Originally Published in the November and December 2020 Newsletters
My name is Colleen Kingery and I am happy to be serving as president of the Maple Ridge HOA and working with the board on the ideas that have been suggested by many of you in the community. In this November Newsletter I wanted to share some of these exciting projects! Like previous boards, our goals are to build on the strong sense of community and pride within Maple Ridge and encourage further involvement. We aim to improve communication, feedback and constructive suggestions to ensure the board is always working on what is most important to you. We also aim to implement changes that will improve home values now and into the future and ensure Maple Ridge remains competitive in the real estate market with attractive and well maintained facilities and common areas. This update will be a little lengthy as we are working on a lot! However, to keep this update as brief as possible, I will focus more on the initiatives impacting the well-being of our facilities, our common areas and steps to improve the fiscal health of our community, including entrance signs, transition to permanent membership and rent capacity.
Entrance Sign Installation: The first initiative the current board will accomplish in January of 2021 is the updating of the entrance at Suwanee Creek! The 1980's were great, but the signs from that era should stay in that era! With ideas from a member based sign committee and the board, a new entrance sign has been made and we are ready to begin installation once the custom arched fencing is fabricated and delivered which could be 2 to 3 months due to covid related delays. Due to budgetary restrictions we will only be doing Suwanee Creek now but will proceed with the South Scales entrance in the Summer of 2021. In November, our amazing volunteers in the community will be finishing the landscaping at the Suwanee Creek entrance with new edging, plants/shrubs and mulch to have the area ready for the new signs!
Covenant Declaration to Transition to Permanent Member Status: Initiative number 2 is the long overdue conversion of our community from a voluntary membership association to a permanent membership association format. Over time, this will ensure that the community has the necessary funds, and if necessary, the borrowing ability to maintain and improve our common areas and therefore improve the appearance of our community. With these necessary improvements and ongoing maintenance, our community can stay up to date with neighboring communities and as a result help stabilize and improve home values. As of now, in our voluntary format, approximately 50% of the households in the community contribute to the community, yet 100% of us are affected by the quality of our community and facilities. If our facilities and entrances are well maintained and kept updated, our community remains in high demand and home values increase, with dilapidated facilities our home values decrease accordingly. There are many instances of this locally and nationally and that is why there is a trend towards converting the outdated voluntary homeowners association to a mandatory or permanent membership format. The most common and catastrophic problem with voluntary communities is when a major facility is destroyed, such as a large retaining wall collapsing or a pool deteriorating to an unusable state which then forces an association or county to close the pool. With no pool, there is no income and with no income there are no funds to make any repairs. With a cracked, weed-filled pool, or collapsed retaining wall we would be left with a permanent eyesore that would quickly pull down home values throughout the community. Getting a repair loan is also not possible with a voluntary home owners association as there is no guaranteed annual income to provide security for a loan. We have been fortunate to date to have avoided this common problem and now we can circumvent this from occurring in a very fair manner. Many of you will love hearing this news, however we understand some won't. Please read on to see how this conversion will be done in a fair, voluntary and legally sound manner.
If you do not contribute to the community currently you may be thinking right now that you don’t want to be forced to pay anything towards the improvement of the community. The important fact is, you do not have to participate if you do not want to. The new covenants converting our community to permanent member status will not apply to you unless you agree to convert your home to permanent status, or until you sell your home. When the covenants are implemented, we will strive to get as many current homeowners as possible to choose to convert to permanent status and to either pay $425 per year for swim/tennis/event membership or just $100 for the maintenance level membership. The $100 maintenance membership is obviously well below the typical mandatory HOA fee and simply allows the board to maintain our shared grounds and facilities. If you choose not to convert your property to either level of membership, it will convert automatically at the sale of your home and the new homeowner will be a part of the permanent membership association and will retain the option of paying $425 or $100 each year. This grandfathered arrangement is designed to ensure the transition is fair and lawful and will clearly make the 100% transition to permanent status a multi-decade process. However, we hope that all current members and many homeowners that currently are not members see the value of supporting the community and elect to convert now and agree to an annual $100 contribution or $425 full membership.
It is also important to note, there will be no restrictions or mandates to current homeowners in the introduction of the covenants. No property restrictions or mandates, no rules and guidelines and nobody fining you for deferred property maintenance. The introduction of covenants would simply allow for the gradual transition from voluntary membership to permanent status and thereby ensuring the long term financial security of our community and our home values.
Rental Company Rent Capacity: The third and last initiative that I will discuss today, and one that many homeowners have been extremely concerned with is the increase of rental properties in the community. While many rental properties are well maintained and adhere to single family occupancy, there are concerns that long term rental properties eventually become problematic with yard maintenance and property upkeep. To help ensure that we do not face this issue we plan to incorporate within the covenants the sole restriction of a rent capacity limit which would limit the number of rental properties in the community to 20 homes. This is a very common restriction across the country and most communities have a rental cap. Because most nearby communities have a rent cap in place, when a community does not have rent restrictions such as ours, they become targeted by rental companies and the number of rental homes in the community can quickly increase. Current rental properties and current owner-occupied homes would again be grandfathered in and would not be impacted by the rent cap. Only when the home is conveyed to a new owner would they be subject to the rent cap. This again is designed simply to protect homeowner interests now and into the future and protect property values.
We have retained the legal guidance of Lueder, Larkin and Hunter LLP to guide us through these changes. They will also provide the ongoing services of recording county filings of the households transitioning their status and recording the covenants and bylaws with the county. The legal firm has agreed to defer legal fees over 3 years and also cut their fee by 50% to help assist us in these efforts.
There will be much more information on these initiatives and meetings to discuss them, however I invite you to share your questions or comments by clicking the "Reply to this Letter" button below. We would like to hear from you on these home-value related initiatives so please comment and the board will then address any questions individually and also to all homeowners in upcoming correspondence.
Thank you for taking the time to read this update!
President, Maple Ridge Homeowners Association