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VMs Debate Fines and Religious Flags

Continuing their work on amendments to the association's governing documents at their Oct. 11 meeting, Westchase Voting Members (VMs) revisited their September decision to lift a ban on religious flags.

Ruben Collazo, the new Westchase Community Association (WCA) President, kicked off the Oct. 11 Westchase Voting Members (VMs) meeting by inviting VMs to attend the Oct. 13 board meeting and added, “We are going to go over the budget.”

The group then quickly and unanimously voted to add VM Brian Loudermilk (Keswick Forest) to the Variance Committee.

Collazo then updated the VMs on the status of the David Weekley Homes being built in West Park Village. The developer has requested the homes be joined to the WCA. “The meetings have been going well.”

Collazo stated two meetings were scheduled with David Weekley representatives, one on Oct. 19 with all VMs, and a later one with just West Park’s VMs. He added, “On Nov. 15 they will be here to make their formal presentation and on Dec. 13, you will vote on the annexation. No group of VMs here has ever before voted on annexation.”

VM Don Costello (Stamford) asked, “Has David Weekley agreed to pay our lawyers’ fees?”

Collazo responded, “Yes, we asked for the dollars and got it.”

The next agenda item was a review of the WCA’s updated Code of Conduct. An initial version of the document was reviewed during the May meeting but Michael Brudny, a Glencliff Alternate who is also an HOA attorney, brought up several issues and stated it was unenforceable, vague and incomplete. The new version was the result of his work with the WCA’s legal counsel.

VM Don Costello (Stamford), however, immediately made a motion to reject the document which was quickly seconded by VM Cynde Mercer (The Bridges). VM Ralph Caputo (Abbottsford) asked “Don, why are you opposing?”

Costello replied, “This is overkill, we haven’t had any problems here in 10 to 15 years. I think we can handle things ourselves. I don’t think it is needed. There are a lot of words in here and we don’t even follow many of these processes as outlined.”

Dale Sells, a resident of Harbor Links, responded, “You need to keep in mind that you have a code of conduct in place. Do you want the one which is worse or the one that is better?”
Caputo asked legal counsel Kathleen Reres, “How many other associations have anything this detailed?”

Reres replied, “It is very rare but most associations do not have the level of policy in place that Westchase has.” She added, “You are a lot more organized than many other associations I deal with.”
Brudney added, “I have reviewed it and I have no objections to it.”

Ultimately 17 VMs voted to approve the updated document with four opposed.

Dale Sells, also the Documents Review Committee Chair, then took over the meeting to review all of the proposed document changes. He detailed the past history of the document amendments review, adding that single change since the last meeting was worth noting, “One was added at the last minute,” he said.

Sells stated that VMs would formally vote on amendments to the Single Family Home Guidelines at their Nov. 15 meeting. After residents vote on and return the proposed amendments to the Bylaws and Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions (CCRs), which will be mailed in November, VMs will vote on those amendments at their Jan. 10 meeting.

Sells then launched his review. Most of the changes made to the previous draft of amendments entailed slight verbiage changes or clarity changes. These triggered no VM discussion.

VMs, however, discussed in great detail the proposed cap on imposed fines with Reres explaining the legal challenges the association faces in the face of a strict fining regimen. Ultimately, VMs voted on a motion to revise rules regarding continuing violation to allow fines of up to $100 per day, not to exceed $2,000 in any 30 day period. Reres committed to provide some updated wording after the meeting.
During the CCRs review, VMs discussed bans on short-term rentals like those offered by Airbnb. Brudny suggested that short term rentals be more clearly defined to avoid confusion..

During discussion of the proposed Guideline changes, the one garnering most of the discussion related to flags and banners. At the last meeting, VMs voted to remove restrictions on flags and banners with a religious orientation.

Brudny, however, recommended returning the restriction to the draft rules. “Happy Easter [and] Merry Christmas are covered as holiday decorations,” he said, stating residents could still fly holiday banners.

Brudny, however, cautioned lifting the ban would cause other issues. “You are opening a can of worms.”

Reres, however, sided with the original decision to lift the ban on flags with a religious orientation. “You are putting your committee in a difficult position to decide what a religious orientation is,” she said. “To the extent that you prohibit this, you could run into litigation. We believe being inclusive is less likely to lead to claims.”

VM Mary Griffin (Single Family Homes of West Park Village) said, “For 22 years, we have had only one problem. I agree with Michael [Brodny] that we are opening a can of worms and we will have people putting up stuff just to be provocative.”

Sainz advised the group that since a motion was voted on in the August meeting, they would have to vote to rescind that motion in order to maintain the ban on flags with a religion orientation. When a vote on the motion to rescind was taken, however, only 8 VMs voted to rescind while 14 voted against. Thus, the original motion lifting the ban on flags with a religious orientation remained in force.

After applauding the work of the Documents Review Committee, VMs adjourned at 9:10 p.m.

By Brenda Bennett

Posted 16 October 2016

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