Message from the Chair of the RAB.
The holiday season is in full swing. We’ve just finished a Thanksgiving food fest and now it’s time for shopping, football games, more food, and enjoying the company of friends and family.
It is party time here in New Town at Legacy Hall on Friday, December 13th from 6:00PM till 9:30PM. So gather up your family and join your neighbors for a night of fun and good food at our annual holiday party.
Mark your calendar also for the annual NTRA meeting on December 5 that Legacy Hall, starting at 6:00PM.
There was a budget town Hall meeting on November 21st at Legacy Hall. It was well attended by residents from all communities within New Town. Good questions were asked of the committee and subsequently generated more in-depth questions to be answered.
Planning for the transition from developer to homeowner control has been in the works for several months. A transition committee will be named shortly to continue the planning so all runs smoothly before and after the turnover.
A quick reminder that there is a new company taking care of the processing of your quarterly dues payment. Alliance Bank will now be in charge instead of BB&T starting January 1, 2020. No change in anything else as far as payment procedure.
Happy Holidays to all.
NTRA Committee Volunteers; 3 Peoples’ Stories
By Kathy Mullins
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 you come 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!”
HOA TRANSITION, AN EOY RECAPby Mary Cheston
2020 will be a momentous year for New Town residents. In April, control of the governing Board will turn over from the Developer to the homeowners. We thought it was fitting to recap where things stand in preparation for this transition. In addition to the Board and RAB discussions, the key preparatory actions completed to date include:
· Reserve study
· Establishment of a Transition Committee
The financial reserve study was completed in September by the firm Miller Dodson. The study is designed to help the Association anticipate and prepare for major repair and replacement projects. As reported at the recent budget meeting, the report recommended increasing the funds set aside for reserves.
In June 2019, the current Board of Directors authorized a Transition Committee to ensure that an independent group of homeowners conduct a due diligence review of NTRA’s records and advise the Board on transition. The members of this committee include both current RAB members and other residents, with Chuck Stetler serving as Chair.
The Board expects the Committee to review existing NTRA declarations, policies and procedures, financial records, deeds, insurance coverage and vendor contracts, among others. The Committee will also “have a designated member present during any future final inspections related to the Common Area.” Meetings of the Transition Committee will be advertised so that residents may attend.
Once the turnover meeting is held in April, the more intensive work for homeowners begins. Within 90 days thereafter, elections for a new Board will be held. Legal work will be required to make modifications and draft new NTRA documents as needed. The RAB will no longer operate and decisions about existing Committees will switch to the new Board.
All New Town homeowners should be engaged in the transition process and prepared to make the Association aware of changes you would like to see. As the experts say, “What happens today sets the stage for tomorrow’s success.”
NTRA Asset Maintenance Committee
Do you have something to say about the exterior maintenance issues you observe as you walk or drive around the neighborhood? Do issues like peeling and fading paint, exterior mold and missing or broken shutters, gutters or flashing make you think the neighborhood just doesn’t look like the first-class community you thought it was?
Then the Asset Maintenance Committee (AMC) is for you. We have members who will be getting ready to rotate off next year and the year after so the AMC is looking for new members.
The AMC is dedicated to maintaining the FIRST-CLASS COMMUNITY home exteriors in New Town. Our job is to review the professional inspector’s assessments, communicate with the homeowners working through the process of resolving maintenance issues, and bring maintenance issues to resolution while collaborating with the property manager and the Board of Directors.
The AMC is a very important part of what attracts homeowners to want to purchase a home in New Town. Everyone wants to live in a neighborhood that looks great!
We meet approximately quarterly, and our meetings usually last about an hour. This is a great committee to serve on if you enjoy the satisfaction of getting things accomplished. Contact Dave Holtgrieve, chair, at email@example.com, for further information or interest.
New Town’s Emergency Preparedness Committee
If you have lived in eastern Virginia for years or even months, you know we are not immune to disasters and emergencies including power outages and flooding. Our weather is unpredictable and often dangerous. High winds, heavy snow and rain may affect our area, often without much warning. These are the times when our Emergency Preparedness Committee goes to work.
Under its Charter established in May, 2016, this committee coordinates safety plans to residents in incidences of dangerous weather, civil emergency or any disaster in the area. During these times, the committee members are in immediate contact with the James City County Police Department for further information. They report to residents on the nature of the emergency and plans for safety, including evacuation if necessary, through e-blasts. They also have access to the HOA-owned trauma backpack stored in the pool building, a valuable first-aid kit.
Under the leadership of Chair Tom Nichols, the committee has grown to nine members, including seven who are CERT trained (Community Emergency Response Team). CERT is a 20-hour nationwide course that trains volunteers in disaster response skills. Teams of First Responders and other qualified trainers serve as instructors for this rigorous course. In addition, three members are licensed operators for ham radio, a crucial part of communication in case of loss of electrical power and cell towers.
As winter approaches and storms may threaten, feel secure knowing that the dedicated members of this team are working to ensure your safety through communication and response. Keep alert and stay safe.
Emergency Preparedness Committee –Tom Nichols, Chairman
The Holidays Are Here
We all look forward to the Holiday Season to be with families and friends. We will be attending Parties, Dinners, Local Events plus seeing the Decorations in New Town and on Duke of Gloucester street in Williamsburg. We have been fortunate that we have had no disasters in our area that affected New Town this year. Even with no area disasters, we need to be prepared for personal disasters.
Weather and Personal Disasters
We have just entered the Freeze Season with ice, snow and freezing pipes (as some can attest with freezing back flow piping). We need to pay attention to things that could lead to Personal Disasters and try to prevent them: Home Fires, Falls on Ice (home steps, walkways, parking lots), vehicle accidents on ice and snow covered roads, break-ins at home and in your car, and theft of a wallet or purse plus Robberies.
Staying Safe- These are some of the ideas to help you enjoy the Holidays and prevent Personal Disasters:
Fire- Cooking- stay with Food being Cooked. Do not leave items on a stove that will burn (boxes, candles, papers). Do not wear loose clothing while cooking to prevent the danger of clothing catching on fire.
Candles-Control use of candles. Know where they are burning, keep away from Children/curtains/combustibles and pets, use only in one room at a time which you monitor.
Electric Wiring- Keep all decorating wiring, tree lights and power strips maintained (throw out questionable items) do not overload a circuit. Do not run wires under a rug. Do not use extension cords with Portable heaters (cord could overheat)
Fireplaces- Please cut it off if not being used, keep it maintained (have checked yearly), keep combustibles away from them like live Christmas trees. Make certain that your home has functioning Carbon Monoxide Detectors (one each floor)
Christmas trees- Real trees can catch fire easily and burn out a room in 2 minutes or less, keep trees fresh, watered, and when getting brittle or browning, Throw them away. NOTE: if a tree catches fire, CALL the Fire Department, use a proper ABC fire extinguisher on it if YOU KNOW how and at the start of a fire. A real tree can burn up in 45 seconds; Artificial trees burn slower.
Smoke Detectors and Carbon Monoxide Detectors- change batteries yearly and test every month. Smoke and Carbon Monoxide detectors should be REPLACED every 10 years since they lose sensitivity and could be slow in sounding an ALARM which could be deadly.
Falls on Ice- keep walks clear of snow, use ice melt on sidewalks/steps (only use ice melt that will not damage concrete or wood steps), use Kitty Litter or Sand on steps as a back-up (does make a mess). Wear winter boots/shoes.
Driving-Review Winter Driving Safety. Keep Kitty litter or sand in the car to use to help you get un-stuck from ice/packed snow, have a small shovel on hand in your car. Have your CELL PHONE available, DO NOT TALK ON CELL PHONE WHILE DRIVING.
Break-ins- Keep doors locked (use dead bolt locks, have pins in windows, keep curtains and shades drawn at night, keep porch lights on as needed. Do not open a front door to a stranger
Car thefts and personal theft- Keep packages covered in a visible trunk of a SUV or back seat. Park and walk in lighted areas where you feel safe, if you sense danger, stay away. Use purses with a long strap around your body to prevent a purse snatch, use caution with wallets when you visit in crowed areas (put wallet in a safe zippered area of a coat or in the front pocket of your slacks). Stop mail and papers if away.
NTRA Previews 2020 Budget for Residents
Rick Fisher, Chair of the NTRA’s Finance Committee, briefed residents on November 21 at an open meeting about the 2020 budget. A 25-page handout with the details was distributed. Residents can submit written questions by November 26 to Tim Grueter at Town Management (firstname.lastname@example.org). The Committee’s expectation is that at the NTRA’s Annual Meeting, the budget will be accepted as approved. Some key points follow.
The NTRA Finance Committee is composed of five New Town residents drawn from several neighborhoods. There are no members other than residents. Tim Grueter works with the Committee as the Town Management representative.
The Committee followed a documented process to identify requirements, forecast their costs and communicate their recommendations. They have been working the process since August 20, 2019.
NTRA expenses include both “per door” requirements, which increase as New Town adds residences, and operating expenses, such as legal services and pool maintenance.
Landscaping services is the major “per door” expense. It accounts for 43% of the NTRA budget. The cost of landscaping services is set by contract. The Committee has budgeted a $42K increase for 2020. The Landscape Advisory Committee requested an additional $12K which is aimed primarily at refreshing the landscaping in a mature common area of Chelsea Green. An additional $4K has been budgeted for legal support to help with the transition of the Board of Directors to resident control. The NTRA will use our current lawyer who specializes in HOAs and is recognized in Virginia as one of the best.
The Committee’s recommended budget keeps a sharp watch on reserves. The objective is that reserves build consistently over the years so that if an unplanned capital cost suddenly appears, the HOA can afford the work without a special assessment on residents. An engineering firm has studied New Town’s assets and provided a recommended annual contribution to replacement reserves. NTRA will meet its 2019 reserve goal and, if adopted, the 2020 budget will maintain it.
The total 2020 budget is $808,540, which is $110K above 2019. Of that total, $69K are “per door” costs and therefore do not affect fees. Operational expenses are basically static and so likewise do not affect 2020 fees. HOA fees will need to rise to meet the recommended replacement reserve objective.
The budget reflects different costs and fees for Village Walk since exterior maintenance of individual homes (e.g., painting, roofing) is part of their homeowners’ agreement.
NTRA will maintain its fee structure, divided among cottages, detached homes and town homes. Fees are budgeted to rise annually for each, respectively: $44, $96, $52. Village Walk town homes will have an additional $40 annual increase to cover their exterior maintenance.