Have you ever wanted to question a homeowner policy, suggest a different way to solve a community problem, or start a new club or activity? Do you have a talent or skill or passion that might benefit the overall community, particularly in the time of transition? If you are a member of a Home Owner Association-governed community, like ours in New Town, the best way to make your voice heard is to serve on the HOA committee. The NTRA (New Town Residential Association) is composed of holders of deeds to homes or property in its now seven neighborhoods (for example, Chelsea Green, Savannah Square, or Shirley Park).
Note: This article does not include the second Association concerned with property in New Town, the NTCA (New Town Commercial Association) which is comprised of properties housing businesses, eateries, offices and residential apartments and condominiums in the Bennington and Foundation Square buildings as well as the apartments above certain commercial enterprises.
If you own a home or property in New Town’s residential neighborhoods you are a member of the New Town Residential Association (NTRA). This Association, formed by the Board of Directors (BOD), was incorporated in 2004. The BOD establishes Rules and Regulations that govern the use and maintenance of property and dwellings within the community and each NTRA member vows to comply with them. The BOD also creates committees comprised of NTRA members to implement various aspects of managing community life. BOD also establishes a means for Association Members to volunteer their own services and/or recommend other NTRA members they deem qualified.
And this is where youcome in.
Becoming involved in NTRA involves asking yourself two basic questions: why should you volunteer your time and talent; and, how can you get a foot in the NTRA door? Everyone has something to contribute. At the very least you can help maintain a desirable community. That requires support from all members: financially (paying fees and assessments on time and complying with home maintenance regulations); and, socially (adhering to NTRA rules and regulations, volunteering time and talent for the benefit of all, and supporting community activities that sustain a pleasurable lifestyle).
The NTRA not only seeks broad-based representation from all its neighborhoods on its committees. It also advocates regular turnover of committee members so ideas and issues from all areas can be considered.
Some residents may think that work responsibilities, family obligations, or desiring the freedom to travel at will, relieves them of any obligation to serve for a term or two. They may imagine that others will step up to serve.
Three NTRA members share some thoughts about their own volunteer experiences.
Louisa Johnson lives on Lydia’s Drive with her husband, works as a school nurse and has found time to work on several committees since moving here. “If everyone assumed that others would volunteer, there would be no committee members at all,” she says. “The time commitment is fairly low, so even people who work can be involved.” The Community Pool first opened in late August, 2012. Louisa mentioned some concerns about the pool facilities to a neighbor who suggested that she get involved with the pool committee (no longer a separate group). “I joined that committee because I wanted to contribute to creating solutions for pool issues. We were responsible then for reviewing the pool maintenance contract and making sure the property management company followed up on routine maintenance and issues. Due to my pool work, I was asked to work on the Emergency Preparedness Committee and the Asset Maintenance Committee. I still enjoy serving on both committees and what I really like to see is results.”
Louisa advises anyone owning property in NTRA’s neighborhoods to volunteer. “Then you will have some say about your neighborhood governance, the look and feel of the community, the facilities being safe and in working order, other neighbors adhering to the NTRA covenants which all the owners agree to when they buy the house. It’s the best way to fix things and to keep what you love about your neighborhood.”
Soon after Angela Lesnett and her husband moved into their Village Walk townhome she started reading the minutes of the RAB (Residential Advisory Board) and attending some of their meetings. She was curious about the financials. “I wanted to be sure that New Town was on a firm financial footing,” she said. Her curiosity continued. Eventually Angela expressed an interest in getting involved with the RAB. Today she serves on the RAB, the Finance Committee and is the RAB liaison to the Architectural Review Committee.
“This is a community of nearly 500 households. The proposed NTRA budget for 2020 is just over $800,000. I want to know how that money will be spent and see that the community is planning well for what the future may bring,” she says. “While I am not practicing as a lawyer now, I worked as a tax lawyer for many years and have experience dealing with financial spreadsheets. I believe I bring value to the committee.”
Committee work is not only interesting, Angela has found, “It’s fun! There’s a social aspect to it. You get to know the other committee members. Then if you run into one of them in another setting they usually introduce you to people in that group. Before long you know quite a few individuals in New Town. It has surprised me to see how quickly these social networks grow” she says..
Though her daughter’s family lived in New Kent County, Sherry Campbell did not know anyone in New Town in 2013 when she moved into a townhouse on Casey Boulevard. But, she wanted to feel at home in this new community. She found there are many ways to get involved. Official Committees, such as the ARC (Architectural Review Board) or the Finance Committee are established by the BOD. In addition there are book clubs, athletic groups, lunch lectures and numerous ongoing activities that need help with organization, communication and other arrangements.
Getting involved with the new Activities Committee was Sherry’s vehicle for meeting people and putting down roots in the community. “Our committee members had to work together to figure out how to meet the needs of varied residential groups— young families with school-age children, military households, retirees and young adults. By trying different types of events and analyzing feedback, we gradually learned what residents preferred, what type of food to offer, how much help was needed. I was fortunate to get to know so many nice people,” she recalled.
Later she offered to coordinate the Walking Club. “That took me out into the Williamsburg region looking for suitable trails and excursion sites for our group. On the walks I came in contact with many different people. We had a lot of fun and learned so much about our physical surroundings in the process. Joining a book club introduced me to yet another group of new and interesting residents.
The community needs and benefits from all of the committee work. Facility and asset management helps maintain a sound financial position, which elevates resale home value. Social activity contributes to more pleasurable daily living and the promotion of events in New Town makes the area more attractive to buyers.
Home value is affected by the impression the community makes when prospective buyers visit. Pride of ownership is apparent. Daily life is also enhanced when common areas are maintained, activities are planned and there are opportunities to gather together. Serving on committees is good training for taking on more extensive community leadership later.
“I think every homeowner cares about how New Town looks,” Sherry says. “There’s plenty of conversation when our walking club hikes around New Town. There are always positive comments when we pass freshly-painted homes or spot attractive landscaping. We own our own homes, but also want to have a sense of pride in “our” overall community. And, that’s a big factor in keeping up resale values.” Angela Lesnett has a suggestion for anyone debating about volunteering for committee work : try a limited volunteer engagement. “If a committee or activity catches your interest, sign on for a trial run. Start with a small commitment. Attend a committee meeting. Offer to write one article for the Crier. Help with set up for a community event. Explore a club that interests you. You will find something that’s a good fit for your talents,” she says.
Or, she says, “you could try the Nike option -- Just Do It!”