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Southlands Homeowners - Vote No!
Written by John   
Sunday, 13 May 2007

Very Seldom do I write about local / personal matters on this site.

In fact, I've neglected to write much of anything here in the past several months... 

But a recent letter, and 7 pages of suggested "enhancements" to our local home-owners association covenants, has urged me to address this important issue.

The concept of these changes is to:

  1. Make it easier for the Board of the HOA to make decisions that will effect everyone, with a smaller number of votes - or in some cases no vote at all beyond the "board" itself
  2.  Make it easier for the Board to control what YOU do, on the Property that you legally and rightfully own.
Why vote NO?  First I would pose the question - Why change?  What's broken?  What needs so desperately to be fixed?

We've lived here for 8 years now, and the subdivision has existed longer than that using the covenants that were in place.  We faced a random and arbitrary Assessment increase, both last year and this, with the only explanation being "our neighbors pay more".  I don't care what the residents of Willow Tree pay, frankly. This is not about keeping up with the neighbors expenditures... it's about our association and what they do to protect our common property and facilities with the assements necessary to do so.
All the new covenants do is:
A - Make it easier for the Board and officers to spend, and increase, the assessments, and their power over YOUR private property ( see 1, 4, 5, 6 as easy to spot examples...)

B- Increase their power and control over you and your personal property (See 1, 2, 3, 7, 10, 11, 12 for easy to spot examples)

We are a INDIVIDUALS, who chose to move into these homes because of the COMMON benefits (Swim, park, tennis) that were provided.  We have not come together in a commune, where everything is common property.

1 - The association can adopt rules, regulations, and design standards to further clarify and expand upon the use of RESTRICTIONS and architechtural provisions to govern the entire community, not just the COMMON areas.
- This means, that YOU, as the home owner, agree that YOU are surrendering control of your home and property to the whims and desires of others. 

2 - You must allow the "Architectural control committee" to approve any change to the exterior of your property, including landscaping.
- And they don't set a limit on the time to approve or disprove the changes, but they do insist that regardless of circumstance YOU must finish those modifications or improvements in 60 days, and begin the project within one month of their approval. And you have to bear the expense of submitting 2 plans!  Want to re-landscape the front of your house?  Get permission.  Board decides they don't like the fact that you just have plain landscaping? They can make you change it to suit "their" whims...

3 - The association is granted the right to use Self Help to enter an owners property to cure violations...
- They want YOU to give them permission to tresspass upon your property at will, for any purpose they deem necessary to correct any perceived violation - Like dig up a tree or bush that they feel is objectionable...

4 - The Association is entitled to collect a transfer fee...
- They want financial benefit if you sell your home, equal to an additional annual assessment.

5 - Instead of having the budget approved by a majority of home owners (51% to approve), 75% must DISAPPROVE!

6 - The board no longer needs 2/3 of the association to approve a budget increase! They can vote it themselves!
7 - The association is permitted to TOW any vehicles in violation of the parking provisions.
- So, if Uncle Larry is down on his luck, and moves in with you for a few months, "They" can tow his car if they deem it to be in violation of parking restrictions - And don't even think about getting your teenager their own car, unless your house has a 3 or 4 car garage - because consistant parking on the driveway or street is a VIOLATION! 

8 - The association limits leasing to 2% of total homes (ONLY 4)
- So, you want to move, can't sell, but you can lease it or rent it to prevent loosing your shirt, but they want you to grant them full control over your ability to do so.

9 - The Association requires any homeowner who desires to lease or rent their home "a right of veto" over the terms and conditions you may negotiate in your lease.
- This is YOUR property.  Why would you freely grant control over your property to a collective who may not have YOUR best interest at heart?

10 - Reduce the number of people required to ammend the covenants... from 75% to 2/3.
- Fewer votes required if they wish to attempt to sieze more of your rights...

11 - Instead of electing officers, a "board of directors" will be elected, and they will select who is in charge....

12 - Any "lien" they choose to impose would be "automatic" and not require them to file in the courthouse. 
-A blatant violation of due process.

And those are just the lowlights from the 2 pages of the summary....

In the table that follows the summary, they clarify a few things... Like the need for 2 plans to be submitted to the Architectural comitte for any change - At your sole expense.

And, the right to tell you to stop work if they feel you've deviated.  Even the right to inspect is a violation of your right to privacy and personal property.

The "improved" covenants grant the board the power to borrow $10,000, which you would be obligated to pay through your assessments, or special assessments!  That is ridiculous and unsupportable.  Before those "tennis courts" were built for the dozen or so residents who use them there was a SURPLUS BALANCE equal to more than one full years assessments.  Where has all that money gone??
These changes also grant the board full power to transfer our park and pool to the county, making them PUBLIC lands that we all have paid for.
They also choose to re-define Quorum.  A Quorum typically means, by general definition, a majority.  So, instead of requiring a majority to vote on issues at home-owners meetings, they want to reduce that number to 15% - or just 35. 
They want YOU to agree to put control of your right to the common areas, and to your own private property, into the hands of just 35 of your neighbors.
The board can dictate to you when they feel your house is in need of maintenance.... And you get 10 days to fix the problem.  Regardless of your circumstances.  You may not have the money, or  be out of work, but you get 10 days - or they can put a lien on your property.
The change to Article VIII, section 1, amounts to what the founding fathers referred to as "corruption of blood".  This change means, that should something happen to you, your 'sucessor' assumes any liability you may have with the "association", even if they didn't agree to it.

Over all, these "covenants" are in poor judgement, and serve no one but the Board itself.  The board and those who support these changes don't point to any problem that needs fixing, but do point to the fact that some in our community feel that they need control over what the others here do.

Vote NO to these changes.  Defend YOUR right to be safe and secure in your property. 

victor kivinen   |Posted From |2007-05-19 09:28:25
I fully agree with you on almost everything you\'ve stated. Although you have made some very valid points is there no middle ground? Some of the homes and lawns in our community need a lot of work. Are you suggesting we give all these people a pass? I would like to know you\'re comments on this issue. Regards Victor Kivinen
John Stegenga   |Posted From |2007-05-19 17:01:59
Victor -
The point is that these restrictions are bad. I am not sure if you saw the first draft of these some months back, but this is - to them - the middle ground!

Until a year ago, my home needed some paint... but I was under-employed and could not afford it. Do we really have any right to poke into the business of our neighbors in such an intrusive way? Would we like if if they did to us? And just what is this 'Right Track' that Don referrs to? Just what is so bad about our community that EVERYONE must be restricted?
Marc Herrick  - Covenant Response   |Posted From |2007-05-21 08:13:06
You make some valid arguments about the proposed covenants. I believe many of the "suggestions" and changes to the Covenants is because right now there is NO control over what someone does with their home. Yes, it is their home, and I agree that there should be a "middle-ground" as Victor stated, but that's probably not going to happen. If you wanted to paint your front door flourescent pink because you liked that color, then there's nothing to stop you from doing so. The Board needs to have some things in place to stop people from doing things that could affect others in the neighborhood, could DECREASE the value of our homes, or make it hard for someone to sell their home once they decide to leave Southlands. Right now they have NOTHING to stand on to stop people from doing things that are not in the great good of the community.

John - YOU LIVE IN A SUBDIVISION that cares about what everyone is doing with their property, and I think we should. If y...
John Stegenga  - Administrator   |Posted From |2007-05-21 13:23:30
Mark -

Thanks very much for your comments.

Let me first say that "non participation" by the homeowners is quite likely to mean that they're happy with the way things are going. This is certainly the case with my wife and myself.

Second, you are NOT correct in your assessment of what can and cannot be done in the subdivision - the existing covenants require an Architectural committee, and a submission to that committee if you want to paint your house a color other than the 8 palates originally specified. Perhaps you remember the "green roof" incident? (by the way, I kind of like the way that roof looks on the house...)

So, should we review and update these original palates? Yes. Should we publish them and make them available to all the home-owners? Yes. Do we need new draconian activism? Nope.

And I will restate it again - What the "neighbors" dues are is not a concern and is certainly not a valid arguement when talking about OURS. You do...
Reese  - Results?   |Posted From |2007-07-15 09:24:56
Haven't seen a vote result. Have they been tallied? Not enough responses? Next steps?
John Stegenga  - results - unknown?   |Posted From |2007-07-15 09:40:11
Two possible outcomes -
First, not enough homeowners even voted. That would essentially kill this measure

Second, and what I really hope for, was that enough of us spoke out against this to give our board members pause; to let them know we don't want this limitation of our freedoms as homeowners.

I ought to check the homeowners association website to see if there is any information there. But, other than the suppositions I've posted here, I don't have any more information for you.
A Neighbor  - my opinion   |Posted From |2008-08-05 09:56:10
My complaint with the (former) HOA (and some of the people in our neighborhood in general) is their attitude. It has much improved in my view.

I put a shed up in my backyard a couple years ago and just caught hell from Don Landy, because I didn't follow proper HOA protocal. It was a very expensive mistake for me to have made, because I had to pay thousands to have it moved to a different location on my property.

I saw in the covenants where I had erred, and was compliant; however, it was the WAY he handled it that left a bad taste in my mouth. I was ready to move out of here. Brad, the ACC guy at the time, was as nice and polite as he could be. If it wasn't for him, I would have been out of here.

In the past, I had no idea what the HOA was doing, or when/where the meetings were held, or what our money was going towards, until this year when the president changed.

I think Marc Herric is doing a good job, so far, and really keeping us in the loop. I think he has...
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