Attorney Jon Ellis of Shumaker, Loop and Kendrick, the WCA’s attorney, attended the March 9 Westchase Voting Members meeting to provide an orientation for VMs on their duties and responsibilities.
“You’re generally responsible for making sure the board does what you want the board to do,” he said. “But you are not the board.”
Ellis ran through a PowerPoint that contained descriptions of VM duties and responsibilities from Westchase’s governing documents. Among other VM powers, Ellis stated VMs can both elect the Westchase Community Association (WCA) Board of Directors and remove board members with or without cause. Seventy-five percent of VMs can even remove another VM, a right created due to a previously disruptive representative. VMs also play the primary role in voting on changes to Westchase’s governing rules and can vote not to repair damaged amenities, to impose a special assessment or, with a supermajority, disband the association entirely. VMs also have veto power over the board’s annually approved budget. “The vast majority of these issues don’t come up,” Ellis stated. “The main function of the voting members is to elect the board of directors and, number two, to make sure the board of directors is responsive to the membership.”
Ellis also detailed VMs’ attendance requirements.
Afterward, Ellis fielded questions from VM Dawn Gingrich (The Bridges) over a new resident who was cited for a bronze screen enclosure when another resident complained about rules enforcement consistency. Gingrich expressed frustration that the managers discovered the bronze enclosure from a Google Earth photo and asked if the violation could be grandfathered as it existed for ten years without issue.
Ellis stated that associations have limits to rules enforcement if a violation is known and public for years, citing five years as the typical limit. He also addressed questions about the current guideline amendment process. Citing state law limiting proxies to 90-days, WCA Manager Debbie Sainz informed Gingrich that a neighborhood only has 30 days to collect neighborhood petition signatures for a neighborhood-specific guideline change (the subsequent VM approval process takes two months, eating up approximately 60 days). Ellis stated he would have to review the rules to determine if petition signatures really had to comply with the state’s proxy limits. “I’m not sure it does,” he stated but committed to researching an answer. He closed by emphasizing, in the case of the bronze screen enclosure, the best solution for all involved was to complete The Bridges guideline amendment process to permit them.
Reading Westchase flag rules, which permit US flags and decorative flags that are not obscene, offensive, political or engage in advertising, Ellis also observed associations are having increasing issues with homeowner flags. He observed that some flags, like rainbow flags, Blue Lives Matter flags, or the early “Betsy Ross” flag, are viewed as controversial and political by some and not by others. “I think it’s something to have on your radar.” Ellis suggested that a solution to sidestepping the controversies is just to permit those flags protected by state statute, such as the US flag and flags of American military service branches. He acknowledged, however, that such limits could be unpopular because they would ban flags supporting things like sports teams.
Addressing questions from VM Deb Guerino (Villas of WPV) and Keith Heinemann (Radciffe) about the possibility of adopting rules to keep West Park Village mailboxes from being blocked by cars, Ellis stated that the enforcement of rules on public roads is often problematic. While residents could be cited for blocking mailboxes, non-residents, like many of the visitors who frequent West Park’s businesses, could not.
Heinemann, who works for the US postal service, acknowledged that carriers are still supposed to get out and deliver mail to blocked mailboxes but sometimes they refuse.
WCA Director Heather Greeley-Hessefort then invited VMs Nancy Sells (Harbor Links/The Estates) and Guerino to share advice with VMs in making their service effective. With Greeley-Hessefort pitching neighborhood-specific Facebook groups, Sells and Guerino emphasized other communication approaches, such as acquiring and using emails and, in the case of Guerino, who is head of a small West Park subassociation, publishing and distributing a regular newsletter.
VMs concluded by giving their second and final approval to a guidelines change in Chelmsford that would permit insulated aluminum roofs and the first approval of a guideline change for Harbor Links/The Estates that would permit roof coatings aimed at protecting the longevity of tile roofs. Both passed unanimously.
VMs adjourned at 8:21 p.m.
By Chris Barrett, Publisher