agenda. The minutes were approved as amended.

President’s Report

President Davis reported that Brandermill had been asked by Chesterfield County to offer an opinion on the pet pig being kept on a leash at a home in Timber Ridge. President Davis read a proposed response to the County which included several key points:
  • The governing documents of Brandermill are silent with regards to ownership of pigs.
  • It is Brandermill’s view that this is a proper issue for the county to decide because of the precedent that would be set.
  • The County’s decision will affect all communities within the county. Issues to be considered should include animal waste and other farm animals such as cows or horses within a traditional residential setting.
  • Brandermill will look to the County Planning Commission and Board of Supervisors for their broader perspective in considering the conditional use permit request to keep a pig at a residential site.

Director Pearson noted that a pig over 125 lbs. is technically considered to be a hog. He suggested the BCA Board respond to County by saying that the BCA Board would study the matter, and then there was discussion about the need to study this issue. President Davis emphasized that a pig is a farm animal and noted that the County currently does not permit the keeping of farm animals in residential settings without a conditional use permit.

Director Bettin noted that protecting home values is a responsibility of the BCA Board, adding that he would be reluctant to purchase a home next door to a property where a pig was present. He suggested the BCA Board consider a motion to make a statement against keeping a pig in Brandermill.

Director Hillman responded that the person who owns the pig considers it a pet and should be given a chance to give input before such a motion came to a vote.

Director Malek moved and Director Leonard seconded a motion to support President Davis’s proposed statement to the county. Director Leonard then noted that chickens are also considered to be farm animals and that chickens are allowed within residential areas of the county with some restrictions. He suggested that the BCA Board advise the County to create a separate category of farm animals that would not be allowed within residential areas.

The motion passed by a vote of 4:2:1, with Directors Pearson and Hillman voting against the motion and Director Blom abstaining. Director Pearson commented that he did not want to support such a motion if the resident in question had not been given a chance to address the BCA Board.

Treasurer’s Report

In discussing her report (see pages 7-8 of August 4, 2014 BCA Board packet), Treasurer Hillman stated that the BCA is in good overall financial condition. She commented that the revenue for the pools is only slightly below pool revenues for the same period last year. She advised that Brandermill is continuing to market the pools and should receive more revenue in August. She projected pool revenues would, at least, meet the prior year's revenue by the end of the season.

Director Leonard asked for clarification on the “Bad Debt” amount ($12,600 actual year-to-date on line 50, page 10 of August 4, 2014 BCA Board packet). Treasurer Hillman responded that this amount reflected assessments which have not been paid. There were additional questions regarding what constitutes a bad debt. Manager Bailey noted that the BCA office will create a 1-page memo defining "bad debts". Treasurer Hillman commented that bad debts have been trending higher, due to the higher number of foreclosures.

Treasurer Hillman also moved that the BCA Board accept a new member to the Finance Committee. The motion was seconded and discussed. Director Leonard asked how many members and vacancies existed on the Finance Committee. Treasurer Hillman responded that the committee currently has four members and membership could be expanded to seven. There was discussion regarding the applicant’s qualifications. Director Leonard asked if this applicant’s resume had been reviewed by the BCA Board’s First Vice President. The response being in the negative, a substitute motion was made for the applicant to be interviewed by the First Vice President and to submit an application to the BCA Board. This motion was approved by a vote of 5:1:1, with Director Pearson abstaining.

Manager’s Report

Community Manager Bailey commented on several memos contained in the board packet. The first was a brief review of the Property Management Department report (see page 14 of August 4, 2014 BCA Board packet). He noted that of the 32 applications were submitted to the ARB, 24 were approved as submitted, and two were approved with limiting conditions. Only two applications were not approved.

Manager Bailey discussed the number of covenant violations issued and resolved. The numbers for both had increased substantially over the previous month since we now have a full staff. He also noted that enforcement had improved due to improved efficiency in reporting from the use of iPads in the field by staff.

Manager Bailey commented upon the Special Report regarding the mailbox transition (see page 15 of August 4, 2014 BCA Board packet). He noted that only 56 brown mailboxes remain to be replaced. Of the remaining 56, 22 homeowners have made arrangements with a contractor for installation of the new mailbox. Manager Bailey advised that roughly 15 of those would be installed in the near future. He also noted that 13 of the remaining non-compliant mailboxes are located at properties which are vacant or bank-owned. Several of these have been referred to the Hearing Panel.

Director Hillman asked if the BCA could replace the mailboxes on the 13 properties that are vacant or bank-owned. Manager Bailey advised that six of the properties would be addressed in the “Self-Help” authorization to be considered later in the meeting. It was decided to discuss this recommendation at that time. A recommendation was also considered to remove the 13 mailboxes on vacant properties. This recommendation was discussed and dismissed since the mailboxes are legally the property of the U.S. Postal Service.

Manager Bailey advised that the Holladay Corporation would be presenting conceptual plans for redevelopment of the Brandermill Inn. This presentation will be made on Tuesday, August 12, 2014.

Manager Bailey clarified a question regarding pool revenues. He noted that we are currently ahead of last year's year-to-date total on pool revenue by $1,400, adding that we need only $1,877 to finish ahead of total revenue for the entire previous season. He advised that we will fall short of budgeted revenue but should finish ahead of the previous year. He advised that we have 866 pool members this year versus 513 for the previous year. President Davis commented that it is good we have increased the number of people using the pools, while still breaking even on the revenue.

Manager Bailey briefed the BCA Board regarding a Student/Community Partnership Proposal submitted by Carla Barnes. This proposal would provide volunteer and subsequent scholarship support opportunities to Brandermill students via the Brandermill Volunteer Leadership support structure. This program is proposed as part of the “Design for Excellence” curriculum of the Chesterfield County School System, and the proposal would be a pilot program featuring a partnership between Brandermill and Clover Hill High School. The proposal requests funding of $2,000 in Brandermill's 2015 annual budget to fund individual scholarships of $250 to be awarded based upon criteria designated by the BCA Board. Manager Bailey noted that he will include the proposed $2,000 in the 2015 draft budget to be discussed during the annual budget approval process. He clarified in response to questions from the BCA Directors that the program would only be available to Brandermill residents.

Lastly, Manager Bailey advised that members of the staff had met with Waste Management to develop a residential waste program as a fee-based service to the residents. These discussions are still in their early stages.

Committee Reports

Director Pearson advised that the Task Force on Abandoned and Rental Properties will hold its first meeting next week. They have scheduled two meetings during the month of August to begin work. The first meeting is set for August 11, 2014, 5:00 p.m. at the BCA office, and the second will be scheduled for the week of August 21, 2014.

Editor's Note:: The second meeting has now been scheduled for August 27, 2014, 5:00 p.m. at the BCA office.

Member Voice

Joe Herbst (Harbourwood) addressed concerns he had regarding the proposed General Policies for Committee Operations as they relate to the NRC. He read language from the current Committee Operations policy which provided for exceptions for the NRC based upon its unique nature. Herbst asked the BCA Directors to consider the unique nature of the NRC as it approves changes to that Policy and the committee charters. In particular, he noted that the NRC mission is to enhance communication and participation in community governance down to the neighborhood level. He noted that the NRC By-Laws specified that each neighborhood should have at least one NRC representative. Therefore, Herbst requested that the proposed limitations of seven total committee members not be applied to the NRC.

Kathy Cantrell (Huntsbridge) suggested that several proposed standing committees be consolidated within the NRC. She read from the mission statement of the NRC to clarify its roles and responsibilities. She noted that these include providing an organizational structure to advocate for residents to the BCA Board, presenting matters of community importance and communicating those matters with the BCA Board, and enhancing participation in the governance process. She listed the goals of the NRC which include providing a forum for residents to learn about community activities and to express their views regarding the quality of community life and property values, developing and implementing strategies to communicate effectively with the community, establishing a volunteer recruitment program, gathering information and exchanging ideas, providing a structure for reporting information from residents for appropriate action, promoting participation, encouraging service by residents of the Association, and supporting increased voting in elections and referendums.

Considering the mission and goals of the NRC, Cantrell suggested that the following standing committees be incorporated within the structure of the NRC: Communications and Marketing, Community Services, Elections, Planning, Safety and Security.

Warren Ragsdale (Huntsbridge) thanked the board for making important decisions and for not "kicking the can down the road". He urged the BCA Board to move forward and take action regarding abandoned properties. He asked if anyone on the newly formed committee to study abandoned properties owned rental property in Brandermill. Director Pearson responded that there is not, but residents are encouraged to attend and comment at task force meetings. Director Pearson also advised that he believes the NRC should review this issue and comment.

George Lawson (Huntsbridge) commented that the Association’s financial report indicates that we are currently over budget on legal costs. He noted that part of this overrun was due to the legal renderings solicited by the Directors regarding enforcement of the covenants regarding home-based businesses. Lawson requested that this legal rendering be shared with the community. He also asked that the BCA Board give special consideration to the NRC when making changes to the General Policies for Committee Operations.

President Davis asked if any input had been solicited or submitted by the NRC or other committee members and chairpersons regarding committee restructuring. Chair Herbst responded that NRC members and NRC Board had discussed the proposed restructuring of the committees and had submitted a statement in January 2014.

Director Leonard asserted the timing of the proposed committee restructure was to be accomplished by December 2014. He noted that comments from the NRC and other committees had not been solicited for this meeting.

Consideration of BCA Committee Restructuring

President Davis recommended that this agenda item be delayed. Director Leonard moved and President Davis seconded a motion to hold a BCA Board working session regarding committee restructuring. This working session meeting will be open to the public, and the Directors will seek input from the residents and committees prior to considering restructuring. This motion was approved unanimously.

Consideration of Authorization to Enter Self-Help Properties

President Davis moved and Director Blom seconded a motion that the staff-recommended $2,565 be allocated for landscape work on six vacant properties (see pages 25-39 of August 4, 2014 BCA Board packet) as well as $155 per site for replacement of 13 mailboxes at vacant properties be approved, provided that liens be placed against the properties in attempts to recover the Association’s costs. The motion was approved unanimously.

Executive Session

Following the conclusion of executive session, Director Hillman moved and Director Blom seconded a motion to accept President's Davis statement that the BCA Board adopt the following official position on home-based businesses: “With respect to home-based businesses within Brandermill and specifically with regard to Section 2a of the covenants, this Board will continue to monitor the situation and react as necessary.” The motion passed with Directors Davis, Malek, Hillman and Blom voting in favor, Directors Pearson and Leonard opposing, and Director Bettin abstaining.

Highlights of July 31, 2014 BCA Special Board Meeting

Posted August 8, 2014 at 4:17 PM
Important Note: The below highlights are reported based on unofficial notes taken by NRC representatives who attended the above BCA meeting. Although we believe the below reporting is reliable and strive for accuracy, we cannot assure 100% accuracy. It is recommended to all readers that they read the approved BCA Board Meeting minutes when published.

During the July 7, 2014 regular BCA Board meeting, Directors Blom and Hillman requested this special meeting of the BCA Directors. President Davis opened the meeting and then yielded the floor to Director Hillman.

Director Hillman began the meeting by stating the purpose of the meeting as a review of a possible violation of Article VIII, Section 4 of the BCA By-Laws and the General Committee Operations policy, item 16 which states:
"The Chair, or members of a Committee with the guidance of the Chair, may be removed by the Board by a majority vote for failure to comply with the By-Laws of the Association, the Charter of the Committee, the Committee Policies, the designated duties of the position, and other documented policies of the Association. Prior to the removal of any member of a Committee, the individual shall be given the opportunity to be heard, and their position considered, by the Board."

She further stated that the BCA Directors had received documentation last month from BCA attorney, Andrew Elmore, who described grounds for removal of committee members very much in-line with the above statement. It appears that BCA policy was not followed, and Director Hillman continued to say that "it is important that no matter how we feel personally about a situation, we follow the policies set forth. Recently three Board members - Tom Leonard, Don Blom and Frances Hillman - were not made aware of a forced resignation which did not come before the Board. That's why we're here tonight; to discuss that."

Member Voice

Chuck Rayfield (Shallowford Landing), a 34-year resident of Brandermill, thanked Directors Blom and Hillman for calling this meeting. He also thanked Director Leonard for his support of the Architectural Review Board ("ARB") as its Board liaison. Rayfield felt the situation was more a matter of intimidation than removal. He asked the audience to imagine being a volunteer and being called by their committee chair to step down based on the request of the BCA Board and the Community Manager. The request is based on two non-public e-mails in which you vented your frustration to your fellow committee members. As a volunteer, you then respond, "Well, I won't fight this." To this day, this volunteer has not submitted a letter of resignation, but rather reconciled herself to "not fighting it". It appears that no one knew of the policy just read by Director Hillman - not the Community Manager, not the President of the Board, not the Board liaison, not the Committee Chair. This was part of the lesson learned but, Rayfield continued, the Board moved forward by saying, "she resigned". The volunteer feels that she has not resigned and would like to continue working with the ARB. In his opinion, Rayfield feels that if the BCA Board did nothing at this meeting, the volunteer would still be a member of the ARB. He noted that "this was no way to do business" and to his knowledge, no volunteer has been kicked off a BCA committee in Brandermill's 40 years. He asked that the BCA Board let this matter drop and to allow the ARB to move on with BCA business.

Graham Henderson (Promontory Pointe) stated that he has been a member of the ARB for the past 10 years. He stated that the member who was asked to resign is a horticulturist and is the only member who has that particular professional training. This makes that volunteer a very valuable member of the ARB. He noted that the member was very upset about the front-yard garden issue that came before the Board earlier this year; it wasn't about any Board personality. The method by which she was asked to resigned, he said, "is obviously not in accordance with the procedures that are laid out." That being the case, Henderson felt that any movement made against her should be rescinded. He feels that the action taken appears to be retribution against a volunteer. The ARB is a standing committee required by BCA covenants and needs its volunteers to have professional experience to properly perform the duties of the committee.

Sherry Blom (Promontory Pointe) stated that she is an architect and a member of the ARB. Like other members of the ARB, she was shocked when the ARB Chair stated that a long-standing ARB member had been removed from the committee because of an offending e-mail. Meeting attendees were surprised as none of them could recall an "offending e-mail" which was referenced as the cause for removal. She felt that this was probably due to the committee members feeling frustrated over the BCA Board's rulings over the past year. Blom also noted that the volunteer had been reprimanded by BCA staff. The volunteer has since written an e-mail to all BCA Directors indicating that her expressing frustration in an e-mail was inappropriate, and the intent of the e-mail was to request that the ARB Chair ask BCA Directors to attend ARB meetings so that they could better understand and appreciate the philosophy of the ARB. Blom did not feel that the volunteer's intent was mean-spirited or malicious. She feels that removing a volunteer for such a minor and even unquestionable offense is unwarranted and disagrees with the decision to dismiss this volunteer who has served Brandermill well for so many years. Blom feels that this volunteer has the experience and knowledge of BCA covenants and standards - so needed when reviewing landscape plans. She hopes that the BCA Board will drop this matter so that Brandermill will have the benefit of this volunteer's expertise.

Joe Herbst (Harbour Pointe) acknowledges that he has not seen the e-mail in question but has witnessed some of the discord between the BCA Board and the ARB. He feels it is important to encourage volunteerism throughout Brandermill. He would not to like see disagreement crushed, as he feels that discussion of disagreements is a healthy way for Brandermill to achieve the best solutions to problems. He understands that the e-mail language might have been harsh, but it was never meant to be public. He feels that the Board has the wisdom, grace and magnanimity to forgive the language used and to move on. Herbst hopes that the BCA Board does not remove the volunteer.

BCA Board Discussion

Director Blom asked President Davis and Manager Bailey how such a process progressed so far along, without three of the Directors knowing about it. Director Blom stated that reference to an e-mail indicating resignation of the volunteer still has not been shared with at least three of the Directors.

Director Leonard agreed with Directors Blom and Hillman. He said that if this is about a dismissal of a committee member, the BCA Board has the right to vote on that decision. From what he understands, there was no resignation. He felt the volunteer should be back on the committee, and the committee should get back to doing their business.

President Davis said that there was a "bunch of paper" and for those who are uncomfortable discussing the particulars of this business in public, he suggested a motion to go into executive session because it was not anyone's intent to do harm to any person publicly. He felt having a candid discussion could best be done in an executive session.

Before entertaining a motion, President Davis asked Manager Bailey if any of the BCA documents required the Board of Directors or any committee member to formally act on any resignation.

Manager Bailey said, "No, not on a resignation."

Director Blom stated that the Board of Directors do not have a resignation.

President Davis asked Manager Bailey if he had received a notification of a resignation from an ARB member.

Manager Bailey replied, "Yes, we have a notification about a resignation."

President Davis asked if the notification came from a reputable source.

Manager Bailey replied that it came from the chairman of the committee.

President Davis noted that Andy Wyman is the chairman of the ARB, and the BCA Board acknowledged that Wyman is a reputable person. President Davis then asked Manager Bailey to distribute that and other correspondence related to this matter to all the Directors.

Director Leonard asked Manager Bailey if he had any resignation correspondence from the volunteer.

Director Blom noted that each of the Directors had received an e-mail from the volunteer herself in which she states that she has never resigned. His perception of what occurred was that the Chair met with the President and the Manager at which time the Chair was told that either he could acquire the volunteer's resignation or the BCA Board could do it. In the ensuing discussion between the Chair and the volunteer, the volunteer was left with the impression that the BCA Board had requested her resignation. The volunteer responded that she would "not fight the Board". Director Blom explained that he could interpret "not fighting the Board" in three ways: (1) she wasn't going to pay fees for legal representation, (2) she was not going to appear and defend herself before the Board, or (3) she was going to resign to her fate. Each interpretation had significantly different meanings.

Director Blom stated that earlier that same day (July 31,2014), he met with the ARB Chair and received confirmation from the him that nowhere or at any time did the volunteer use the term or any form of the term "resign" in any of her correspondence or conversations with him. Hence, he concluded that there is no resignation. Director Blom commented that if this matter ever went to court, any indication of resignation would be bogus as it would have been obtained under false pretenses.

President Davis then read an e-mail dated June 26, 2014 from Chair Wyman which said: "After my conversation with Charlie and J.B. earlier this week, I met with the individual on the afternoon of June 5 at Carytown Coffee Shop ... to discuss the e-mails in question. She agreed to resign from the ARB. As you know, we talked about [this] as a committee at our June 10 meeting. I did thank this person ... for her many, many years of service to the community as a member of the ARB. I hope we can soon find another person with a similar landscaping background to join our committee. We need seven members to ensure we will always have a quorum for our meetings."

In exchange, Director Blom read an e-mail sent to the Directors from the volunteer dated July 30, 2014: "When I was asked by the Chair of the ARB to refrain from attending future meetings, I did respond that I would not fight a decision by the BCA Board to remove me from the ARB. Those were my words and that was my position, and it remains my position now. I do want to be clear, however, that while I indicated that I would not fight any removal from the ARB by the BCA Board, I did not EVER offer my resignation either verbally or in writing. I hope this settles any confusion in that regard." Director Blom reiterated that Chair Wyman does not challenge those claims.

President Davis commented that the two e-mails creates confusion: one from the volunteer and one from the Chair of the ARB.

Director Hillman asked why there was a prior discussion among President Davis, Manager Bailey and the Chair of the ARB earlier that week that resulted in the Chair having to have a conversation with the volunteer. President Davis responded that that conversation was better had in executive session and asked if there was a motion to enter executive session. No such motion was made at that time.

Director Malek felt it would be better to go back to the volunteer's original e-mail (dated April 6, 2014) that was sent to the ARB: "Andy, I will not be able to attend the Board of Directors meeting tomorrow night, but I still think it would be a good idea to invite the antagonistic and ignorant members of the Board to sit in on two of our meetings to better understand and appreciate the process and the philosophy of the ARB." He asked the meeting attendees who were also ARB members what was meant by "philosophy of the ARB".

Indicating that this was a meeting of the Board of Directors and with all due respect, President Davis asked that the Directors not engage the audience during this portion of this meeting.

In response to Director Malek's first query and referencing an e-mail sent that same day (April 6, 2014), Director Blom read ... "I think we need to invite three Board members to attend the drive-around preview and subsequent entire ARB meeting so they are better able to understand our process and philosophy." Director Blom noted that the BCA Board could argue whether or not the Directors had been antagonistic toward the ARB, but he felt the consensus would be in the affirmative. He also commented that the use of the word "ignorant" referred to ignorance of the process, not ignorance of the Directors.

Director Hillman responded that these types of questions were not the subject of this meeting, but rather how this resignation incident did not come before the full BCA Board for discussion. She felt it had been determined by a few Directors to handle this matter discreetly, without discussion of the full Board.

President Davis said that he was under the impression there was a resignation and so, there was no dismissal. That being the case, it did not need the attention of the Board. He also noted that no resignation was requested.

Director Hillman commented that written communication can sometimes be unclear, as everyone filters them through his/her own processes. If the ARB Chair felt he was asked to get a resignation from the volunteer because of the e-mail messages, then that would have been the message he delivered to the volunteer. The volunteer, on the other hand, interpreting the discussion to indicate that the BCA Board wanted her removed from the committee, would have responded that she would "not fight it". The Chair would have interpreted the volunteer's "not fight it" response to indicate that she resigned and hence wrote an e-mail noting such. The volunteer, however, never actually submitted a resignation.

Director Hillman's fundamental question was: "How did the volunteer and Chair get the impression that the BCA Board had asked for a resignation because the full Board had not voted to do so."

President Davis responded that he felt no Board action was needed because a resignation was submitted.

Director Blom read Article VIII., Section 4: "All committees, committee members and committee officers shall serve at the pleasure of the Board of Directors. Any committee formed by the Board of Directors may be reorganized or dissolved by resolution adopted by a majority of the directors in office." Based on this section of the BCA By-Laws, Director Blom concluded that it is not within the power of a committee chair to ask for a resignation of any committee member.

Director Leonard noted confusion created by Chair Wyman's email indicating a resignation and yet when he met with Director Blom earlier today, said there was no resignation. Director Blom clarified his statement about his conversation with Chair Wyman in that the chair indicated that the word "resignation" was never used directly by the volunteer.

President Davis asked why the volunteer had not attended ARB meetings since that date in June, if she felt she had not resigned. Director Blom said that it was because the volunteer was specifically asked not to attend meetings, and she had agreed to do that, out of respect for the Chair.

Director Bettin summarized on his earlier meeting with the ARB Chair. He learned that the Chair did feel the volunteer's e-mail was inappropriate and that it needed to be addressed. When Director Bettin asked the Chair about the resignation, the Chair responded that he felt it was time for the volunteer to resign and so he asked for it. The Chair also commented that if he had felt the request was wrong, he would have pushed back against the President and Manager. Director Bettin felt it was appropriate for the Board to ask a chair to deal with inappropriate behavior within his committee, although the chair is not empowered to ask for a resignation.

Director Blom said that he asked the ARB Chair if he had a problem with the volunteer remaining on the committee, and the Chair had responded with a "no".

Director Hillman pointed out that again each person interpreted the same situation with different personal filters. She did feel, however, that a chair is empowered to call any volunteer's attention to inappropriate behavior, allowing the volunteer to correct that behavior.

President Davis reiterated that he felt the Chair had done just that and that the BCA Board had received a resignation of the volunteer as a result.

Director Hillman felt that when a chair asks for a resignation from any volunteer, it is equivalent to a dismissal - an action that is conferred only to the BCA Board.

Director Pearson acknowledged a riff between the ARB and the BCA Board. It is his perception that part of this is predicated on Board decisions that were contrary to ARB decisions. He noted that the BCA governing documents allow for this disagreement, Like county and state governments, it is the job of the ARB to make recommendations, and the responsibility of the BCA Board to support, amend or refute those recommendations. Director Pearson believes that the ARB resents being overruled by the BCA Board on some of their recommendations. He believes that this riff could have been better handled, and each could be more understanding of the other person's point of view. He hopes the healing process begins now by recognizing that "we can disagree without being disagreeable".

President Davis moved and Director Malek seconded that this issue be deferred until the September BCA Board meeting and to consider membership appointments to the ARB at that time.

Director Pearson moved and Director Leonard seconded a substitute motion to retain the volunteer in discussion and to consider additional members to the ARB through the normal selection process. The BCA Board voted unanimously in favor of this motion, and the meeting was adjourned.

Information Packet for August 8, 2014 BCA Board Meeting

Posted August 1, 2014 at 4:58 PM
The information packet for the upcoming BCA Board meeting is now available for downloading.

Agenda items include:
  • Consideration of BCA Committee Restructuring
  • Consideration of Authorization to Enter Self-Help Properties

We encourage residents to attend BCA Board meetings to learn of Brandermill "happenings". For a quick snapshot of what the BCA Board will be discussing, please read the agenda located on the first page of the Board Packet.

Preparation of 2015 BCA Budget Now in Progress

Posted August 1, 2014 at 4:48 PM
During the July 28, 2014 Finance Committee meeting, Manager Bailey presented the first draft of the 2015 budget and a draft schedule to finalize it.

The 2015 budget process will begin with a series of Finance Committee meetings (open to all Brandermill residents) in September, at which time Manager Bailey will present various sections of his proposed 2015 BCA budget. The Finance Committee will discuss and vote on any changes to the proposed budget, and where there is disagreement, the Manager will submit his proposed budget with an addendum from the Finance Committee to identify areas of difference. Summation of these Finance Committee meetings will yield a Recommended Budget.

It is currently suggested that the Recommended Budget be presented to all Brandermill residents during to the week of September 29, 2014.

The Finance Committee and Manager Bailey will conduct a community meeting on the draft Recommended Budget on Saturday, October 18. All interested Brandermill residents are invited to attend this meeting and to offer their feedback. Upon receiving and considering resident feedback from this meeting, the Finance Committee and Manager Bailey will finalize a Recommended Budget which will be presented to the BCA Board.

The BCA Board will open the floor for resident feedback of the 2015 Recommended Budget at its November 3, 2014 meeting.

At a BCA Board meeting to be held on November 17, 2014, the BCA Directors will propose and vote on possible amendments to the Recommended Budget. It is also at this meeting that the BCA Board will adopt a finalized 2015 BCA budget.

A final 2015 annual assessment amount and a consolidated 2015 budget presentation will be published for all Brandermill residents during the week of November 24, 2014.

Note to All Brandermill Residents: NOW is the time to start participating in Brandermill's 2015 budget formulation. Help to determine how your assessment dollars will be spent in 2015. Read the Treasurer's report and the "2014 Quarter Operating Variance including YTD" report included in BCA Board information packets to learn how your current assessments are being spent. Mark your calendars as September dates are finalized for Finance Committee meetings and beyond. More importantly, PLAN ON PARTICIPATING!