BOARD BUZZ – September 2021, by Angela Lesnett, President
September always holds that “back to school” feeling for me - - a time of change and new beginnings. And so it goes for our Association.
Last week we announced that Dick Durst, resigned from the Board of Directors for health reasons. Dick joined the Board in September of 2020, and was elected President of New Town Residential Association (NTRA) in January 2021. He served as President during an extremely challenging time for NTRA and we will miss his energy, engagement, and 6:00 a.m. emails. We offer Dick our heartfelt thanks for his expertise and hard work on behalf of NTRA and our sincere best wishes for the future.
Last week brought another change: it has been decided that NTRA and its current managing agent, Town Management, will part ways effective late this fall. The Board has undertaken a search for a new managing agent to partner with the Association as we take the next steps as a homeowner-controlled HOA. Engaging a new managing agent will be a new beginning for the NTRA.
In another new beginning, the Board has been working diligently to revise NTRA’s governing documents. A draft of the revised documents will be published today and a virtual Town Hall meeting is scheduled for September 22, during which the Association’s attorney, Sue Tarley, will provide an overview of the documents and will be available to answer Members’ questions. [Please submit your questions in advance if possible: firstname.lastname@example.org.] Due to the need to devote resources to the search for a new managing agent, however, the Board is delaying the Member vote on the documents until the new Board is in place.
Yes, the “new Board.” The terms of some Directors will end in December and Members will have the opportunity to elect 3 new Directors. Think about running for one of these positions. Being an NTRA Board member is challenging, but serving on the Board is an opportunity to shape our Association in important ways.
How about a change and new beginning for you? If you haven’t volunteered on a Committee, I encourage you to do it now. NTRA’s committees do a lot work for our community - - re-writing the pool rules (Pool Committee), inspecting the Association’s physical assets (Asset Maintenance Committee), publishing the Town Crier and maintaining NTRA’s website (Communications Committee), and planning social events (Activities Committee) - - just to name a few. The time and location of each committee meeting is listed on the website calendar and all committee meetings are open to Members so you can see how the group operates. In addition to supporting your community you will meet new people with whom you already share a common interest - - the success of New Town.
The Board, with the assistance of the Finance Committee, has also been working on developing NTRA’s 2022 budget. In last month’s Board Buzz, Rick Fisher, NTRA’s Treasurer, described a number of projects the Association has undertaken in 2021. Of course, each of those projects affected the Association’s finances. From managing our own household budgets we all know that prices are going up, so you will not be surprised that in 2022 we expect to see substantial increases in costs in every area. Some of these are due to increases in labor and material costs. Some increases may occur as contracts that have been in place for several years with no increase are now being renewed at 2022 prices.
As NTRA’s costs increase, its assessments must also increase to cover those expenses, including a reasonable contribution to NTRA’s Replacement Reserves. The Replacement Reserves are funds put into specially designated accounts that are used for expenses related to specified assets such as NTRA’s streets, pool, retention ponds, fences and other assets that have a long useful life. Allocating funds to the Replacement Reserves requires balancing short-term needs with long-term needs.
Having adequate reserves on hand to meet expenses is a sign of a well-run HOA and is a factor in keeping property values stable. As we did last year, the Board plans to hold two Town Halls in November to explain the 2022 budget and assessments.
The last couple of weeks brought a change for me, when I was elected President of NTRA. I’m happy to serve the good folks of New Town, and will do my best. NTRA is lucky to have the services of board members Mary Cheston (Vice-president), Rick Fisher (Treasurer), and Mark Burgess, and of Phil Casey (Secretary).
There are many changes for NTRA in the next few months. The Board will keep you informed of developments. I look forward to seeing you around New Town.
A Transfusion for the NTRA: The Challenge of Selecting a New Management Company by Mary Cheston
An HOA management company is the lifeblood of a community. When things are going well, you may take their presence for granted, blood is flowing along, so to speak. When the level of service is not meeting expectations, perhaps “clots” develop, then both the HOA and the management company need to assess what is in the best interests of our overall body.
Over the next 90 days, the New Town Residential Association will be searching for a new management company that the Board of Directors feels can best meet the needs of our community. The growth of New Town and the issues that remain from the period of Developer control pose significant challenges to this task.
Why is HOA management such a difficult job? In order to administer the services and operations of the Association on a day-to-day basis, a management company must possess a wide variety of knowledge and expertise. Just think about some of the specialties involved: accounting and finance, property maintenance, contract administration, regulatory compliance, insurance, human resources, communication and good customer service. Then perhaps consider thanking Town Management for their years of work on our behalf in these areas.
The success of our Association will depend on the Board selecting a well-qualified professional management company that encompasses these diverse specialties. A Management Company Search Committee has been formed and an RFP has been distributed. Working together we hope to thoroughly investigate our options over the next 60 days to provide for a smooth transition period. The criticality of this decision has caused the Board to defer some initiatives and reprioritize the timing of our vote on new Governing Documents. In other words, we are stepping back to breathe a bit deeper and improve our own circulation if you will.
We anticipate that a new management company will cost significantly more than what NTRA Owners have been paying. We need to budget for quality service and the level of professional support it requires.
We will provide updates and more information to you as the process evolves. Meanwhile, continue to pay your dues and request assistance through Town Management. Nothing has changed yet!
The NTRA has burned through five Directors (three for serious medical issues) in our first 14 months as a homeowner-controlled association. The hemorrhaging of our volunteers must stop. We need a management company equipped to relieve more of the burden of running our Association. We hope that Association Members will support and welcome any new organization that partners with us to keep New Town healthy and flourishing.
“So, Why Should I Care?” The Danger of Failing to Support New Town’s Revised Governing Documents by Patti Vaticano
If you’ve been reading our Town Crier articles on the need to revamp the means of property assessment in NTRA’s Governing Documents (no less than 4 edifying articles since May, along with a website FAQ list to peruse) then, you most likely fall into one of three categories:
- You understand the need to revamp our method of property assessment and are willing to move forward to reflect current times for the sake of the equitable treatment of all New Town homeowners;
- You’re totally confused by the issue and have shut down; or
- You don’t care about the issue or fear the revamping will cost you more money than you are currently shelling out for your HOA fees. Those of you in this category may have decided to vote against any revamping or simply do nothing, at all, in the hopes the problem will resolve itself or go away, entirely.
For those of you in the first category, Brava!-Bravo!—and thank you.
For those in the second category, let me try to clarify the issue. The simple take-away would be that when the Developer was actively selling homes in New Town and before community management was turned over to New Town homeowners, HOA dues were kept at an attractive minimum to generate New Town home sales growth. An analogy would be a cable company offering new members monthly premiums for cable hook-up at a rock bottom price. But as most cable subscribers know, those cable rates are never intended to continue on through the member’s subscription, indefinitely. It is much the same with the current assessments in New Town. The current pattern of low property dues can no longer be maintained.
To complicate matters further, the means of assessing New Town HOA dues laid out in our documents was not followed. Continuing the cable company analogy, NTRA’s documents require “subscribers” receiving only basic TV services to share payments for bundle plans (with phone, internet and Premium channels like HBO), just because they live in the same New Town neighborhood. Such an assessment framework (see the figure below) is inequitable and frankly, unjust. But if it is in our “contracts,” can we just ignore it?
For those homeowners who fall within the third category, voting against our revised Governing Documents--or simply failing to vote at all for fear of incurring a higher HOA assessment--is a foolhardy tactic. Attempts to save yourself money will likely cost you more money in the future; because if you fail to act or vote against these revisions, your HOA dues will rise even higher than they may need to otherwise, to cover both future legal counsel and lawsuit costs. Resolution is simple. An honest grappling with the proposed new documents now will not only ensure that all New Town homeowners are fairly treated on the issue—but save each homeowner from incurring a greater assessment tab later.
Be forewarned and forearmed: The cost to fight any legal actions taken against the Association or even the Developer Board for failing to use the existing documents for assessments will hit every homeowner harder and at greater cost if we fail to tackle and dismantle the problem.
So why should you care about this issue? Well, you shouldn’t care--unless safeguarding your family’s budget is important to you. If we all, as a community, bite the bullet now and support updating and improving our documents, including a more equitable means of assessing HOA dues, not only will we put a fair and defensible assessment system in place—we will be able to keep assessment dues manageable in the future for all NTRA homeowners.
The Board of Directors is providing ample time for you to consider these draft changes, provide your suggestions, and be prepared to vote in early 2022. Join us in category one!
Your NTRA Reading Homework Is Here! By Stuart Dopp
Articles of Restatement (formerly Articles of Incorporation)
Start your reading assignment here, this is the easiest new document to understand!
Our previous Articles of Incorporation will, in the new documents, be called Articles of Restatement. This revision reestablishes our legal status within the Commonwealth, performing many of the same functions as the earlier document but with an important distinction: the elimination of language that pertained to the Developers. We will now have clear, brief Articles delineating the Purposes and Powers of our HOA, Membership, and the process for amending the Articles. There is a new Article on Voting Rights, and a clarified Article on the Board of Directors. The longest Article, on Liability and Indemnification, now references pertinent sections of the Virginia Code - so we will be up to date.
The Articles of Restatement, like all the other proposed texts, are prefaced by the necessary legal form to record our vote of acceptance.
Amended and Restated Bylaws
Trying to make parallel connections between our current Bylaws and the draft of our new document is like the proverbial comparison of apples to oranges. While the proposed Amended Bylaws will accomplish the obvious goal of regulating the business of the Association, they now have been reorganized so that they are much easier to use.
Previously, for instance, information about the Board of Directors, voting, and electronic meetings was scattered throughout, causing redundancy and confusion. As with all of the new documents, language concerning the Developers is no longer pertinent so it has been removed, which, in and of itself, assists with clarity and brevity. The Article on “Membership” in the existing Bylaws, for example, details exquisitely complicated formulas for Developers vs different types of Owners, which in turn complicated voting policies. Information on our Board of Directors and Voting is now neatly consolidated in reorganized Articles consistent with our status as an independent HOA, without two different classes of voters.
Many sections of the Amended Bylaws link to requirements in Virginia law and clarify homeowners’ rights and responsibility. A few points of interest in the new documents:
- Article II details rules of Membership and Voting. Article III details the actual conduct of Member meetings, including the procedures for electronic meetings. There is a new time frame for rescheduling meetings adjourned for lack of a quorum, and the annual meeting of the HOA Members would be in December.
- Article IV establishes the Board of Directors, providing for a possible increase to 7 Members, elected on a rotating basis for two-year terms. No two Directors may be from the same household and, as we have in our current Bylaws, no more than two can be from the same neighborhood.
- Article V follows up with rules for the actual election of the Directors, and Article VI establishes procedures for their meetings, including those held electronically, ensuring that normal meetings of the Board and committees are available to Members. This Article follows the Code of VA in mandating a Member comment period but allows for setting parameters per the agenda.
- An important Article (VII) is that on Powers and Duties of the Board of Directors. These range from contracting for management of common areas and services for Lots to appointing an Architectural Review Committee to determining and levying assessments. New powers - the Board could borrow money and sell or lease property. Article VIII delineates the role of the management company that the Board may hire and provides for periodic performance evaluations. Articles IX and X cover the ability of the Board to elect officers, make special appointments and set up committees.
- Article XI (Assessments) requires that the proposed budget be sent to Members at least 15 days before Board approval. It also outlines how delinquencies will be collected.
- The remaining Articles (XII - XV) contain insurance and general information, and the process by which the Articles may be amended. Our right to see the Association’s books and records is affirmed in Article XIV.
You can consult the “Crosswalk” document available on the NTRA website if you wish to pursue a direct comparison, but —really — the crucial point is to read and react to the revised Bylaws and all the other texts themselves. They have been carefully written by our attorney and vetted by the Board of Directors. There is a detailed table of contents attached to each document.
We have from now until November 1 to make our thoughts known to the Board, so seize the opportunity both to read the new documents and to learn more at the September 22nd Town Hall.
Mastering the New Second Amended Master Declaration by Mary Cheston
The meat of our proposed revised Governing Documents is the Second Amended Master Declaration. Why “Second Amended?” You may recall that the NTRA had to amend the Master Declaration in 2020 because certain lots in Savannah Square were not correctly identified as part of the Residential Association. That was the “First Amended” Master Declaration.
So what is being proposed in this “Second” amendment? The most significant change is certainly to the framework for how we calculate our assessments. This is a critical revision – one that we must come to consensus on in order to create workable, legal assessments.
The “Annual Assessment” levied by the Association will now have at least two components:
- General Assessment – (similar to the old NTRA Assessment) for all the common expenses of the Association.
- Services Assessment - to capture the additional services provided to multiple, but not all, lots or in different degrees. Examples of this include irrigation services and landscaping. The Services Assessment will institutionalize the concept of home types – detached, townhome, and cottages - which the Developer Board used in the past for assessments but is not permitted in our current documents.
In addition, if an Owner receives services that are special or unique, then the Owner will receive an Individual Assessment. Things like the sprinkler inspections for certain Village Walk townhomes and violations/fines fall in this category. Most owners will not receive an Individual Assessment.
The second major change is that this draft Declaration (and all the other proposed documents) only uses the term “Common Areas” which simplifies reader understanding as well as reflects how New Town is actually laid out. There are no platted properties called “Limited Common Areas” and the Association never used the designation “Neighborhood Common Areas” in its assessments or contracting. Yet, these terms are woven throughout our current Governing Documents. There is no need to keep these artificial distinctions. The Board has confirmed that our recorded property information refers only to Common Areas or Common Open Spaces (Village Walk). As a community, we all have access to the green spaces, private roads, easements, pedestrian paths, and recreational facilities in New Town. So these documents now reflect these shared benefits and commonality.
The final group of major changes are to the “Protective Covenants”. In the crosswalk information between our current and proposed texts, you will see that most of the provisions of the existing “Use Restrictions” remain, but are renumbered/relocated. These are the elements on which the Board of Directors will build a set of revised NTRA Rules and Regulations in 2022. New items in this list are largely requirements from Virginia statutes including the provisions on Flags (7.8), Solar Devices (7.13), and Accessory Apartments (7.28) and we have added Dumpsters (7.15). Be aware that there are some clarifications to the Leasing (7.27) paragraph to cover temporary visitors, however, short-term rentals of less than a year remain prohibited.
To afford the Community the option of further expansion, a new Section 2.3 is in the draft in the event that the NTRA Members, not the Board, agree that additional property might benefit our Association. The rationale for this provision will be explained further in the September 22nd Town Hall.
You may find other differences in terms of language or organization in the Declaration, including the removal of old Article IX on Mortgagees. Read it over, send in your questions, and let us work together to clarify whatever we can. The future of the NTRA is in our hands.
COMING NEXT MONTH: Article on the "Neighborhood Supplemental Declaration"
Why Village Walk Is a Unique NTRA Neighborhood by Jim Ducibella
As one resident there put it, “Village Walk is a different animal.”
Nowhere is that borne out more than in the proposed Village Walk Supplemental Declaration, where the additional services that owners pay for are itemized. This single Supplemental Declaration would replace the six previous versions -- all written for this one neighborhood.
Before answering why that is the case, a tiny bit of history.
In June 1998 the Proffers for Section 9 of New Town were recorded in the James City County Clerk’s office. “Settler’s Market at New Town” would be maintained as a stand-alone development and not be subjected to the covenants, restrictions, terms and conditions of New Town.
In the intervening years, the proffers were modified several times first to bring the residential development into the New Town Commercial Association, then later to provide the option of moving it to the New Town Residential Association (NTRA) which finally occurred in 2014 through another Supplemental Declaration. And the NTRA is where Village Walk lives to this day, albeit after a change in name and builder.
Additional Services to Village Walk
What distinguishes Village Walk from other NTRA neighborhoods is the condominium-model of services that is stipulated in their Supplemental Declarations. Village Walk owners receives routine landscape to their Common Areas, but in addition, townhomes receive:
- Annual termite inspection and treatment
- Inspection and maintenance of sprinkler systems
- Repair or replacement of roof shingles, felt, sheathing and flashing
- Repair, maintenance or replacement of gutters and downspouts
- Maintenance of exterior surfaces limited to cornice, trim and siding (not door windows and frames)
- Periodic painting of painted exterior surfaces, including doors, trim and cornice
- All Common Area irrigation services, including repairs and maintenance.
Due to these additional services, Village Walk owners pay an additional Village Walk Reserve Fund contribution and owners have always paid an annual “Exterior Maintenance Assessment” over and above what the rest of NTRA owners pay. Everything extra was lumped into this category of exterior maintenance. The Finance Committee developed a plan in 2014 to determine how this money would be collected and used, and under what circumstances. This has evolved over time so that a Village Walk repair request system was recently established.
What is changing? Rather than using the term “Exterior Maintenance Assessment” to encompass everything, these items are now itemized and proposed to be included in the Services Assessment or Exterior Maintenance charge, respectively, of owners’ Annual Assessments.
In keeping with the new Governing Documents’ overall philosophy that Services Assessments are shared among a group of homeowners, some other previously shared expenses have been broken out for Individual Assessments.
- Maintenance on fire suppression systems installed in some but not all 4-story Village Walk townhomes would be charged as a separate Individual Assessment only to those Owners with the systems.
- Some townhomes were built using a post-tension slab system. The NTRA will maintain those elements, but the cost of doing so will be charged as an Individual Assessment only where that construction was used.
Yes, it may seem complicated. But the Board hopes it will also be fairer. Village Walk will have the same categories of assessment as everyone else in the NTRA (who are covered in the “Neighborhood Supplemental Declaration”), just laid out in a separate document.
Back to School – Already?! By Alison Douglas
As a British family staying here in Williamsburg for a short time, we have been trying to make the most of our time in America and enjoy the differences between here and our home in the U.K. Last Summer was our first in the USA and was dominated by Covid. Although the virus still looms large and it hasn’t gone away, we wanted to pack this summer full of travel and American experiences. We were lucky enough to make it to Florida (for the kids) and New England (for the adults). Closer to home, the music in the New Town has been plenty, with the Brass Tap having some of the liveliest crowds. We managed to celebrate Independence Day at the beach in Yorktown watching the parade and seeing the dolphins swimming up the York River. When its rained, the newly reopened New Town cinema has provided lots of entertainment (especially with its $1 Tuesdays and Wednesdays offer). We can’t forget a summer of sport with the postponed Olympics finally taking place in Tokyo and, for us, we got to see England finally play in a soccer final when they played Italy at Wembley in London in the (again, postponed) Euro 2020.
As the close of Summer is looming, our thoughts are turning to ‘Back to School’ activities. So, back to reality… With the mix of in-person and virtual learning, last year was a totally different experience for us all. As of right now, for those who have opted for in-person learning, schools are planning on going back to in-person learning for five days a week.
Due to bus driver shortages, the schedule for your children’s school may have changed, so check out the 2021-22 schedule here for start and finish times. Once again, the Virginia Departments of Health and Education is asking all students and staff (regardless of vaccination status) to wear face coverings during school time as well as on school buses.
Don’t forget that start and finish times may also have changed, so please remember to check WJCC and school emails and websites to get the accurate start time.
Finally, please don’t forget that the school term starts a little earlier this year. Happy back to schooling!
ARE YOU PREPARED TO SAVE A LIFE…MAYBE YOURS? By Jack Espinal
Ready or not -- disasters happen and they happen to people like you and me.
Are you confident you can take care of yourself, family members, and pets during and after a fire, hurricane, tornado, or other emergency? If the answer is “No,” but you want learn how training is available through James City County (JCC).
From September 30 through October 23, 2021, JCC Emergency Management will conduct a complimentary, comprehensive 9-session, classroom and hands-on training program to interested adult county residents. Training includes modules on Disaster Preparedness, Fire Safety, Terrorism & Disaster Psychology, First Aid, and more.
Upon completion of training you will:
Obtain the knowledge and skills needed to prepare for and survive a variety of disasters.
Learn why first responders may be delayed in arriving at large scale disasters and the importance and significance individual preparation.
Receive a backpack containing materials and tools to use in caring for yourself and family in an emergency.
Become qualified, but not obligated, to become part of the New Town Community Emergency Response Team.
Question: People often ask “What is the New Town CERT?”
Answer: New Town’s Community Emergency Response Team or CERT members are volunteers trained to assist in the event of an emergency in their community providing first aide and other assistance in the event first responders are delayed. Training ensures all work is done safely. While advantageous no prior medical training is required. A variety of duties exist so that adult (18 and older) volunteers with differing abilities and disabilities are encouraged to volunteer. CERT members come from all areas of our community; they are truck drivers, grandmothers, lawyers, retired military, secretaries, teachers, etc.
The objective of CERT is to safely assist New Town residents survive and recover from disasters as directed by the JCC Emergency Management.
To participate one must be an adult 18 and over who residents in JCC. All are welcome regardless of ability and/or disability.
The training CERT members receive teaches basic skills and prepares individuals to provide assistance safely and effectively -- without placing themselves in danger.
FEMA studies show that basic lifesaving skills applied rapidly after a disaster can save 40% or more of injured disaster survivors, who may not otherwise have survived.
To be effective the New Town CERT needs to grow! Please consider enrolling in the training and joining the New Town CERT. ALL RESIDENTS OF NEW TOWN ARE WELCOME.
To enroll in CERT training go to https://jamescitycountyva.gov/683/Emergency-Management.
For additional Information on CERT contact Mike Powers at Michael.Powers@jamescitycountyva.gov or call James City County Emergency Management at 757.565.7617.
For additional information on New Town’s CERT contact Jack Espinal, New Town CERT Team Leader at email@example.com or 703. 946.5787.
Quick Getaways – Norfolk Tides Baseball by Jim Ducibella
The Norfolk Tides are the AAA affiliate of the Baltimore Orioles, meaning the baseball players you see have either played for a major-league team, or are their way up to the majors.
Throw in the fact that the Tides play in one of the most scenic ballparks in professional sports – Harbor Park, a smaller version of Baltimore’s Camden Yards that has held the distinction of best minor league stadium, as proclaimed by Baseball America. The 12,000-seat ballpark sits on the Elizabeth River, with plenty of parking ($6) and nearby dining and drinking options (Waterside Live! Is within walking distance). Harbor Park also is known for its variety of food options, all reasonably priced.
As of this writing, the Tides feature three sons of famous sports fathers: First baseman Ryan Ripken (son of all-time great Cal, Jr.), outfielder Zach Jarrett (son of NASCAR Hall-of-Fame driver Dale Jarrett), and infielder Tyler Nevin (dad, Phil, was a major-league All-Star during his 2-year career).
The team, as such, isn’t having a particularly good season, though that’s not why people attend minor-league games. They go to see what they hope will be the stars of the future, and not pay major-league prices for tickets and food.
In that regard, the Tides are a bargain. The most expensive seats are just $14 each for advance purchase ($16 at the stadium.)
Like most minor-league teams, the Tides seem to have at least one promotion each game. Two that stand out: Saturday, Sept. 4 vs. Charlotte Knights (7:05 start, with post-game fireworks); Tuesday, Sept. 14 vs. Jacksonville (7:05 start, dubbed “Turn Back the Clock Night,” with hot dogs, popcorn and sodas selling for $.50). September 16’s game, also against Jacksonville, is a “Business Special Matinee,” and starts at 12:05.
For scheduling and other information, visit this website: https://www.milb.com/norfolk. You can also phone (757) 622-2222.