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VMs Debate Proposed Document Amendments

A month before key votes on amendments to the Westchase documents, Westchase Voting Members began their debate.

After opening the meeting with a request for additional volunteers for the Modifications Committee, Westchase Community Association (WCA) President Nancy Sells introduced Diane Berube, a resident of The Shires she invited to express her opposition to any new rules being placed on rental properties. After detailing her care of the homes, Berube stated, “I think we should table the rental committee,” she stated. “The owners of the problem properties should take care of those properties themselves.”

The group thanked Berube for coming forward with her perspective.

VMs then turned to Berkeley Square’s proposed neighborhood guideline adopting a new Paint Color Palette. While it passed its initial review with unanimous support in April, VM Carlos Quiros (Villas of West Park Village) expressed concern that he subsequently learned that the proposed colors are no longer on the master Westchase-wide color palette. Quiros further explained that according to Berkeley Square’s own documents, the Westchase Community Association’s (WCA) documents always supersede their own so their color palette must comply with the master palette. VM Cynde Mercer (The Bridges) added, “I agree with Carlos. We are weakening our guidelines by allowing neighborhoods or streets to have lower standards.”

VM Ruben Collazo (The Shires) added, “We’ve always operated under the tenet that the [neighborhood] guidelines could not be less restrictive. They have to be more. This is what we have always done.”

Ultimately considering Berkeley’s guideline, 19 VMs voted to deny the request while two voted to approve it.

After WCA Attorney Jon Ellis led a training for VMs, during which he told VMs that responsibility for catching such problems as Berkeley Square's guideline was ultimately theirs, VMs turned to the association’s proposed amendments to the Residential Guidelines, on which they will vote June 10. Dale Sells, who chairs the Document Review Committee, explained that the proposed changes largely came about from requests that came into the Modifications Committee.

Regarding proposed rules to allow retractable awnings on the back of homes, VM Leslie McCluskey (Keswick Forest) noted that awnings came in a lot of colors and requested VMs add the same neutral color requirements as listed for pavers. She also wanted to add that the canopy needed to be fabric.

VMs also indicated support for loosening the required restriction of solar tubes to the backs of homes and also voted to add black mulch to approved ground covers provided it was not rubber.

For the plant list discussions, Forrest Endress of Laurel’s Oaks Nursery & Tree Farm attended to answer VM questions. Dale Sells noted that most of the changes had been made in the Florida Friendly section. VMs asked about various trees and plants with Endress providing his knowledge and recommendations. VM Kathy Carlsen (Glencliff) noted that it was almost impossible to grow St. Augustine on the area between the sidewalk and the street and keep it weed free. She asked, “Are there no other turf grass options that would exist better?”

Endress responded, “Nothing.”

When all of the proposed changes had been discussed, Sells introduced Bridges resident Dave Horowitz, who expressed concerns about a proposed amendment to the Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CCRs) that would grant the association emergency powers to enter Westchase properties without prior notice, address maintenance issues and bill the homeowner. Horowitz stated, “I would like to see the wording changed to say that there would be some type of reasonable notification before going on to the property. As a homeowner, we always want to have the choice of where we go to get services.”

Thomas McArthur of Woodbay also agreed. “My concern is the wording of emergency and how you would come onto the property.”

Nancy Sells explained the intent of the amendment and provided some examples such as a storm coming through the community and a tree limb about to fall on the neighbor’s home or a pool full of water with a broken fence. “The WCA can put in a temporary fix. The intent is not to go on people’s lots to do stuff,” she stated.

VM Mary Griffin (SFH of West Park Village) added, “We don’t want to come on your property unless warranted.”

WOW’s reporter then posed some questions, submitted by WOW Publisher Chris Barrett, about a proposed CCR amendment for Article XII Section 35. Barrett expressed concern that the ballot summary of the amendment sent to homeowners did not accurately explain its impact. Further, he pointed out the proposed language, intended to allow Harbor Links and The Estates to have different roof guidelines, inadvertently created a greater problem. “Because it removes any reference to neighborhood or subdivision, the proposed amendment would write into the documents the right of a single street or collection of homes to have their own guidelines,” Barrett wrote. He added, “What if a majority of homeowners on Brewster Drive decides it wants to have a different roof guideline than Harbor Links? It’s permitted under this language but not possible currently.”

VM Carlsen responded, “I brought this issue up also. I was told that I was wrong in this interpretation.” Carlsen added, “I agree with what Chris is saying and I expressed it at the time.”

Dale Sells countered by stating that the change specifies that guidelines that are less than Westchase-wide would still have to be voted on within the neighborhood. He added that all changes would still have to be approved by the VMs.

While VMs would have to approve any proposed guideline under the new language, Sells appeared to err in stating that all the homes in a neighborhood would have the right to vote on a guideline proposed for a single street or smaller group of homes inside it. The amendment’s proposed language simply stipulates that only those homes subject to the guideline would vote on it.

VMs will vote upon amendments to the CCRs and Bylaws, as well as the proposed Residential Guidelines amendments, at their June 10 meeting.

VMs adjourned at 10 p.m.

By Brenda Bennett

COMMENTS

By David Horwitz on Monday, May 19, 2014 @ 03:47pm

The amendment to enter onto a homeowners property without their permission or notification goes much deeper than the reporting by the WOW.  The amendment does little to define the word “emergency”.  The only entity that has the authority to enter onto the premises of homeowner without their permission is the county emergency services (fire/rescue & sherriff).  They respond to life, limb, or property. The homeowners association is not a government entity and does not respond to emergencies. At the VM meeting it was acknowledged that the homeowners association would take days to respond to an emergency.  Why then does the association need to use a loose term like emergency in the amendments? This gives greater authority than is needed and in the future could be misinterpreted or misused. It is obivous the HOA will not respond to emergencies so they must perform due diligence and provide notification to a homeowner.    If the intent of the language is meant for abandoned property then the language in the amendment should be narrowed to meet that intent.

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