BOARD BUZZ - October 2022, by Jack L Espinal
Posted on Oct 1st, 2022
Thoughts of a “New” Board Member
I have two objectives for this month’s Board Buzz. First, to let you know what it’s like becoming a NTRA Board member and second, to update you on four critical issues facing our community that will have a significant impact on our future.
Becoming a Board Member. On a cold and rainy Saturday afternoon last December I decided to relax and read through the NTRA documents to prepare for my new volunteer job as a NTRA board member. I don’t like reading from a computer screen so I printed the documents to have them available for future reference. After using over a ream of paper and part of new toner cartridge I begin wondering what I had gotten myself into. Why were these documents so voluminous? But I began my reading anyway. I was familiar with many of the concepts from my previous experience on HOA boards. It was not long before I started noticing apparent contradictions about requirements that I had already read. I kept having to go back and reread items to understand what was really correct. I tried to do electronic searches to find the contradictions, but that wouldn’t work. The developer governing documents are just not searchable electronically. The only solution was to manually scan and then reread. Now I understood why there had been such a push to revise these obsolete developer documents over the previous year. I continued to read late into the night.
I concluded that I was going to have to juggle my time between dealing with normal day-to-day Association management issues, the ongoing task of working the homeowner suggested changes and additions into the new documents, and answering homeowner questions about the existing documents. I figured that when the revised documents were approved by the community things would get much easier. That day is not here yet, but I hope that it’s coming soon with the passing of the revised NTRA documents. It is also my hope that no other Board member will have to endure reading and researching the current developer-oriented documents. They are a real mess.
That said, I promised to address four of the recent day-to-day issues that your Board of Directors has been working on.
Landscaping. We are currently in the process of selecting a contractor to provide landscaping services to the Association for the next three years. Your Landscape Advisory Committee (LAC) took the first step by developing a Request for Proposal (RFP) based upon the Association’s needs and sample RFPs from other communities in the area. The LAC produced an excellent, well written document. The Board reviewed and edited it and then it was circulated to five landscape contractors in the Williamsburg area.
We gave interested contractor representatives a half-day tour through our New Town community pointing out the work that would be performed under both service scenarios. We visited each neighborhood and discussed their own unique requirements.
Four of the five contractors elected to provide proposals. The written responses to the RFP and cost data were then used to rank each of their proposals. Next, representatives from the top two contractors were interviewed separately. These companies will return their best and final offer to the Board soon based on our questions and expectations. The next step in this process will be the selection of a new three-year landscaping contractor. The Board will invite our new contractor to an information meeting with owners to share their company’s landscaping practices and expectations.
Common Area Acceptance. For developer-owned property to be accepted by the Association, that Common Area property and all its improvements must be in an acceptable condition as judged by the Association. The three neighborhoods that are candidates for future turnover have not progressed to the acceptance stage yet. Let me explain.
Charlotte Park Phase 11 has just begun the process of County acceptance that precedes any possible turnover. In September James City County conducted its initial inspection of the Roper Park limited to streets, curbs and gutters and drop inlets. Our Giles and Flythe engineer accompanied the inspectors and will be submitting a report on all items in these areas. This report will baseline the condition of the neighborhood for us. The Roper Park Working Group of residents will also walk the area in October to inventory and document their concerns. ABVA will be working on the items identified by the County, including curbs and patching. Given past timelines, it will likely be 2023 before the problems are corrected, reinspected, etc.
For Charlotte Park Phase 10, James City County is still working with ABVA on the drainage situation in Ercil Way, so that issue has not been resolved since our community meeting in May. No formal request has yet been made for turnover of this area.
Village Walk: Members of the Board have met with James City County executives to discuss the developer turnover status in Village Walk. We learned that although the County no longer holds the construction bonds for the Village Walk common areas, more work is needed to the streets for their VDOT acceptance. James City County must now absorb the cost of those road repairs.
While Settlers Market/Eagle has formally asked for the Association to accept the common areas (green space, walkways, etc.) within the residential area, the Board has not agreed to accept them. We provided a detailed list of issues to Eagle and based on lack of progress to date, anticipate it will be a drawn-out process. Regardless of the status of the James City County’s acceptance or the bond release, the NTRA still has the right and responsibility to ensure that the property is in an acceptable condition to the Association before it is accepted. The Board is looking after all owners’ interests in this process.
Construction Defects in Village Walk. The Board Is also dealing with roofing and siding installation deficiencies in Village Walk. Roofs are leaking and, in several cases, have had to be replaced after only four or five years of service. Fiber cement siding is cracking and coming off numerous Village Walk buildings. NTRA hired engineers to determine the cause of the failures and they determined that the issues are caused by improper installation and do not result from design features. Board members, representatives of Eagle Construction VA, and lawyers from both sides have met to work on an acceptable solution for these problems. Again, the Board is looking out for your interests in this area.
New Development. The Manor on the Green development is undergoing James City County site plan review. In anticipation that this apartment complex will move forward, the Board plans to develop a resident parking only system for our private roadways to help alleviate parking issues. Unfortunately, the Board does not have the same authority on the VDOT owned streets in New Town. James City County experts have asked the Manor on the Green developers to address a number of items including parking issues and stormwater retention concerns.
Final Thoughts. It is my hope that the New Town owners will vote “for” the revised NTRA documents so that the Board can direct its full efforts towards resolving the above problems and others like them for the benefit of our Association and its members. I have read both sets of HOA documents and have concluded that everyone, including a few current vocal detractors, will be far, far better off under the revised NTRA documents once they are approved. If the necessary two thirds vote of our membership is not received, the only winners will be the developers and the litigation lawyers. The losers will continue to be the property owners and residents of New Town.
This is a critical time for New Town and we really have only two choices to make: we can continue to operate under obsolete, convoluted, and developer-oriented documents with missing sections or we can move forward with simpler, shorter, and easier to read and understand revised documents. Our Association will be governed by this decision for a long time into the future. The passage of these revised documents is critical and will allow all future Boards to operate more efficiently and effectively dealing with the multitude of problems facing the New Town community.
Please vote in favor of approving the revised documents.
Why are residents that may not approve of the new Governing Document referred to as Detractors. All residents have the right to their opinions and to talk to and communicate with their neighbors as well. Residents shouldn't be labeled by the BoD, because the BoD doesn't agree with them. This is disrespectful and unprofessional for the BoD to post.
The NTRA Board has always been open to communication from all members of our community. However, to be beneficial, that communication should be fair and truthful. There are a few owners in New Town that have been less than truthful with their communications about the Board and to our community. Even so, the Board has always listened to and/or read those communications. Further, the Board has always responded accordingly. In one case the author of several distributed messages, filled with false information and half-truths, demanded that the Board remove a specific document along with the Board’s responses to its false statements from the NTRA website because he held a copyright on his original document. The Board complied. The Board has also been described in a number of derogatory ways in these communications. When I receive this kind of information, I can only conclude that the authors are in fact vocal detractors, i.e. critics who are spreading misinformation. Certainly not all residents who oppose the documents are such vocal critics, but my article specifically said “a few vocal detractors.”
I am always open to ideas and suggestions, including yours, that will improve the New Town community.