Glenwood Estates Restriction Amendments Vote Results

On April 30, the Glenwood Estates Association Board of Directors conducted its spring meeting, concluding with a vote on the proposed Restrictions amendments distributed in March. Residents had nearly 7 weeks to review the proposed changes and to submit a proxy form if unable to attend.

  • 31 Glenwood Estates households were present
  • 11 proxy voters were represented
  • To become effective, each Amendment required 28 votes in its favor (Member households plus proxy voters represented)

Please refer to this document to understand the amendments that went to a vote.

The following amendments become effective immediately as mandated by a 2/3 majority of those in attendance and proxy votes:

  • The amendment to Restriction 4 passed with 40 votes (95%) in favor
  • The amendment to Restriction 6 passed with 36 votes (86%) in favor
  • The amendment to Restriction 9 passed with 39 votes (93%) in favor
  • The amendment to Restriction 12 passed with 37 votes (88%) in favor
  • The amendment to Restriction 13 passed with 36 votes (86%) in favor
  • The amendment to Restriction 14 passed with 34 votes (81%) in favor
  • The amendment to Restriction 15 passed with 40 votes (95%) in favor
  • The amendment to Restriction 16 passed with 39 votes (93%) in favor
  • The amendment to Restriction 17 passed with 40 votes (95%) in favor
  • The amendment to Restriction 19 passed with 35 votes (83%) in favor
  • The amendment to Restriction 22 passed with 36 votes (86%) in favor
  • The amendment to Restriction 26 passed with 33 votes (79%) in favor
  • The addition of Restriction 29 passed with 30 votes (71%) in favor
  • The addition of Restriction 30 passed with 42 votes (100%) in favor

The following amendments failed to achieve the necessary 2/3 votes:

  • The amendment to Restriction 24 failed with 27 votes (64%) in favor

The newly amended Restrictions for Glenwood Estates will be posted to our website at glenwoodestates.org/restrictions as soon as they are legally recorded with Madison County.

Restrictions Amendments Q&A

We’ve had some great questions regarding our proposed Restrictions amendments, so we thought we’d address them here for everyone. You may view the complete document with proposed amendments here.

Q:  If I can’t make the meeting on April 30, can I still vote?
A:  Absolutely. You received a proxy form and may either assign voting power to another Member who plans to attend, or you may allow the Board to vote on your behalf. If you’d like the Board to vote for you, simply check the appropriate box on the proxy form, sign it and drop it off at 42 Glen Echo.

Q:  Will we be voting for the amendments individually or as a single vote for all?
A:  A separate vote will be conducted for each proposed amendment. This is not an all or nothing process.

Q:  Why are these specific amendments being proposed?
A:  Our Restrictions haven’t been updated since the subdivision was built in 1966. Further, the 6th Addition (areas of Northlane and Westglen) have a minimally different set of restrictions that has caused confusion through the years, and we want to unify everything into a single, comprehensive set for all Members.

You may view a map of the Additions here, and the difference in the two sets of Restrictions here.

Additionally, these proposed amendments are the result of Board member experience, general Member feedback through the years and a response to the results of a survey we conducted in fall 2016. Of the 143 households that participated in the survey, we found:
 

  • 74% of survey participants felt strongly to very strongly that homeowners should have the right to operate home-based businesses. As such, we propose an update to Restriction 4 to add language permitting professionals to work from home, provided it does not create a burden to the neighborhood.
     
  • 69% of survey participants felt strongly to very strongly that Village of Glen Carbon ordinances are sufficient as lawn and foliage maintenance standards. Accordingly, we propose an update to Restriction 9 to align with Village ordinances and to address overgrown and/or dead trees, bushes and foliage.
     
  • 71% of survey participants felt strongly to very strongly that homeowners should be permitted to have sheds in Glenwood Estates. Accordingly, we propose an update to Restriction 14 to permit sheds, provided specific criteria and processes are followed.
     
  • 87% of survey participants felt strongly to very strongly that fences should be allowed in Glenwood Estates. We propose an update to Restriction 17 to permit fences up to 6 feet in height, provided specific criteria and processes are followed.
     
  • 54% of survey participants felt strongly to very strongly that yard signs should be allowed in Glenwood Estates. As such, we are proposing an update to Restriction 19 to permit reasonable signs, provided specific criteria are followed.
     
  • We propose updating Restriction 22 to remove “boats, boat trailers” from the list of storage items; these items are addressed in the proposed revision to Restriction 24.
     
  • 49% of survey participants felt strongly to very strongly that there are too many vehicles parked on the streets in Glenwood Estates. 19% were neutral on the matter and 32% disagreed to strongly disagreed. As such, we propose an update to Restriction 24 to provide clear parameters for limited street parking. We also propose language to establish that campers, RVs, boats and trailers must be permanently stored in a fully enclosed garage or offsite facility since 55% of survey participants felt strongly to very strongly about it.
     
  • 60% of survey participants felt strongly to very strongly that lot owners should not be able to sue one another solely on the grounds of a Restriction violation. Accordingly, we propose an update to Restriction 26 to provide the Board of Directors a clear, consistent escalation path for enforcement of our restrictions.
     
  • 62% of survey participants felt strongly to very strongly that additional rental properties should not be permitted in Glenwood Estates. The addition of Restriction 29 is proposed to prevent additional rental properties in the neighborhood and to require landlords to register their renters with the Association since such information is not publicly available.
     
  • The addition of Restriction 30 was proposed to enable us to enforce the rules posted in our park.
     
  • We propose an update to Restriction 6 to add inclusive language regarding domestic partners.
     
  • We propose an update to Restriction 16 to add language permitting fire pits.

The following amendments are proposed to create an identical set of Restrictions for all additions, incorporating those that differ in the 6th addition:

  • Since the 6th Addition (areas of Northlane and Westglen) currently has a separate set of standards for dwelling size and exterior coverage specifics, Restriction 12 was updated to create a single Restriction incorporating these specifics from the 6th Addition with those of all other additions. None of the content has changed whatsoever; rather, we’ve just incorporated the appropriate language corresponding to all sections into one Restriction that will apply for all additions in an effort to unify the documents.
     
  • We propose an update to Restriction 13 to align with criteria in the 6th Addition timing: all construction projects must be completed within 9 months instead of 12 months from start of construction or start of material delivery.
     
  • We propose an update to Restriction 15 to reflect language present in the 6th Addition Restrictions requiring all homes to be connected to the Glen Carbon Sanitary Sewer System instead of the septic tank language that is present in documents that originated in 1966.

If you have additional questions, please contact us on Facebook or email hello@glenwoodestates.org and we will do our best to answer. 

Postponing the Restrictions Amendment Vote

We are postponing the Sunday, December 11 vote to amend Glenwood Estates’ restrictions to a date to be determined in the spring.  We apologize for any inconvenience, but feel that postponing will provide for improved language, a longer homeowner review period for the proposed amendments, and greater attendance at the vote itself.

Getting it Right
Since the close of the resident survey, the Glenwood Estates Association has been working on amended Restrictions that reflect the desires of most Glenwood Estates homeowners. In changing 50-year-old documents for the first time, it’s important that this is a thoughtful process and vital that the language be reasonable, specific and clear. It is challenging, but essential that we get it right.

More Time for You to Review
Current bylaws require any proposed amendments to be shared with Residents for a minimum of 10 days prior to a vote. Our goal is also to provide you with a longer period of review, and postponing this vote should allow us to give you significantly more time to review the proposed amendments once they are ready.

Improving Attendance
We have also heard your feedback about past votes. Some were critical of the January 2016 vote to raise dues, citing concerns about poor attendance due to the threat of inclement weather. We are committed to being fair and inclusive in this most important vote, and a spring time vote eliminates challenges presented by winter weather and busy holiday schedules.

Next Steps
Once we have the final language for the proposed amendments, we will share those amendments with all homeowners, along with a new date for the vote this spring. We will also provide proxy forms for any homeowners unable to attend in person.

We will be posting this message on our website, on Facebook and via our email newsletter as well as on the entrance sign. Please help spread the word to residents who may not be online.

Thank you for your understanding in this important matter.
The Glenwood Estates Association

Neighborhood Vote Results

The Glenwood Estates Homeowner’s Association is pleased to announce the conclusion and results of our neighborhood vote. We want to first take an opportunity to thank homeowners for their participation in this important process.

Late in the process, we learned that homeowners in Sherwood on the Lake are bound by the Restrictions of their own separate Sherwood on the Lake Association. And while Sherwood on the Lake homeowners are required to be dues-paying Members of not only their own Association, but also the Lake Hillcrest Corporation and the Glenwood Estates Association, the process for amending their Restrictions must be initiated and conducted by their own Association. As such, votes collected from Sherwood on the Lake homeowners will not be counted as part of this initiative. We apologize for any inconvenience or confusion; however, this does not impact the outcome of the Glenwood Estates vote.

The provision for amending Glenwood Estates’ Restrictions reads:

“This restriction agreement may be modified and amended at any time the agreement is in force by suitable instrument executed and acknowledged by two-thirds of the then owners of the lots in said subdivision and duly recorded in the office of the Recorder of Deeds for Madison County, State of Illinois.” 

Removing the 19 lots comprising Sherwood on the Lake, Glenwood Estates and its seven additions contain 257 lots. Therefore, 172 votes in favor of any revision represents the two-thirds of lot owners required overall for amendment. To safely achieve two-thirds majority in each section requires 175 votes, rounding the fractions. In the course of our four-week vote, we received 230 ballots from residents in the eight sections voting, representing 89% of lot owners. 

Ballots were independently tabulated by Glenwood Estates Association President Brian Cameron and Treasurer Linda Bailey. Ballots, calculations and legal affidavits certifying these counts will be provided and/or signed as needed to record the outcome with Madison County.

Revision 1 stated:

I agree that as a homeowner in Glenwood Estates, I shall be required to be a member of the
Glenwood Estates Homeowner’s Association (the “Association”) and agree that as of the date
hereof, (i) I am hereby a member of the Association; and (ii) am bound by the ByLaws of the
Association (the “By­Laws”), as hereinafter amended.

Of the 230 ballots received, 31 opposed and 1 abstained while 198 voted in favor of the Revision, representing 77% of lot owners in approval. The Revision passes.

Revision 2 stated:

I agree that all members of the Association shall be required to pay the annual dues as outlined in the applicable Restrictions of record and By­Laws.

Of the 230 ballots received, 23 opposed while 207 voted in favor of the Revision, representing 81% of lot owners in approval. The Revision passes.

Revision 3 stated:

I agree that the ByLaws and Restrictions may be changed by a 2/3 vote of all attending
members of a special meeting of the Association.

Of the 230 ballots received, 40 opposed and 1 abstained while 189 voted in favor of the Revision, representing 74% of lot owners in approval. The Revision passes.

Of ballots received, 86% voted in favor of Revision 1, 90% in favor of Revision 2, and 81% in favor of Revision 3. Additionally, all three Revisions passed by a 2/3 or greater majority in each of Glenwood Estates’ eight sections. 

View detailed results here.

This week, we will work to legally record these Revisions with the Recorder of Deeds for Madison County.

Next Steps

  1. As promised, we will soon distribute a brief survey that homeowners may complete and return by mail or online.
  2. Survey results will provide us with direction for drafting proposed amendments to our Restrictions.
  3. Once the amendments are drafted, the Association will share the proposed amendments with homeowners along with at least 10 days notice of a special meeting called to ratify the amendments.
  4. Members present at special meeting will vote to ratify or reject the amendments. We will provide proxy voting details for those who wish to vote but are unable to attend the meeting.

We look forward to working with our Member homeowners now and in the future.

Deadline Extension: Ballots Now Accepted Until Saturday, October 8.

If you have returned your ballot for our neighborhood vote, thank you. If you have not, we have heard your feedback.

We will accept ballots until Saturday, October 8.

With just over 25% of ballots still in play, our Street Captains visited residents on each street this weekend. Many indicated that their votes were in the mail. Others acknowledged that they had either forgotten to vote or had lost their ballots. The common theme we heard was a desire for their vote to count. It's only fair that we honor that desire.

We realize that life gets busy with family commitments, work and more. We also understand that this may not be a top of mind issue for everyone, and 100% participation in any vote is nearly impossible. But we want to employ reasonable flexibility to ensure every homeowner possible is heard.

Tips to ensure we receive your ballot no later than Saturday, October 8.

  • Download one right here or contact your Street Captain who will drop one off for you.
  • Drop off your completed ballot at 42 Glen Echo.
  • Provided your Street Captain with your completed ballot.
  • Call, text or email 618.288.2921 or hello@glenwoodestates.org to have your ballot picked up.

If you still wish to mail your ballot, please mail it no later than Wednesday, October 5 to ensure we have it in hand by Saturday, October 8. Our mailing address is:

  • Glenwood Estates Association
    PO Box 433
    Glen Carbon, IL 62034

 

It's Time.

Every vote counts, so please make an effort to return your ballot by this saturday, October 1. You may:

Summary

History has shown that it has been necessary to make changes to even our most sacred national document,  the US Constitution, from time to time. The first ten amendments - the Bill of Rights - were ratified just 3 years after the Constitution. Yet, on an infinitely smaller scale, our neighborhood community has been unable to amend our rules for over 50 years. Why does it matter?

  • Rules created for Glenwood Estates 50 years ago in 1966 for just 37 lots remain unchanged and now govern 276 lots in 9 separate sections.
  • Gray areas, oversights and incredibly strict processes have prevented our neighborhood from making even a single update to these rules to better reflect our needs, placing us at a distinct disadvantage compared to any number of other area subdivisions.
  • By working together, our homeowners have the power to overcome these challenges and help move our neighborhood forward.

Background

The first development in Glenwood Estates was ratified in July 1966. At that time, two separate documents were created to govern this development: our By-Laws and our Restrictions.

The first document, our By-Laws, define the purpose of the Glenwood Estates Homeowners Association, its Membership and more. Since day one, the process for amending these By-Laws has required a 2/3 majority vote among Members present at a meeting of the Association.

The second document, our Restrictions, details the rules we are asked to follow as lot owners, including lawn maintenance, tool storage, street parking and other measures. Unlike our By-Laws, these Restrictions state that they may only be amended by a 2/3 majority vote of all lot owners in the subdivision. At the time that these Restrictions were created, “all lot owners” consisted of the owners of just that first development:  37 lots.

Since 1966, seven additions have been made to Glenwood Estates, plus Sherwood on the Lake. Five decades later, the exact same rules that once governed just 37 lots in one section now govern 276 lots in nine sections, a nearly 750% increase. Feel free to view the map right here.

How Past Oversights Impact Us

Our By-Laws offer a loose definition of a Member. They say “the membership of this association shall be open to all of the property owners of the subdivision.” The phrase “shall be open to” does not explicitly require homeowners to be Members. This oversight is highly irregular in Homeowners’ Associations and it provides an out for adhering to the By-Laws, including payment of dues that are essential to supporting our neighborhood as it ages and as costs rise. In an average year, between 15-25% of homeowners fail to pay dues.

Restrictions differ as they apply to all lot owners, not just Members. As such, lot owners are and have always been legally bound to the Restrictions. However, in rare occasions when Restrictions are egregiously violated and the situation escalates to a court of law, the concern is that the difference between Association Membership as detailed in the By-Laws and the lot ownership criteria present within the Restrictions is confusing and could be more open to interpretation than is ideal.

These issues have made consistent enforcement of By-Laws and Restrictions challenging and have rendered any updates to the Restrictions impossible for literally 50 years.

How We Can Set Things Right

An attorney specializing in Homeowners’ associations advised the Glenwood Estates Association to conduct a formal neighborhood vote. As noted, our Restrictions require the 2/3 majority vote of all lot owners to be amended, but a judge in the past interpreted that we needed 2/3 majority of all homeowners in each of the nine sections. This is an incredibly high threshold to meet, but we are pursuing it to eliminate potential for doubt or room for interpretation. This vote is comprised of three Revisions.

  • Revision 1
    A vote in favor of this revision eliminates the out within our By-Laws by requiring all homeowners to be Members of the Association.
  • Revision 2
    A vote in favor of this revision agrees that all Members of the Association shall be required to pay annual dues.
  • Revision 3
    A vote in favor of this revision aligns the voting criteria for changing Restrictions with that of changing By-Laws: a 2/3 majority of attending Members at a meeting of the Association.

Arguments Against These Updates

Some are uncomfortable permitting Restrictions to be amended through a two-thirds majority vote of those present at an Association meeting, citing concerns that they do not want a small minority of voters representing the entire neighborhood. However, everyone will have an opportunity for their voice to be heard.  First, as is currently noted in the By-Laws, notice of the meeting and proposed amendments must be sent to all Members ten (10) days prior to meeting. Secondly, proxy votes will be legally acceptable for those unable to attend. In short, there will be no surprises.

Others have argued that we should first propose detailed amendments to our Restrictions before this vote. Unfortunately, we have failed for over 50 years to amend even a single restriction because of the incredibly stringent voting criteria currently required.  Consider the complexity in just passing these three Revisions and the fact that our Restrictions currently contains 26 items. If we are so challenged to pass these three revisions, how feasible is it for us to employ this same process to amend over eight times as many? History has proven that we cannot expect progress by using criteria in place that was first created for just 37 homes. Unless we can bring clarity to Membership and simplify the voting threshold, any change now or in the future will remain impossible.

Some opponents are also concerned about stricter enforcement of our current Restrictions immediately following this vote. They have voiced concerns about the removal of sheds, fences and other items prohibited by our current Restrictions. It is not the Board’s intention to take rash action. Currently existing structures or improvements which may be considered in violation of the Restrictions, as amended by an active and informed membership, will not be retroactively enforced and will be grandfathered in. It is not our intent to retroactively enforce rules; however, it is our intent to establish standards which more closely resemble the current needs and desires of our residents.  As our community changes and grows, it is incumbent upon us all to define our new Restrictions by working together. 

Our Future

A successful vote in favor of these three Revisions provides Glenwood Estates with absolute clarity, accountability, greater financial stability and reasonable flexibility to evolve to meet our needs now and in the future. We have no idea what the future holds, but by clinging to criteria that have thus far prevented growth, change and evolution for our neighborhood, we are hampering its future.

In today’s world, there is great distrust and there are many bigger issues that we alone as citizens simply cannot solve. And change can be difficult. Many fear it. But this is an initiative created by neighbors to benefit neighbors. Our future now lies solely in our neighbors’ hands. Each of us must make a choice to either accept the status quo or to once and for all take the proper steps necessary to advance our neighborhood for the benefit of all, now and in the future.

Thank you for your careful consideration throughout this process and for your votes in favor of moving Glenwood Estates forward. 

Brian Cameron
President
Glenwood Estates Association

 

The Home Stretch

As we enter the home stretch of our important neighborhood vote, we ask everyone to
please mail your ballot by October 1.

Important Updates

  1. First, for residents who have questions about proxy voting or concerns about retroactive enforcement of Restrictions and our position on grandfathering, please read this document that we hope reassures you that we hear your feedback and are proceeding in good faith as neighbors.
     
  2. Secondly, on Monday, September 26 from 6:30 PM to 7:30 PM, we invite homeowners to a neighborhood town hall meeting at Glenwood Estates Park Pavilion. You may view the meeting guidelines and agenda here.

Reminders

The Board is committed to meeting your needs and has a number of resources in place to assist:

If for any reason you need a ballot, you may download one from glenwoodestates.org/vote
or request one from your Street Captain.

Please mail your completed ballot by October 1 to:

Glenwood Estates Association
PO Box 433
Glen Carbon, IL 62034

The Vote, Simplified

Let’s break down and simplify what these three votes are all about in Glenwood Estates. If you want to review our By-Laws and Restrictions in full, visit glenwoodestates.org/restrictions.

This very process is proof that affecting change in our neighborhood is cumbersome, complex and at times confusing. If we have to undertake this process for everything on our homeowners' wish list, forward movement will take years. After all, votes such as this have been attempted and failed at least twice before. But by working together to eliminate these long-term barriers to change, our Board and Member homeowners can meaningfully partner to rewrite the rules together, better reflecting our needs today and in the future.

Let's walk through the three Revisions, step by step.

Revision 1 says:
I agree that as a homeowner in Glenwood Estates, I shall be required to be a member of the Glenwood Estates Homeowner’s Association (the “Association”) and agree that as of the date hereof, (i) I am hereby a member of the Association; and (ii) am bound by the ByLaws of the Association (the “By­Laws”), as hereinafter amended.

Why is this important?
This is the big one.

Those who sidestep our By-Laws and the dues detailed within (and often, our Restrictions) could cite the gray area of our current By-Laws, specifically Article III – Membership Dues, Section 1 which says:

“The membership of this association shall be open to all of the property owners of the subdivision, each member household shall be entitled to one vote and a majority of the members of the association shall constitute a quorum.”

As it stands, if membership “shall be open to all of the property owners of the subdivision,” then those who avoid paying dues may argue that they have opted not to be Members of the HOA since it is not explicitly stated that homeowners are required to be Members.

To address this, we must vote YES to require all homeowners to be Members.

Hypothetically, if you complained that your neighbor has three feet of weeds in his yard, shutters falling off his windows and a car on cement blocks in his driveway, our Restrictions Director would have a conversation with him. If he failed to correct the situation, we may get the Village involved if ordinances are being violated. Beyond that, if challenged in court, the violator might assert that he has not chosen to be a member of the HOA and is therefore not subject to our rules. Strictly viewed, our By-Laws speak about "members" and the Restrictions speak about "lot owners," but the danger lies in interpretation of the two separate documents.

As a Member, you are agreeing to follow the rules as they stand as well as the changes this vote is enacting. Please understand that if these measures pass, the Board will work with homeowners to define a grace period between this vote and the ratification of the new Restrictions we will craft together this fall.

This measure is about compromise. After a successful YES vote, we will send a survey to all homeowners to better understand their specific desires around the new Restrictions. We will then draft said Revisions. Finally, homeowners will again vote to formally ratify those amended Restrictions. 

The bottom line is that your YES vote for Revision 1 has the power to close a hazy loophole once and for all. It’s a 50-year oversight we must correct.

Revision 2 says:
I agree that all members of the Association shall be required to pay the annual dues as outlined in the applicable Restrictions of record and By-Laws.

Why is this important?
This one is pretty clear. Members of the HOA pay annual dues to support the subdivision. In the By-Laws, Article III, Section 2 says:

“The amount of dues shall be reviewed annually, and increased dues, or special assessments, at any time after the adoption of these by-laws, shall be assessed upon the approval of two-thirds of the members present at any regular or special meeting called to consider such increased dues or assessments. Dues for new memberships in the association after November 1st will be one-half the annual rate. Dues for social memberships shall be assessed at one-third the annual full membership rate. All dues and assessments are due and payable on or before thirty (30) days mailed notice thereof. Failure to pay same within said period shall be grounds for expulsion from membership in the association. Current full membership dues are seventy-five dollars ($75.00) per year per household.”

The social memberships mentioned are an original provision for rental properties that renters do not currently pursue.

Revision 3 says:
I agree that the By-Laws and Restrictions may be changed by a 2/3 vote of all attending members of a special meeting of the Association.

Why is this important?
Currently, only our By-Laws may be changed by such a meeting as indicated in Article V, Amendments:

“The by-laws as put forth in these papers may be amended by a two-thirds majority of members present at a general meeting of the association. Notice of the meeting and proposed amendments must be sent to all members ten (10) days prior to meeting.”

However, Restrictions changes – really the nuts and bolts of how well we take care of our neighborhood – require a much more complicated process that is cumbersome.

Currently, anything we want to add, remove or change whatsoever in our Restrictions carries a burden so challenging that we have been unable to enact any changes in 50 years. 

This is detailed in section 25 of the Restrictions:

"Covenants and restrictions; these covenants and restrictions are to run with the land and shall be binding on the parties hereto, their heirs and assigns, and all persons claiming by, through or under any of them for a period of 25 years from the date of recordation hereof, after which time the same shall be automatically extended for successive periods of 10 years, unless an instrument in writing signed by two-thirds of the then owners of lots has been recorded showing the change or changes agreed to by said two-thirds. Two-thirds of the property owners within the subdivision may at any time while these restrictions remain in force, form under the laws of the State of Illinois, a non-profit cooperative corporation without capital corporation stock, but with one share appurtenant to each lot in the subdivision. Such corporation stock, when formed, shall have the power to interrupt and enforce the conditions, covenants and charges set forth in this declaration. This restriction agreement may be modified and amended at any time the agreement is in force by suitable instrument executed and acknowledged by two-thirds of the then owners of the lots in said subdivision and duly recorded in the office of the Recorder of Deeds for Madison County, State of Illinois.”

In 1966 when the first set of restrictions were drawn, there was one section of the neighborhood:  Glenwood Estates. In years since, eight additions were added (Additions 1 through 7 and then Sherwood on the Lake). As such – yet again – it gets hazy:  is today's requirement two-thirds majority of property owners overall or two-thirds majority of property owners in each addition?

As previously stated, similar attempts have been made to amend the issues we are facing today in years past. And in one instance, the Association had the necessary votes from two thirds majority of all property owners, but when voting tabulations were broken down further, the same majority did not exist within each addition. So what was first a voting threshold for just one section in 1966 has become the threshold for nine sections. The bottom line:  we are stuck with what we have until homeowners vote otherwise.

By voting YES for Revision 3, we overcome the single greatest obstacle for future change by aligning the vote criteria for Restrictions with current requirements for By-Laws changes - a 2/3 majority of Members present at a special meeting of the Association. 

For residents who worry that they may not be able to attend a special meeting, please know that you will receive at least ten (10) days' notice of any such meeting and that if you are unable to attend, proxy voting will be permitted.

Recapping:

  1. YES, I'm a Member and I'll follow the rules.
  2. YES, as a Member, I will pay my annual dues.
  3. And YES, I will have the power to help change the rules with my vote - proxy or otherwise - at a meeting that will be announced to all Members at least 10 days in advance.


Neighborhood Town Hall, Part 1

Several neighbors gathered last night at the Park Pavilion to discuss the upcoming vote. A spirited discussion occurred with a healthy amount of information, disagreement and debate. Those in support of the effort voiced their desire to finally set our documents right moving forward. The most common concern expressed among those opposed to the effort was reluctance to honor the current By-Laws and Restrictions once they are legally enforceable.

If a homeowner votes YES for Revision 1, they are effectively agreeing that they are a Member and are bound by the rules of the subdivision. Many of those rules have been bent and broken through the years relative to sheds, fences and other items. Some worried that if this measure passes, the Association would immediately go on the offensive, asking homeowners to remove sheds, tear down fences and try to make retroactive changes. 

This is not our intention whatsoever. We are 100% committed to moving forward in good faith together with our member homeowners.

Our Board members are homeowners too. This is not a witch hunt and we will continue to work hard to partner with homeowners through this transition. Again, everyone will benefit when we work together to resolve these challenges. Reasonable flexibility will be required until we agree as voting members on the new Restrictions that will be drafted in the weeks following a successful YES vote.

It's clear that our measures have tremendous support among the majority of homeowners, but we ask those who have doubts to communicate with us for clarification before casting a NO vote.

Together, let's consider a common-sense grace period to bridge the gap between this vote and our new Restrictions in a good faith effort wherein all parties - homeowners and the Board - agree to compromise.

Often, the greatest compromises occur when we meet people in the middle. Our great country is a study in that very fact.

Looking forward to next Monday's conversation.

 

Lawyers Make Me Nervous.

Last week, one of our Street Captains encountered a resident who made clear that the mention of attorneys in our discussion surrounding the vote made him uneasy. We get it, and lots of people feel the same way. 

Personally, I’ve been involved on the periphery of the Board for 9 years. I built the website and other resources, but I never held a formal position until June when I was elected President. Candidly, I avoided a formal seat because during those 9 years on the fringe, Board conversations about challenges and improvements usually dead-ended.  

It’s frustrating for everyone. Why can’t we make progress?

From long-term resident and Board member feedback, I’ve come to understand that in the past, the Board has tried to enforce the By-Laws, Restrictions and dues. But in instances when those issues escalate to a court of law, the Board hasn’t a legal leg to stand on because our founding documents were improperly done. So the judge rules against us, homeowners get angry that nothing is being done, the volunteer Board takes it on the chin, and nothing improves. The frustrated quit paying their dues, we collect less to invest in the subdivision and so on.

Unfortunately, nothing will ever change unless we force the issue through three YES votes.

We have to break the cycle, and it will require attorneys who specialize in HOAs to help us properly ratify things. Over the last few months, we’ve consulted with a couple of different firms that specialize in HOAs and both provided the same advice: conduct a neighborhood vote to make all homeowners members of the HOA and you’ll have a black and white, legally binding restrictive covenant that does not rely on a judge’s interpretation of what represents a homeowner or an Association member. They will now be one and the same as they should be.

Had our founders done this properly starting in 1966, it’s unlikely we would find ourselves in this situation. But by partnering with attorneys who are well-known and respected for this kind of work throughout our area, we have an opportunity to finally get it right. 

And I know what you’re thinking:  attorneys are expensive.

Please understand that we do not have the attorneys on retainer. We are doing as much heavy lifting as we can on our own through neighborhood volunteers to control costs. And most importantly, none of this will result in an increase to our $75 dues this May.

Looking to the future once we get things right, resident interactions with attorneys will only occur under the most extreme circumstances, after all other options have been exhausted.

Dollars and Sense

By far, the biggest benefit of our new Street Captain initiative is having the opportunity for one-on-one conversations with residents. Your feedback is so important to helping us move forward. Thankfully, most of the feedback has been very overwhelmingly positive.

On occasion, we encounter someone who has specific concerns. We continue to attempt to address every concern publicly so all residents can make an educated decision informed by absolute transparency.

Today’s topics largely center on feedback regarding dues.

When I moved into the neighborhood in 1990, the dues were $35 and now they’re $75. I don’t think that’s right.
Our dues can only increase when residents vote in favor of that increase, and that’s only happened twice since 1985. We must attempt to keep up with inflation. Gas prices, electricity, insurance and basically everything has obviously gotten more expensive. Today, it would take $78.38 to buy you what $35 bought you in 1985.

At $75, our dues have raised at a lower rate than inflation. And they are still lower than most other subdivisions in our area, none of which offers a central park or playground.

I don’t have any kids and I don’t use the park or any common areas. I take care of my property, pay high taxes and I shouldn’t have to pay any more than that.
Dues and our By-Laws and Restrictions are designed to ensure the entire neighborhood remains safe, clean and attractive for residents and prospective buyers. If we work together, we can maintain property values throughout. The bottom line is that if we don’t work together, everyone’s property values will suffer. Marketability is important in real estate, and the park and other assets you refuse to support help ensure we have homes populated with homeowners.

Besides, everyone in our neighborhood uses a common entrance and no one wants that entrance to be overgrown with weeds. And it costs money to light our entrance monuments.  

Where does all the money go? I don’t see many improvements in Glenwood Estates.
You can see a 6-year financial breakdown at glenwoodestates.org/vote.  There, you’ll see that the money goes to trying to keep up with rising costs while attempting to put money away for improvements and unforeseen needs in the future like our basketball court that is cracked and a handful of other items including neighborhood events each year.

Utilities for the park, lawn care, insurance and maintaining assets like the playground and said basketball court all cost money and in an average year, we only collect about $1,640 more than our expenses for a neighborhood of 272 homes. It’s simply not a safe margin.

Your letter said that people who have not paid dues get a clean slate. Why should I vote yes or pay dues when repeat offenders get a pass? This is unfair.
In a perfect world, all homeowners would gladly take care of their homes and pay their dues every year. In a less perfect world, we would have the legal authority and financial stability to pursue proper recourse for those who do not. In our highly imperfect situation, the very reason that we can’t legally enforce our challenges (the lack of a restrictive covenant) is what prevents us from collecting back dues.

Ultimately, as I’ve said in earlier communications, we have to make a choice. Do we vote NO or abstain simply to prove a point or out of spite over what we feel are past injustices? Or do we take a stand as a community of neighbors right now to say enough is enough?  It’s 100% in our hands to do the mature thing that will help us proceed in a proper manner, but unless we vote YES together, we will never be able to take even the first step to setting things right and holding everyone equally accountable.

We have a number of residents who are willing to pay dues, but would like for their voice to be heard when voting for new rules. However, many are unable to attend special meetings. Can we look into proxy voting?
If these three Revisions pass, all homeowners will have the legal authority and the flexibility needed to discuss, frame out and formalize any number of options. We want everyone to have a voice and would prefer in-person attendance at meetings so that we can have meaningful discussions and debates. However, we recognize that this is not always possible and will work with residents to explore options moving forward.

The goal is to make things much simpler for everyone to become involved without undue burden on anyone.

I don’t like that dues are helping pay for social events in the park that I am not attending. 
You make a fair point and one that we should discuss as part of a neighborhood vote should these Revisions pass. Generally, the Association asks residents to bring food and drinks to social events to help minimize costs. And these events are a great opportunity to communicate, create a sense of community and make connections that we would otherwise never make. Social events also present a marketable aspect of our subdivision that many new families find attractive as they integrate into the neighborhood.  There are many benefits, but we hear your concerns.

This is just one more example of a situation that could be formalized if all homeowners were HOA members who could more easily vote in favor of or against specific measures at a special meeting.

I’m not interested in being a part of the HOA but I am willing to pay dues and vote for the 2/3 majority of a special meeting. Am I forced to participate in the HOA if Revision 1 passes?
If Revision 1 passes, all homeowners will automatically be made members of the Association. However, members may choose to be as involved as they would like and will not be required to attend meetings or do anything they do not wish to do. Think of it almost like owning stock in a corporation. A successful Revision 1 basically gives each homeowner one “share” in the “corporation” and members may do as much or as little with that as they like.

Resident Q&A

Tonight, a resident submitted the questions below and asked for them to be responded to in a manner that would be visible to all. 

In the spirit of transparency, here they are. Residents, if you have questions, don't hold them back.  This effort is all about being straightforward and addressing challenges head-on.

How is this vote going to make it easier to enforce the restrictions?  
Currently, homeowners are not automatically members of the Glenwood Estates Homeowners’ Association. This is a loophole in the founding documents of our neighborhood, and one that prevents the Association from having the legal authority to enforce the restrictions when in a court of law. Past incidents have proven this to be the case as violators have argued that they are not bound by the restrictions because they are not members. This is highly atypical of successful HOAs.

Revision 1 makes all homeowners members of the Association and binds them to the restrictions by way of a formal restrictive covenant. This will unify all 9 sections and close said legal loophole.

What steps will be taken once a home owner is deemed to be in violation of the restrictions?
For issues that violate the law or village ordinance, the police or village officials will be engaged at the onset. We’ve been working to continue to grow our relationship with those agencies. For restrictions violations, an escalation process will occur.

First, our Restrictions Director will have a polite, neighborly conversation with first-time offenders. If the situation is not resolved within a timeline defined by the severity of the offense, the homeowner will receive a formal letter from the Association. If timely resolution does not occur, the Association will enlist our attorney for final resolution up to and including financial penalties against the homeowner.

Is the board going to truly enforce all restrictions or pick and choose as they have for years?
This question is not objective and is clearly biased, but I will address it.

As previously stated, the Board has not to date possessed the necessary authority that is present in properly structured HOAs due to issues with the founding documents. I am involved formally with the Board for the first time and doing everything I can to address long-standing issues such as this in an effort to change our course.

So if this measure passes, I will do everything possible to ensure we maintain a safe, clean and attractive neighborhood for all. This will make me and the Board unpopular with violators, but is the only way we can begin to move things in the right direction for the vast majority of residents who try to do the right things, and for those who are angry at what they feel is past inaction.

What steps will be taken if a household does not pay their dues?
Dues payment will be addressed in much the same manner as the restrictions violation protocol above. It will be an escalation path leading to financial penalties against the homeowner.

Having said that, this is not an effort to badger people about dues. Some seniors are on fixed incomes and others experience hardships from time to time. The Board will make every effort to accommodate payment plans and the necessary flexibility to give people the benefit of the doubt unless there’s a clear pattern of avoidance.

What is the boards (SIC) current definition of "basic home maintenance"?
If Revision 3 passes, homeowners will have a voice in how we structure new restrictions to define this in crystal clear terms. 

What is the balance of neighborhood associations bank account?
You may view our 6-year income and expense statement at glenwoodestates.org/vote and feel free to contact our Treasurer Linda Bailey at bmcbailey@charter.net for our daily balance.

What is the actual resurfacing cost of the basketball court (how many years is it annualized over, when was it done and when due again)
Court resurfacing is typically recommended for every 3-5 years on a rolling basis.  That area was established as a park instead of a home site because a creek once ran through it. Accordingly, it has a high water table that makes courts of any kind more challenging to maintain. Resurfacing was last completed in 2012 and cost $3,850 at that time for two coats of sealant and re-striping. It is due for another resurface in 2017, which will likely cost more due to inflation and the need to repair a crack that has emerged in the surface.

What does the estimated average maintenance cover and why is it not actual number since you already pulled out the two big items?
Maintenance varies each year and was presented this way in an effort to provide a baseline average amount. Some years, we paint playground equipment. Some years we remove trees. Some years, we install park features. In some years, we do not. Hence, an average.

Where can I get a list of the 36 subdivisions and their dues?
Right here.

Does the fact that almost 30 less households paid their dues in 2015-2016 then the average of the previous 4 years make you think that the residents don't believe the raise in cost was necessary?
It’s certainly possible, but a subdivision of 272 homes that on average collects only $1,642 more than its expenses annually is on a path to failure. It’s notable that the amount collected last year increased by over $3,000 to help us ensure working funds for the unexpected (tree issues in the park, rising utility and insurance costs, maintenance, etc). And again, in comparison with other similar neighborhoods in our immediate area, our dues are still well within a fair range.

Are the "special meetings of the association" for changing by-laws and restrictions something that will be separate from the annual meetings and how will residents find out about the meetings?  Will there be absentee ballots so it would truly be a fair vote? 
Just like annual meetings, special meetings as defined by the By-Laws currently require written notice at least 10 days in advance of said meeting. This has been adhered to for every annual and special meeting of which I am aware. And yes, special meetings are typically separate from the annual meeting but need not be if residents desire otherwise.

In terms of absentee ballots, this is something we can certainly explore together should these measures pass. We would need to consult with our attorney to ensure they would be legally acceptable.

How many residents were at the vote to raise the dues?
If you are referring to the January 2016 meeting, then eighteen residents attended that meeting. We built this website, a Facebook page and an email list all in an effort to gain more involvement from homeowners and hope to continue to promote dialogue, feedback and neighborhood engagement moving forward. 

The board claims that more then (SIC) 1 in 4 houses fail to pay their dues every year, however based on the numbers from the budget, last year when the dues were raised to $75 was the first year since 2010 where there has been less then 80% of neighborhood paying dues and even the first year where the total dues were lowest it was still above 75%  (I am basing my numbers on the due amounts collected divided by due amount per household)
Dues collection historically fluctuates but the average dues collected represent about 70-75% of those that we should be collecting from year to year. Our neighborhood is 50 years old and you're seeing a small snapshot.

Why is it that name and address are required on the ballots, to me this is another way that the association is trying to strong arm the neighborhood (along with the letters that are all just saying vote yes and making sure the ballots are distributed 2 weeks prior to the open discussion in the park)
Again, this is a biased question but one I will address.

As the letter stated, a 2/3 majority vote of every section of the neighborhood – there are nine: Glenwood Estates, Additions 1 through 7 and Sherwood on the Lake – is required to pass these measures formally. There’s no intent to strong-arm anyone - quite the opposite as I've answered every question you have posed - but we have to understand which sections are voting for which measures to properly ratify the vote. Plus, as I previously indicated, we would like to increase dialogue among homeowners and the Association, so we would like to have contact information for homeowners.

Changing Mindsets

"You won't get my vote."

Tonight, I received a call from a resident who has lived in Glenwood Estates since 1985. He began the conversation by telling me why he doesn't pay his dues and why he won't support this vote. He was angry with the way the Board handled some issues on his street in the past and he didn't believe anything would change in the future.

We spoke for nearly 30 minutes and I heard him loud and clear. I understand his anger. But we cannot change the past. It has been a vicious cycle. Because of oversights in our By-Laws and Restrictions, our Board has never had the appropriate authority to enforce the rules in a court of law. So a small minority breaks the rules without any real penalty while residents who follow those rules get upset and refuse to support the board. 

Make no mistake:  we can get it right for the future of the neighborhood.
It starts with just three YES votes.

A successful vote ensures improved enforcement with true legal grounds. Dues collection will increase to keep up with inflation and for neighborhood investments and more. And perhaps most importantly, each and every homeowner will become a member of the Association with the authority to help us rewrite, revise and amend the rules to better reflect our needs in the neighborhood today and in the future.

We turned a corner when I asked him "How can we ever begin to make positive change if homeowners refuse to allow it?" By the end of the call, this gentleman and I were largely on the same page and I believe we have earned his YES vote.

So if you or a neighbor you know are upset, angry or apathetic about this critical vote, please reach out to me directly so that we can have a conversation about how we can set a new course together.

After all, sometimes it's just about changing mindsets.