Town Crier Articles

New “Opt Out” Option for Your Landscaping Services
Posted on September 15, 2020 10:21 AM by NTRA Landscape Advisory Committee
Categories: NTRA Business
[CRIER STAFF NOTE: The implementation of this program has been delayed. The Board of Directors suspended the start date previously approved as January 2021 to consider input from NTRA Members.]
“If anyone asks what a first-class community looks like, it is well maintained property with healthy plantings and grass.” This is what drove Kelly Mihalcoe of the Landscape Advisory Committee (LAC) to investigate options to more clearly communicate to our landscape crews when a homeowner has chosen to do their own yard work.  
In the past, tracking of requests to stop landscape services has been sporadic. While Town Management collects official notifications from homeowners, the landscape company might not have the latest list. Some residents have communicated directly with landscape staff.  This created confusion for all parties. Complaints have followed from both homeowners and the contractor if the activity was or was not done. 
The LAC wants to minimize these difficulties in meeting residents’ landscape needs. Kelly explored a variety of approaches to the situation, including posting signs for different actions, e.g. no mowing, no pruning, etc. and determined that painting symbols on the curb was the most cost-effective option for the Association. There are four different symbols that will be used depending upon what service a homeowner is declining. Kelly has volunteered to lead the painting of these symbols. 
The Board of Directors approved an initial trial of the system at its August meeting, to begin in 2021. (Note: the form is no required for the remainder of 2020.) The Board can revisit the program next year once some experience is gained.
What is involved to “opt out?”
  • Complete the opt out form and submit it to Town Management.
  • When a group of forms has been submitted, Kelly’s crew will come to paint the appropriate symbol on your home’s front/back curb. (In order to minimize workload, this painting party will be done periodically.)
  • All homeowners are asked to submit a form by December 5th for the 2021 landscape season. 
What if I change my mind or am traveling so I can’t maintain my property?
Once you opt out, you are responsible for whatever action you asked to be stopped. Town Management will no longer ask a crew to mow a home “just once” for a vacation week. By opting out, you are making a commitment to the New Town community to do this work for the rest of the year. Kelly gave the example of a recent medical incapacitation, where knowing that she was obligated to maintain her lawn, she took the responsibility to hire or ask someone else to do the tasks for several months when she was unable to do them. 
The LAC is hopeful that the painted symbols approach will be more effective than current practices. “This may or may not be the perfect system, but we need to implement it and adjust it as we go, if needed”, remarked Kelly.
For more information on this new opt-out program and to obtain a form, log into the NTRA website for a variety of resources (see Fact Sheet and Frequently Asked Questions - Landscaping).
Comment By: Tom Dawkins
Posted on September 20, 2020 8:18 PM
The Opt Out program is being initiated on a trial basis as described here and elsewhere on this website. Please review the FAQ and Fact Sheet information on this program for the answers to many of your concerns. This background information is continually updated. The Landscape Advisory Committee will continue to refine the program as needed.

The New Town Residential Association provides opportunities for input throughout our deliberations. The Board of Directors meetings are public meetings where residents can participate via Zoom. The Opt Out program was on the agenda, presented and discussed at the August 27th BOD meeting. All Committee meetings, including the LAC, are also public meetings. The website calendar contains Zoom links for interested parties to join any of these meetings.

Why must homeowners opt-out for an entire year of services they are required to pay for? Is it so the landscape contractor knows how many lawn mowers to buy at the beginning of the year, how many staff to hire, or how much chemical to buy? Should these decisions not be based on the landscape contract and number of houses - assuming no homeowner has opted out of anything?

Last Edited: 09/21/2020 at 09:11 PM
Comment By: Tom Dawkins
Posted on September 20, 2020 8:26 PM
How is it in a homeowner's best interest to be locked into a full year of paying for services they are not receiving? Why should they not receive, and then have to pay extra for, services just because they are on vacation? Couldn't the process be flexible enough to accommodate life changes such as temporary illness, injury, or more permanent incapacitation?
Comment By: Tom Dawkins
Posted on September 20, 2020 8:30 PM
Does the NTRA get to keep money paid by homeowners for services not rendered or does the landscape contractor? Per the 7/31/2019 LAC meeting minutes, it would seem to be the landscape contractor: "Mike pleased about no fee reduction for his contract with opt-outs".
Comment By: Tom Dawkins
Posted on September 20, 2020 8:33 PM
How much of a homeowner's HOA fee is for spraying, pruning, and mowing? Is there any way to know, in total, how much is being paid by homeowners for services not received should they opt-out?
Comment By: Tom Dawkins
Posted on September 20, 2020 8:36 PM
Does "No service at all" mean, literally, no service at all? Would homeowners still receive mulching, aeration, seeding, and spade edging, for example? - especially since they are already paying for these services?
Comment By: Tom Dawkins
Posted on September 20, 2020 8:39 PM
On the opt-out form, why does "No pruning" include weeding since weeding is not pruning? How can a homeowner opt-out of pruning, but still receive weeding?
Comment By: Tom Dawkins
Posted on September 20, 2020 8:41 PM
Has the LAC carefully mapped all services in the 2020 landscaping contract statement of work to the categories on the opt-out form to ensure all services fall under one of the 3 categories?
Comment By: Tom Dawkins
Posted on September 20, 2020 8:55 PM
With all the weeds - including crabgrass and nut sedge, bare turf, eye pokers, and trees forever tagged for removal in common areas and private lawns, why are homeowners who decide to opt-out held to a first class residential community standard on the opt-out form - whereas the landscape contractor for whom they are still paying for is not? See 2019/2020 landscaping survey results.
Comment By: Tom Dawkins
Posted on September 20, 2020 9:04 PM
Does "No mowing" mean the landscape contractor will still edge along sidewalks, trim, aerate, and seed? How does a homeowner opt-out of seeding but still get aeration? The reason I ask is that I've heard the quality of seed used last fall may have contributed to the current overgrowth of crabgrass and many weeds in lawns and common areas. Do you know if this is true?
Comment By: Tom Dawkins
Posted on September 20, 2020 9:34 PM
I see the latest plan is to paint the opt-out symbols on the sidewalk leading up to a home's front steps. How will this work for homeowners with aggregate driveways with no sidewalk leading up to the front steps? Will all this not tend to "junk up" the neighborhood and require a lot of maintenance going forward? Is there any alternative to opting-out that doesn't require marking up my sidewalk?

Last Edited: 09/24/2020 at 10:01 PM
Comment By: Tom Dawkins
Posted on September 20, 2020 9:38 PM
Didn't the NTRA recently pay for "No pruning" signs? Is there any way these could be repurposed? Perhaps the blank side could be used to contain symbol decals?
Comment By: Tom Dawkins
Posted on September 20, 2020 9:47 PM
Before this process was finalized, why was it not first presented to homeowners for comments and feedback (e.g., zoom meeting)? Is it still possible to do so? Homeowners opting-out are required to do so for an entire year - without fee reduction and with no good explanation for why this is really even necessary. Perhaps so painting only has to take place once per year? Is there a better way?
Comment By: Tom Dawkins
Posted on September 21, 2020 8:08 AM
Kelly indicates she asked or paid someone else to maintain her lawn while she was unable to. I'm wondering why she didn't simply ask the property manager to have this work done for her since she was already paying for it. I have been able to do this previously while on vacation. Also, the opt-out program will not take affect until 2021 which will no longer allow it.