Town Crier Articles

Posted on June 1, 2021 7:03 AM by Stuart Dopp
Categories: NTRA Business
Perhaps you have dragged out the big notebook (or e-document) to study the original Master Declaration governing New Town. Kudos for due diligence! Now, it is time to tackle the swampy morass of the Supplemental Declarations. These are the documents that dictate services, easements, and some aspects of assessment protocols for the individual neighborhoods that constitute New Town. You will find a mess of contradictions and omissions in these Supplementals.
 
Each Supplemental identifies common areas within the neighborhood. Rightly, we should share in the cost for the upkeep of these spaces, as common areas and their beauty are shared by all residents.
 
Basic services for New Town lots are enumerated in Article IV, Section I of each Supplemental, including grass maintenance, trimming of trees and shrubs, sidewalk and streetlight repairs. Individual neighborhoods’ property assessments are supposed to stem from the services provided to the residences in that neighborhood. Let’s take Charlotte Park as an example of the swampy suction. Sixty-eight lots (covered by four Supplementals) do not have any services enumerated; twenty have basic services listed but have added responsibility for the maintenance of non-VDOT streets. Roper Park homes have a mishmash of basic services but varying requirements for maintaining easements, wetlands buffers, and non-VDOT streets. Village Walk adds a different dimension, as their assessments include exterior maintenance of housing. 
 
Equally confusing are easements for Neighborhoods. Easement policies for utilities, NTRA-owned pedestrian ways, and drainage are found in Section VIII of the Master, but there is no consistency in what is covered by Neighborhood Supplementals. Abbey Commons and Chelsea Green, for instance, have no mention of utility and pedestrian easements —- only drainage. Some neighborhoods have roadways that are maintained by the Association rather than VDOT, and thus should require easements.
 
These discrepancies need to be addressed, of course. You recently received an e-blast letter from the NTRA Board concerning the need for revisions to all our governing documents, so you know that they are working diligently, with legal guidance, to rectify the issues. There is a process to make this work transparent; you will receive updates and opportunities to comment. What is most important is this fact: you must be part of the vote to adopt the finished product (probably late in 2021). Two-thirds of owners must approve. Lacking that, we will be drowning in a quicksand of illogical policies written almost twenty years ago under a different set of circumstances. That could also place us in murky legal waters. Stay tuned…….
Posted on June 1, 2021 7:00 AM by Jim Carey
Categories: NTRA Business
Ever wonder how James City County and the New Town Residential Association (NTRA) make sure the streets, alleys, open spaces, and other improvements are constructed properly?  Well, here’s a brief summary. 
 
First the county must provide its approval that requirements have been met. Since New Town’s development has evolved over 20 years, each section is reviewed as the work is completed. The townhomes and about half the single-family homes in Charlotte Park, and homes in Chelsea Green, Savannah Square and Abby Commons have final approvals. 
 
Charlotte Park (Section 10), Roper Park townhomes and Village Walk are or will be in the county acceptance/final approval process and the ownership transferred to the NTRA in the next year or so. 
 
The county acceptance process kicks off when all the homes are completed and ready for occupancy or occupied. At that time the developer’s engineer prepares and submits to the county as-built plans detailing how all the improvements, alleys, parks, walkways, stormwater systems etc. were constructed. The county staff compares these plans and on-site conditions to the plans which the county originally approved. Often the county requires the developer to take remedial actions if the as built plans and/or field conditions do not comply with the original plans and county construction standards. When the county gives final approval, it will release financial guarantees that the developer posted to guarantee its obligation to complete the area in compliance with county requirements. 
 
The transition of ownership typically follows the county acceptance process. At this time the developer works with the NTRA to transfer ownership of the alleys, walkways, parks, stormwater systems etc. to the NTRA. (Homeowner associations often retain professional assistance in conducting a due diligence review.) Currently the developers are pursuing county acceptance for the remaining area of Charlotte Park and Village Walk. Atlantic Homes, the developer, has not yet initiated any county review for Roper Park. 
 
James City County conducted its field review of Charlotte Park last August.  The county subsequently issued a number of letters detailing deficiencies for corrective actions. The developer is still working to correct these items. So if you’ve seen plantings and curb/alley work around Christine Court, this is part of Atlantic Homes’s commitment to fix deficiencies. Once the necessary changes are submitted to the county, we will have a professional engineering firm participate in the final inspection on our behalf. 
 
According to David Carter of Village Walk, James City County inspectors and NTRA representatives have similarly met and identified a variety of issues that Eagle of Virginia, LLC is required to address in Village Walk before the transfer of assets can be completed. Some of these punch list items as well as planned amenities like benches and additional landscaping have already been addressed or are scheduled for completion shortly.
 
Posted on June 1, 2021 7:00 AM by Dick Durst, NTRA Board President
Categories: General, NTRA Business
In several of our neighborhoods the Board of Directors approved the removal of street trees that were dying or dead as part of our ongoing effort to keep our community looking its best.  Obviously, this is a two-step process: removing the trees/preparing the site for the new tree and then planting the replacement.  Simple….well, maybe not.
 
The removal of the trees (13 of them) went pretty well.  Then the challenges began….  We contracted with a local company, Colonial Colors, to plant the replacement trees.  We knew that the county identifies the placement of trees on the approved plats, but they also indicate the type of tree (linden, oak, maple, etc.).  If a tree dies, the county statues say you must replace those with the same species, since most of our streets have a consistent type of tree in order to maintain a cohesive “look” to the neighborhood.  The county also requires that street trees be a minimum of 1.5 “calipers” (the diameter of a tree, measured at breast height: 4.5 feet above the soil).  This is to better ensure that the tree will survive, since they are a bit more mature than the typical tree you might buy at your local big box store.  
 
We did not have the original plats, so we worked with JCC to find the original plats, then identify the types of trees, since we began this project in the winter after the trees had lost their leaves.  It took the county several weeks to locate the plats, then identify the trees.  We petitioned the county to reconsider the original linden trees on Town Creek Drive, since the original trees did not do well (we have six to replace, plus two more that will probably not survive this year).  The soil on that street is not just heavy clay, like so much of New Town, but very moist and the lindens do not tolerate that much moisture.  JCC relented and allowed us to plant red maples, which will complement the remaining lindens.
 
By the time we got the information and negotiated with JCC, it was near the ideal time to plant trees to enable them to begin to put down roots before the hot season begins in Williamsburg.  We gave the green light to Colonial Colors to purchase the replacement trees.  Finally, after four months of planning, we were on the way!
 
But wait—Colonial Colors checked with their regional suppliers, then expanded the search -- they have been unable to find ANY trees available anywhere in Virginia, of the type and size we need.   It appears that the COVID pandemic has affected yet another aspect of our society – people stuck at home began to do lots more landscaping and one supplier told us “we have sold three years’ worth of trees in the past nine months.”  So, we’ll just wait for trees to grow and mature a bit to reach the 1.5 caliper size…except trees are at a premium and suppliers aren’t willing to leave their stock just sit in their nurseries patiently growing, when other people, not subject to the JCC rules, are willing to buy them NOW.
 
The Board doesn’t really have a solution for this, yet.  We are hopeful that this run on trees will subside as the pandemic gets somewhat more under control and people resume some sense of normalcy in their lives.  In the meantime, we have two “holes” waiting for oak trees on Rollison, two for maples on Center, two sycamores on Discovery Park Blvd, and seven red maples on Town Creek Drive.  We are concerned about several more trees on Rollison and are waiting a bit to see if they are just late in leafing out.
 
So, be patient with us and thanks for your concerns.
Posted on June 1, 2021 6:59 AM by Town Crier Staff
BOARD BUZZ June 2021
Angela Lesnett, Vice President
 
Dear Neighbors - it’s finally summer, but before we all head to the beach let me recap actions the Board has taken on the important matter that has occupied most of our time and that will require your attention in the coming months: revision of NTRA’s Governing Documents.
 
Earlier this year the Board decided that it is necessary to revise and update the Association’s Governing Documents. At its March meeting, the Board emphasized its goals: understandable documents that provide a transparent assessment methodology and reflect New Town as a community with common areas and amenities shared by all homeowners. Those goals were highlighted in NTRA President Dick Durst’s April 1 “Board Buzz” article. Finally, on May 17 all NTRA owners received a letter from the Board explaining the background of this matter as well as some future actions. (That letter can be viewed on the NTRA website).
 
We are seeking equitable treatment of owners in our revised documents. We must strive for fairness in assessments, while recognizing that our New Town homes are not cookie-cutter units in a high-rise condo. One of several issues that must be resolved is the provision of landscape services in fenced yards. For more information, see the article in the May Town Crier (https://www.ntrawilliamsburg.org/news-articles-1/?view=blog&id=214)
 
Your part in this process will come this Fall. As you know, Member approval is necessary in order to change the Governing Documents. The Board will hold a town hall meeting at which you can ask questions about the revised documents and, later, vote on them. In the meantime, educate yourselves by reading eblasts, Town Crier articles, and website notices to stay informed about the issues. For example, we are already updating the FAQ page on the website
with answers to your questions. 
 
On a different topic, I’d like to remind owners of an existing covenant that is sometimes overlooked - - the requirement to obtain approval from the Architectural Review Committee (ARC) before commencing a project that alters the exterior appearance of your property. 
 
Before starting construction or installation of a patio, deck, fence, generator, or other structure, and before starting any alteration of the exterior (including changing a paint color) of any dwelling, the owner must submit an application to NTRA’s ARC and secure approval. The application form is available on the website. Other improvements that require ARC approval include awnings, changes to exterior lighting, storm doors, window boxes that are to be attached to the house or garage, large yard ornaments, play equipment, satellite dishes, and solar panels. See the ARC Procedural Guidelines for more information. Failure to submit an application and obtain approval before altering property is an NTRA violation and may result in a penalty.  https://www.ntrawilliamsburg.org/editor_upload/File/Policies%20%26%20Guidelines/4.0%20Architectural%20Review%20-%20Changes%20to%20Property/Architectural%20Review_Guidelines%20%282018%20rev%29.pdf
 
Finally, the Activities Committee is planning several fun and family-friendly events this summer. An ice-cream social will be held in mid-June and a pool party will be scheduled for July.  Also, the next New Town Talk (on Zoom) is scheduled for June 12. The title is “Williamsburg Regional Library – We’re Not Just Books” and the speaker will discuss the library’s digital collections that can be accessed with a library card.  Watch for more details on each of these events on eblasts, and Town Crier and Facebook notices.  The events will be posted on NTRA’s website calendar.
 
Membership in the NTRA carries with it both obligations, and benefits. Obligations include knowing and following the rules. Benefits include enjoyment of the Association’s amenities, such as social activities, our beautiful walking trails and, of course, the pool.  I hope to see you out and about this summer!
 
Supplemental Swampland
Stuart Dopp
 
Perhaps you have dragged out the big notebook (or e-document) to study the original Master Declaration governing New Town. Kudos for due diligence! Now, it is time to tackle the swampy morass of the Supplemental Declarations. These are the documents that dictate services, easements, and some aspects of assessment protocols for the individual neighborhoods that constitute New Town. You will find a mess of contradictions and omissions in these Supplementals.
 
Each Supplemental identifies common areas within the neighborhood. Rightly, we should share in the cost for the upkeep of these spaces, as common areas and their beauty are shared by all residents.
 
Basic services for New Town lots are enumerated in Article IV, Section I of each Supplemental, including grass maintenance, trimming of trees and shrubs, sidewalk and streetlight repairs. Individual neighborhoods’ property assessments are supposed to stem from the services provided to the residences in that neighborhood. Let’s take Charlotte Park as an example of the swampy suction. Sixty-eight lots (covered by four Supplementals) do not have any services enumerated; twenty have basic services listed but have added responsibility for the maintenance of non-VDOT streets. Roper Park homes have a mishmash of basic services but varying requirements for maintaining easements, wetlands buffers, and non-VDOT streets. Village Walk adds a different dimension, as their assessments include exterior maintenance of housing. 
 
Equally confusing are easements for Neighborhoods. Easement policies for utilities, NTRA-owned pedestrian ways, and drainage are found in Section VIII of the Master, but there is no consistency in what is covered by Neighborhood Supplementals. Abbey Commons and Chelsea Green, for instance, have no mention of utility and pedestrian easements —- only drainage. Some neighborhoods have roadways that are maintained by the Association rather than VDOT, and thus should require easements.
 
These discrepancies need to be addressed, of course. You recently received an e-blast letter from the NTRA Board concerning the need for revisions to all our governing documents, so you know that they are working diligently, with legal guidance, to rectify the issues. There is a process to make this work transparent; you will receive updates and opportunities to comment. What is most important is this fact: you must be part of the vote to adopt the finished product (probably late in 2021). Two-thirds of owners must approve. Lacking that, we will be drowning in a quicksand of illogical policies written almost twenty years ago under a different set of circumstances. That could also place us in murky legal waters. Stay tuned……
 
Hurricane Season Starts Today!
Emergency Preparedness Committee
 
The 2021 Atlantic Ocean hurricane season is projected to be another above average period. As NOAA’s Acting Administrator recently said, “… it only takes one storm to devastate a community.” Have you considered what you would pack if you need to evacuate your home? How organized are you to protect critical documents from damage? Do you have a “go” bag ready for a quick departure?
 
There are several new resources on the NTRA website to help you to prepare for such a family emergency. Look at the “Resources and Kits” information on the website - Emergency Preparedness Committee guidelines: 
 
Make a plan to keep your family together and safe. Are you ready?
 
 
New Book Club Forming
Ginny Fisher
 
With our community growing, we thought we might benefit by starting another book club. The idea would be to meet from September through June. Also, because some may occasionally be out of town, we’d choose books at the beginning of the year so everyone could plan when they’ll be able to attend and what books they’ll read. 
 
By discussing and planning books upfront, we hope to get a nice mix of high-quality books. We can then mix up autobiographies, fiction/ non fiction and maybe some “ice cream and lollipops” lighter books too. 
 
To start off the year here are a few we’ve chosen: Heartland, Sarah Smarsh (memoir), Three Ordinary Girls by Tom Brady (non-fiction), The Second Mountain by David Brooks (philosophy), Born a Crime, by Trevor Noah (autobiography).  Please bring along your book suggestions so we can discuss them at our first gathering in September. 
 
So, if you’re interested in joining us, please contact Ginny Fisher, ginnyfisher258@gmail.com.  Blanche Scharf and I look forward to hearing from you. Please let us know by August 1. 
 
Transitioning Ownership of New Town’s Neighborhoods
Jim Carey
 
Ever wonder how James City County and the New Town Residential Association (NTRA) make sure the streets, alleys, open spaces, and other improvements are constructed properly?  Well, here’s a brief summary. 
First the county must provide its approval that requirements have been met. Since New Town’s development has evolved over 20 years, each section is reviewed as the work is completed. The townhomes and about half the single-family homes in Charlotte Park, and homes in Chelsea Green, Savannah Square and Abby Commons have final approvals. 
Charlotte Park (Section 10), Roper Park townhomes and Village Walk are or will be in the county acceptance/final approval process and the ownership transferred to the NTRA in the next year or so. 
The county acceptance process kicks off when all the homes are completed and ready for occupancy or occupied. At that time the developer’s engineer prepares and submits to the county as-built plans detailing how all the improvements, alleys, parks, walkways, stormwater systems etc. were constructed. The county staff compares these plans and on-site conditions to the plans which the county originally approved. Often the county requires the developer to take remedial actions if the as built plans and/or field conditions do not comply with the original plans and county construction standards. When the county gives final approval, it will release financial guarantees that the developer posted to guarantee its obligation to complete the area in compliance with county requirements. 
The transition of ownership typically follows the county acceptance process. At this time the developer works with the NTRA to transfer ownership of the alleys, walkways, parks, stormwater systems etc. to the NTRA. (Homeowner associations often retain professional assistance in conducting a due diligence review.) Currently the developers are pursuing county acceptance for the remaining area of Charlotte Park and Village Walk. Atlantic Homes, the developer, has not yet initiated any county review for Roper Park. 
James City County conducted its field review of Charlotte Park last August.  The county subsequently issued a number of letters detailing deficiencies for corrective actions. The developer is still working to correct these items. So if you’ve seen plantings and curb/alley work around Christine Court, this is part of Atlantic Homes’s commitment to fix deficiencies. Once the necessary changes are submitted to the county, we will have a professional engineering firm participate in the final inspection on our behalf. 
According to David Carter of Village Walk, James City County inspectors and NTRA representatives have similarly met and identified a variety of issues that Eagle of Virginia, LLC is required to address in Village Walk before the transfer of assets can be completed. Some of these punch list items as well as planned amenities like benches and additional landscaping have already been addressed or are scheduled for completion shortly.
 
Town Talks - Williamsburg Region Library Digital Services - June 12 @ 10am (via ZOOM)
Ellen Weidman, Activities Committee
 
From ebooks, downloadable music, genealogy, and health research to direct assistance from librarians, you can find what you need through Williamsburg Regional Library’s (WRL) digital collections and services. We will discuss the variety of resources that can be accessed with your library card 24/7 from the WRL website, www.wrl.org. Whether you use a desktop computer, a laptop, or a mobile device there is something for you at WRL.
 
Barry Trott is Special Projects and Technical Services Director at the Williamsburg (VA) Regional Library, where he coordinates the library’s communications and marketing, statistical analysis, digital collections, services, and programs, including the library website, and acquisitions and cataloging. Barry is past-president of the American Library Association’s Reference and User Services Association (RUSA).  In 2007, he was awarded both the Public Library Association’s Allie Beth Martin Award and the ALA Reference and User Services Association’s Margaret E. Monroe Library Adult Services Award in recognition for his work in readers’ 
 
Where Are Our Trees?
Dick Durst, NTRA Board President
 
In several of our neighborhoods the Board of Directors approved the removal of street trees that were dying or dead as part of our ongoing effort to keep our community looking its best.  Obviously, this is a two-step process: removing the trees/preparing the site for the new tree and then planting the replacement.  Simple….well, maybe not.
 
The removal of the trees (13 of them) went pretty well.  Then the challenges began….  We contracted with a local company, Colonial Colors, to plant the replacement trees.  We knew that the county identifies the placement of trees on the approved plats, but they also indicate the type of tree (linden, oak, maple, etc.).  If a tree dies, the county statues say you must replace those with the same species, since most of our streets have a consistent type of tree in order to maintain a cohesive “look” to the neighborhood.  The county also requires that street trees be a minimum of 1.5 “calipers” (the diameter of a tree, measured at breast height: 4.5 feet above the soil).  This is to better ensure that the tree will survive, since they are a bit more mature than the typical tree you might buy at your local big box store.  
 
We did not have the original plats, so we worked with JCC to find the original plats, then identify the types of trees, since we began this project in the winter after the trees had lost their leaves.  It took the county several weeks to locate the plats, then identify the trees.  We petitioned the county to reconsider the original linden trees on Town Creek Drive, since the original trees did not do well (we have six to replace, plus two more that will probably not survive this year).  The soil on that street is not just heavy clay, like so much of New Town, but very moist and the lindens do not tolerate that much moisture.  JCC relented and allowed us to plant red maples, which will complement the remaining lindens.
 
By the time we got the information and negotiated with JCC, it was near the ideal time to plant trees to enable them to begin to put down roots before the hot season begins in Williamsburg.  We gave the green light to Colonial Colors to purchase the replacement trees.  Finally, after four months of planning, we were on the way!
 
But wait—Colonial Colors checked with their regional suppliers, then expanded the search -- they have been unable to find ANY trees available anywhere in Virginia, of the type and size we need.   It appears that the COVID pandemic has affected yet another aspect of our society – people stuck at home began to do lots more landscaping and one supplier told us “we have sold three years’ worth of trees in the past nine months.”  So, we’ll just wait for trees to grow and mature a bit to reach the 1.5 caliper size…except trees are at a premium and suppliers aren’t willing to leave their stock just sit in their nurseries patiently growing, when other people, not subject to the JCC rules, are willing to buy them NOW.
 
The Board doesn’t really have a solution for this, yet.  We are hopeful that this run on trees will subside as the pandemic gets somewhat more under control and people resume some sense of normalcy in their lives.  In the meantime, we have two “holes” waiting for oak trees on Rollison, two for maples on Center, two sycamores on Discovery Park Blvd, and seven red maples on Town Creek Drive.  We are concerned about several more trees on Rollison and are waiting a bit to see if they are just late in leafing out.
 
So, be patient with us and thanks for your concerns.
 
Farmers Market Brings Fresh & Local Produce to New Town
Sarah Carey
 
Have you visited New Town’s Farmers Market? Hopefully, but just in case you haven’t, here are the hours of operation and how the market came to New Town.
 
Also known as Christopher’s Produce Market, it was previously located on Richmond Road by IHOP.
Christopher Starbuck was and still is providing fresh produce to local restaurants, including Paul’s, here in New Town. George Tsipas, the owner of Paul’s, approached Christopher and asked if he would be interested in setting up a produce stand on New Town Avenue between the restaurant and Iron Bound Gym. Scott Grafton of Iron Bound Gym supported the idea and so it all began! Christopher’s Produce Market is also listed in the Iron Bound Gym newsletter and on Facebook under Williamsburg Eat Local.
 
Hours of operation currently are 10-4 Monday-Friday, 9-5 Saturday. Closed Sunday. The second week of June hours will be extended to 5 pm during the week when Christopher’s son finishes school. There will also be more local produce available.  So walk over to New Town Avenue and support local vendors!
 
Quick Getaways -- Lewis Ginter Botanical Gardens, Richmond
Jim Ducibella
 
The Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden in Richmond covers more than 50 acres of flowers, plants, trees, shrubs, with a conservatory that is the only one of its kind in the Mid-Atlantic and a host of programs that make this place far more than a walk through an oasis.
 
Open daily 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., with extended hours for special events, June’s calendar seems especially full and enticing. Through August 25, the Ginter is offering what it calls “Alfresco.” It is designed to be a relaxing evening for couples or friends to spend time together while socially distanced from others in Ginter’s magnificent Garden. Food and drink are available for purchase online or in person, though reservations are required.
 
The Ginter’s “Flowers After Five” programs feature food, music for background strolls and dining – and several special occasions. The second and fourth Thursday of the month are also “Fidos After 5 Nights,” when the Garden partners with the Richmond SPCA and leashed dogs are allowed onto the grounds.
 
There’s a Juneteenth celebration that is in partnership with Project Yoga Richmond from 9-11 a.m. on the Garden’s terraced lawn.
 
All areas of the children’s garden are open, except for Water Play. https://www.lewisginter.org/visit/kids-learning/.
 
For those not familiar with Lewis Ginter, he was a prominent businessman, financier, military officer, real estate developer and philanthropist and fierce supporter of Virginia’s capital city. The city’s world-famous Jefferson Hotel was a project of his. Ginter hired renown architects to design the structure, investing between $5 and $10 million.
 
He also commissioned Edward V. Valentine – Richmond’s Valentine Museum is named for him and his brother, Mann S. Valentine – to create the life-size statue of Thomas Jefferson that is the centerpiece of the hotel’s upper lobby.
 
At the time of his death in 1897, Ginter had amassed a vast fortune, some of which went to his niece, Grace Arents. It was Arents who turned Ginter’s Lakeside Wheel Club into, first, a progressive farm known as Bloemendaal, then the Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden.
 
Because of ongoing Covid-19 precautions, and Garden management’s desire to adhere to Virginia standards, admission and all events require advance purchase online, with customers choosing their arrival time.
 
The Garden is located at 1800 Lakeside Avenue in Richmond. The phone number is 804-262-9887. For a complete listing of requirements and events, visit this website https://www.lewisginter.org/.
 
Home Maintenance Series: Stair Lifts & Personal Elevators
Patti Vaticano
 
New Town has its share of innovative floor plans on 2, 3, and even 4 story levels.  Style and grace have been our community’s hallmark, but multilevel living presents unique challenges for homeowners. For the elder New Town resident, stairs are an obstacle to easy living but trading off the energy and convenience of “life in town,” for a ranch or carriage home further out in the county may not be a viable option.  For residents with personal elevators in their homes, a complex interior conveyor, while novel, presents a considerable undertaking in time and money to maintain.  
 
Installation of a stair lift—or two—is the chief way for residents to age in place and a great alternative to moving to a more manageable, albeit, less centrally located home. Of course, the first question is cost.  Stair lifts can be costly, but when compared to the cost of a house move or a senior care transition, it’s a downright bargain.  Though not a hard-and-fast rule, some Medicare supplements will pay for a stair lift, in whole or in part, if the need for one is a medical issue and sanctioned by a physician. The homeowner may be able to take advantage of state grants to fund their lifts, as well, or tap into state assistive technology projects that are in place to help the disabled. In general, however, a lift will be an out-of-pocket expense for the homeowner.
 
If your home has a straight staircase with about 12-14 steps, you should budget anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000 to purchase a new stair lift. The average cost usually ends up in the middle of this range, between about $3,000 and $4,000. Outdoor steps are more expensive, ranging from $5,000 to $7,000, with outdoor curved lifts reaching as high as $12,000, depending upon the company contracted, of course.  These prices generally include installation as well as a one-year service warranty. It is possible to rent a stairlift if the need of the homeowner is temporary, for a convalescent period or when a short-term visit of a disabled friend or family member is anticipated.  Rentals are not always cost-effective, however, as they can range from as little as $50 to as much as $250 to $500 a month.  In a rental scenario, as well, repair costs thereafter may be necessary to bring your home back to its pre-lift appearance.  Not surprisingly, the higher-end lifts offer a number of design options for the homeowner, from slim-line and/or collapsible designs and curved or customed tracks to color-coordinated fabrics for your home interior.  A standard lift, however, will meet the needs necessary to tackle the dilemma of an aging household in a multi-level home.  
 
Lifts are most often powered by a rechargeable battery which offers unbroken service if a home’s power is ever interrupted.  However, some companies advise that you turn the lift off during an outage to preserve it from sustaining a possible power surge when the power comes back on. It is recommended, to reach maximum battery performance, to use your lift chair regularly, keep it plugged in to its wall outlet, at all times, and park your lift in the down level or up level space, never mid-track.  When out of town, turn off the lift entirely by its power button. The track should be dusted and the seat and back portion sanitized, regularly; and a maintenance check by the professional installer, once a year, is highly advisable.
 
New Town residents with personal elevators have a lengthier maintenance checklist to address.  To ensure a fully functional home elevator, there are specific rules the homeowner needs to follow for both safety and damage-control issues:
  • Pay attention to the elevator’s weight limit — don’t overload it;
  • Keep all contents at least 2 inches away from the cab gate and cab wall;.
  • Always keep the landing doors closed unless you’re getting in or out of your elevator;
  • Don’t operate your elevator if the car gate or landing door locking system seems to be malfunctioning;
  • Never tamper, bypass, disable or remove door locks or any other safety features;
  • Don’t operate your elevator if you hear strange sounds or if the ride seems unusual;
  • Make sure the elevator completely stops before you get out or in and be sure to watch your step;
  • Don’t open the car gate while the elevator is moving or put your hands or feet through the openings in a scissor-style gate; and
  • Schedule regular maintenance checks with the elevator’s professional installer as well as perform self-checks between your services dates.  By way of example, when you step into the elevator, make note of the following:
    • Are all of the buttons working as they should be?
    • Does the door open and close properly?
    • Do you notice any interior damage at a glance?
 
Stair lifts and personal elevators.  Not inexpensive or maintenance-free, but the best options for New Town residents who love their home and community and choose to age in place.
 
Posted on May 1, 2021 7:03 AM by Stuart Dopp
Categories: NTRA Business
Remember the big fat notebook? The one you received when you bought your home in New Town? Or perhaps you received e-files or a link to the NTRA disclosure packet? Did you find it so fascinating that you read each and every page? In the midst of buying, building, selling, clearing, and traveling from out of town, I felt good that I scanned the developer’s documents, reviewed the salient points with the realtor, and then found a place on the bookshelf for the notebook.
 
Fast forward to 2021, when responsibility and control has shifted from the developer to the New Town Residential Association. As I sift through the old documents, I realize how outmoded most of our Declarations have become. They were written, of course, for the developers, so must be revisited with an eye to owners’ governance. The overarching Master Declaration defines and details the terms used in the documents, and many sections start with statements such as, “The developer reserves the right….” Section II is devoted entirely to the Developers’ rights regarding not-yet-developed additional areas that they owned as Class B members, which ended in April, 2020. In a minor example of the inefficient documents now in use, the Master Declaration expounds at length on “Limited Common Areas,” exclusively for the use of a small group of homes. Actually, there are none, but the verbiage creates confusion. The Master Declaration also sets up general purposes and terms for assessments that are carried into some but not all Supplemental Declarations, so there is great need for clarity and corrections. 
 
Our governing documents clearly need an upgrade to reflect our new status and needs. Thanks go to our diligent NTRA Board, who are in fact reading every page and will be undertaking the needed revisions with the help of our Association attorney. We can all look forward to a set of documents that accurately reflect our policies and situations with consistency, transparency, and fairness. Changing these documents ultimately requires a vote —- including yours. More information will be forthcoming, so stay tuned…
Posted on May 1, 2021 7:02 AM by Mary Cheston, Board of Directors
Categories: General, NTRA Business
Submitted by Mary Cheston, Board of Directors and David Carter, Chair, Landscape Advisory Committee (LAC)
 
The Rules – Mary Cheston
 
Did you know that under our governing documents no routine landscape services (mowing, edging and trimming of grass or trimming of shrubs, trees and bushes) are to be provided within any fenced area in New Town? This is the standard language contained in 17 of the 21 Supplemental Declarations* for the neighborhoods of our residential community. All homeowners acknowledged receipt of this information when their homes were purchased.  Yet since New Town’s early days, the Association has been acting in violation of its requirements and maintaining the entire yards of its residents, fenced or not. 
 
Why was this limitation put into the governing documents? Perhaps it was seen as a cost saving measure or a way to limit the number of fences in our community, the rationale is not apparent. But regardless of its origins, we have provisions in our documents that should be enforced. The courts have ruled that failure to enforce a covenant does not waive it. In fact, Article 9.3 of our Master Declaration includes a statement that failure to enforce any provision of the Declaration or its Supplemental Declarations does not constitute a waiver. Since early 2020, the Association has been advised by counsel that the services should be discontinued until our governing documents are changed.
 
Changing this language to accommodate the existing practice is not within the power of the Board of Directors. Why can’t the Board of Directors just pass a resolution with a new policy? The only way that our Association’s highest level governing documents (Master Declaration, Supplemental Declarations and Bylaws) can be amended is through a 2/3 vote of the Members of the Association. So to continue with landscaping, these fence provisions must be reconsidered during our future NTRA governing document revisions. 
 
The Landscape Perspective – David Carter
 
In 2021 New Town’s landscape services are again being provided by Virginia Lawn and Landscape. In an effort to balance homeowners’ expectations for services and to provide efficient and quality service to all, it's important to understand a few basic principles of the services rendered. To begin, services are provided for the benefit of all homeowners in New Town, for single family homes with larger lot sizes, townhomes which share contiguous lots and townhomes with only common areas that are maintained along with all of the other common areas. The cost basis and time constraints required to provide services is always a challenge.
 
The landscape crew's time is allotted to accommodate all of New Town's over 350 acres, and this requires managing a variety of environments. One of these is fences. Depending on the fence type, trimming takes a lot of time and precision and slows crews, which often impacts the work schedule. Mow too close and you create wear patterns in the turf and the blades of grass, and even the fence posts can be problematic. Homeowners have experienced damage to fence posts from mowing equipment. They expect the landscaper to repair them. Uneven ground also makes it difficult to mow and trim grass at a consistent height and increases the risk of cutting into the ground. Because our landscaper follows recommended heights for optimum turf, and to avoid the up and down adjustment of multiple pieces of equipment, a standard setting for mowers is utilized. Trimming around flower beds and tree rings in smaller fenced areas is also time consuming and labor intensive. Oftentimes hardscape inside or adjacent to fenced areas may include rocks, boulders, or pavers with knee walls, all of these take additional time and care. Crews are trained how to handle these situations, but there's no question, this takes considerable time and effort and with the proliferation of fences in New Town, this increased work was not factored into the VLL contract with the NTRA. 
 
The Quandary
 
So, the NTRA is providing services that are not permitted in our governing documents and are creating problems for both the homeowner and the contractor, what should be done?
 
The most direct and legal resolution of this issue is to stop providing these mowing and pruning services within fenced areas. Homeowners would still be entitled to landscaping maintenance outside the fenced areas, but would be responsible for their own landscaping within their fences. The Board of Directors may need to correct this situation soon. It is certainly not an easy decision and will create turmoil. We recognize this is painful, and therefore, want to build awareness and consider options prior to strict enforcement.
 
How long should we give owners to make other arrangements for their fenced area landscaping? Can we provide the service as an extra amenity with conditions? One option might be to provide landscape maintenance service at an extra fee (a limited common expense assessment) to those with fenced yards. Perhaps the Association should require fences to have mulch under the fence posts so that grass is distanced from the fence in order to qualify for landscaping and reduce potential damage (currently this practice is recommended by the LAC and Architectural Review Committee for construction of any new fences.)
 
The ultimate solution is to consider what our policy as a community should be, and fix our documents accordingly.  What should we say about fences and landscaping in our revision to our governing documents that the Board is starting? 
 
We welcome suggestions, through comments below or email us via the website committee: ntrawebsitecommittee@gmail.com.
 
_____________________________
* Four of 11 Charlotte Park Supplementals are missing the applicable section relating to services. These omissions are administrative errors that need to be fixed during the NTRA governing documents revision.
Posted on May 1, 2021 7:00 AM by Town Crier Staff
Categories: NTRA Business
The joint maintenance building at 5585 Discovery Park Boulevard is nearing its final approval for occupancy. The concept of having a storage building in New Town for supplies, decorations, and maintenance equipment was first discussed in November 2014. Various alternatives were explored over the years including a “community building” until the New Town Residential Association (NTRA) Board of Directors and the New Town Commercial Association (NTCA) Board agreed to focus on storage, especially a location for the gators and equipment used to maintain the community. A variety of delays, including Covid-related interruptions, affected the building’s originally projected July 2020 completion – electrical work, landscaping installation and JCC permitting were the final steps. According to Tim Grueter of Town Management, “Once the builder receives the certificate of occupancy, the building will be turned over to the NTCA and the NTRA can start to move things in.” The Discovery Park Boulevard site was purchased by the NTCA and the NTRA will pay a user fee for storing materials in the building under the terms of the 2015 Amenities Use Easement and Agreement (aka Shared Amenities Agreement.) 
 
under construction
 
final
Posted on May 1, 2021 7:00 AM by Jim Ducibella
There are big changes ahead for the swimming pool -- but most will occur after the 2021 swim season has concluded in September.
 
In the meantime, the pool is scheduled to open on Saturday May 29, Memorial Day weekend. Hours will be Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday and holidays from, 11:30 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. On Saturdays, the pool will be open from 10 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
 
Again this year there are numerous Covid-19 stipulations, outlined by the Virginia Department of Health (VDH), that will be enforced similar to last season. Among other requirements, updated by the State on April 8, 2021, is that there be 10 feet of separation between households, and that occupancy is limited to 75 percent of capacity. Swimmers should maintain 10 feet of distance between other swimmers who are not family members.
 
Two lifeguards will be on duty each shift, one specifically focused on Covid-19 requirements: sign-in, ensuring forms are signed, maintaining documentation, and disinfecting areas. Although lifeguards will not take the temperature of pool guests, they will collect and review screening forms from guests unless it interferes with the lifeguard’s primary responsibilities.
 
Among the screening questions asked: 
  • Have you had a positive test for the virus that causes Covid-19 in the prior 10 days, or known exposure to a Covid-19 case in the previous 14 days?
  • Are you currently experiencing a fever of 100.4 degrees or higher, or a sense of having a fever? 
  • Do you have a new cough, shortness of breath or chills that cannot be connected to another health condition? 
  • Do you have any muscle aches that cannot be attributed to another health condition or specific activity such as physical exercise?
 
As far as the pool’s physical plant is concerned, you may have noticed that the water has been emptied. In preparation for the 2021 season, half of the frames and grates will be replaced as required by law. The remaining grates and frames won’t be done until after the season. 
 
The pool pergola is also being repaired. This involves power washing the structure and replacing some rotted joists. Most of the structure will be repainted, except for the new wood that must season. So if you see a half-painted pergola, don’t worry. In the Fall after the wood has seasoned, it will also be repainted.
 
Concrete is being added to replace the plantings closest to Roper Park within the pool area. The Landscape Advisory Committee recommended expanding the hardscape to provide more access for chairs and eliminate dying vegetation.  
 
After the upcoming season, a major pool renovation will be undertaken. Bids and contractor discussions are underway. The job is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $50,000. It includes, but is not restricted to, the resurfacing of the pool, recharging filters, cleaning and lubricating of push-pull valves, replacing four skimmers and recaulking the pool perimeter.
 
Finally, a contract will be signed with a pool company to do a winter servicing, including regular checks. This servicing will preclude the pool from being emptied and completely refilled at the beginning of each season, normally about a $3,000 expenditure.
 
Most of these expenses are covered by the NTRA Replacement Reserves. Originally planned for 2023, the pool renovation timetable was moved up based on inspections that revealed faster deterioration than predicted. Our community pool first opened in 2012 and hopefully its refurbishment will keep us swimming safely for years to come. 
 
 
Posted on April 1, 2021 7:03 AM by Activities Committee
Earth Day this year is scheduled for Thursday April 22 and the NTRA Activities Committee will be conducting a New Town Earth Day Cleanup in our neighborhoods.  The Activities Committee will have trash bags available for pick up to fill as well as guidance on areas that are accessible and those that are either not safe or not NTRA property where trespassing would be permitted. Safety for COVID purposes and use of gloves, grabbers, etc is recommended. Children should be supervised in this family friendly activity. More details will be communicated via email blast to all residents. 
 
Posted on April 1, 2021 7:00 AM by Mary Cheston, Board of Directors
Categories: NTRA Business
At its March 2021 meeting the Board of Directors revisited the convoluted history of mailbox maintenance in New Town. Since the last policy on maintenance was adopted in 2019 (see May 2019 Crier article), the Association obtained cost information for repairs but had not funded this maintenance. Given the anticipated expense of this work, the Board has returned to the original 2011 NTRA policy position on mailboxes.
 
The rationale for this decision is that mailboxes are an exterior feature of a home provided as an improvement by the builder (per our Master Declaration). Owners are required to keep all improvements to lots “in good order and repair.” 
 
Further, mailboxes are a part of the NTRA’s home Exterior Maintenance inspection process and deficiencies are identified during inspection reports.  Such deficiencies in any part of the mailbox assembly (metal box, post/support, post cap and newspaper tube) must be corrected by the homeowner, in accordance with the Exterior Maintenance policy. All costs are to be borne by the owner of the mailbox, even for multi-family boxes where owners are expected to share costs.
 
In other words, get your paint brushes out! The March 25th resolution supersedes all previous policies. For a copy of the full resolution click here
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