Town Crier Articles

We Are One Community – The Neighborhood Supplemental Declaration
Posted on October 1, 2021 6:35 AM by Mary Cheston, Board of Directors
Categories: NTRA Business
 
The proposed Supplemental Declaration that has been named the “Neighborhood Declaration” seeks to replace 20 current Supplementals that had evolved over time with a number of idiosyncrasies and important omissions. For example, the Supplemental Declarations for 68 properties in Charlotte Park are missing several key paragraphs. (See June 2021 Crier Article, “Supplemental Swampland.”) 
 
A Supplemental Declaration is added to a Master Declaration as communities expand. These “supplements” show the location of new property – including roadways, common area and utility and drainage easements, and define what owners are charged for. In New Town’s case, each parcel developer’s attorney prepared these documents starting with a boiler plate. Over time, as more detail was added to these documents to cover items the Developer anticipated but never came to fruition, they became nonstandardized and more complicated than they needed to be. The Developer’s goals were not consistent with the goals of New Town today, both as to their content and the level of specificity required. 
 
The NTRA Board of Directors is trying to change that. In combining most of New Town’s Neighborhoods into one Supplemental, the Board of Directors was seeking both to streamline our basic set of documents and ensure consistency. We wanted to clearly outline what will be included in assessments to Owners-not bury it in legalese. Now that it is clearer, not everyone is happy. We recognize that.
 
The Neighborhood Supplemental Declaration applies to the 5 neighborhoods of Abbey Commons, Chelsea Green, Savannah Square, Charlotte Park and Shirley Park. These neighborhoods share similar Association services and layout/design, and they were formed by the same primary parcel developer/builder. (The Village Walk Supplemental follows the same structure, but includes additional paragraphs for the special services that Village Walk homes receive.)
 
What has changed in this document? 
  • There is no longer a “Neighborhood Assessment” described in the text. This type of assessment was never applied nor is it administratively practical without overhauling the Association’s contracting, billing and accounting practices. 
  • The ability to “opt out” of landscape services has been added. Owners have requested this in the past, and it has been allowed, but it is not addressed in our current documents. Opt out will apply to all landscape services to ease the administrative burden. Even with the current limited opt-out, such as for pruning only, eventually some shrubs get pruned and these owners are unhappy. It has never been a guarantee. So the easiest approach for both our management company and the landscaper is to permit opt out for all services or none.
What has not changed? The prohibition on landscape services to fenced yards has been retained. It is the same limitation as our current documents. This was a difficult decision. The Association did not honor this prohibition in the past and has been providing mowing and pruning. In 2022, the Board will likely discontinue this landscaping and follow our documents. The Board has both a fiduciary and fiscal responsibility to the community. The Board and new Managing Agent will formally notify Owners affected by this change-recognizing that not all fenced yards have lawns, some are purely patios.
 
What the revised Supplemental provides is a way for Owners to continue these services for an additional fee or to provide their own. This was a compromise to be fair to Owners without fences and still make the services readily available. 
 
The draft Neighborhood Supplemental has raised a number of questions from the community mostly related to these landscaping provisions. But there have also been claims that detached homes are being discriminated against because they are outnumbered by townhouse owners. Actually, there are even fewer cottages than detached homes! When will the parsing end? We live in a mixed use community – this is the vision and design of New Town, no neighborhood is an island nor is any group of homeowners. We share common areas and amenities and by combining neighborhoods into one Supplemental Declaration those community values and expectations are reinforced.  
 
Comprehensive and clear governing documents are critical to the successful operation of a community association. We welcome your constructive ideas for future document changes. We welcome proposals for specific adjustments. Please don’t just complain or throw stones based on the NIMBY principal. We strive to be a community. There are two sides to every story; as such, you owe it to your neighbor to consider both.
 
Comments
Comment By: Noreen Sprague
Posted on October 1, 2021 2:43 PM
Thank you Mary for all your volunteer time and efforts on our behalf.
Comment By: Tom Dawkins
Posted on October 2, 2021 3:06 PM
Homeowners wishing to opt-out of a service (e.g., pruning) should not have to opt-out of everything for an entire year for services they still must pay for. Nor should they have to settle for a sub-standard quality of service (see 2019-2021 landscape surveys and 2021 quarterly performance reviews) by not opting out. The Board has a fiduciary responsibility to homeowners, not VLL.
REPLY: The Board is aware of the landscape issues in our community. Improving this situation will be pursued with the support of our new management company.

Last Edited: 10/04/2021 at 07:56 PM
Comment By: Tom Dawkins
Posted on October 2, 2021 3:08 PM
Will the Board consider my proposal of a magnetized sign with detachable magnets for the various landscape services – serving as “reminders” to the landscapers? Homeowners would be in complete control, and could opt-out/back in of any service at any time. There would be no administrative burden on the property manager, and coordination with the landscape contractor would not be needed.
REPLY: Thanks for this suggestion. The Board has not discussed it and will not revisit the opt out program until a new management company is in place. Given our multiple critical priorities during this transition, any further opt out deliberations would only be possible next year. Please remember that opt out is not provided for in our current governing documents.

Last Edited: 10/04/2021 at 07:54 PM
Comment By: Susan Byrne
Posted on October 2, 2021 5:06 PM
Mary - Please explain your fiduciary and fisal responsibility to assess a fee that you are not being charged. There is no per fence fee charged to the hoa and the overall cost of landscaping is based on a number of factors that affect the time and labo involved in servicing the community.
REPLY: The Board's fiduciary responsibility is to follow our governing documents which do not provide for mowing or pruning within fenced yards. We did not create this situation.

Last Edited: 10/04/2021 at 07:59 PM
Comment By: Tom Dawkins
Posted on October 5, 2021 2:45 PM
Thanks Mary. Just to be clear - the Board will withdraw Section 4.2 (opt-outs) from Article IV in both neighborhood declarations, and will hear my presentation on magnetic signs before implementing an opt-out procedure no earlier than next year? I would be happy to present at a public forum as well, and suggest surveying the community to solicit additional thoughts and feedback.
REPLY: No decisions on the new documents will be made until some time in 2022,after a new Board is elected. Members are invited to submit suggestions via the amendments@ntrawilliamsburg.org email

Last Edited: 10/06/2021 at 08:29 AM
Comment By: Susan Byrne
Posted on October 5, 2021 9:50 PM
In re-writing the documents you have an opprtunity to take out a policy that has never been enforced and is not an equitable allocation of costs. Why are we paying an attorney to re-write only to leave them the same. Your fiduciary responsibility is to the homeowners and the equitable assessment of fees and policies.
REPLY: No decisions on the new documents will be made until some time in 2022,after a new Board is elected. Members are invited to submit comments via the amendments@ntrawilliamsburg.org email

Last Edited: 10/06/2021 at 08:28 AM
Comment By: Terry Hancock
Posted on October 27, 2021 3:46 PM
I agree with the bulk of comments made by all three residents but still have major concerns with the opt out and fences. I've sent an email under separate cover dealing with the fence issue. It would be great if it and all the other comments the Board has received to date could be posted on the NTRA website. 400 characters does not get it done and we need the transparency. Thanks, Terry

REPLY: Questions that were submitted for the September 22nd Virtual Town Hall have been compiled with responses and posted on the Governing Documents webpage. All other comments and suggestions are awaiting a new Board of Directors.

Last Edited: 10/29/2021 at 01:38 PM