Lot combinations will be a thing of the past in Seven Lakes North and South if the Seven Lakes Landowners Association [SLLA] Board approves a policy change proposed during their Monday, March 10 Work Session.
Community Manager Ray Sohl told Directors that Association Attorney Roger Knight had recommended the change, because none of the Association's legal documents give the Board the Authority to permanently waive assessments. And allowing lots to be combined has the effect of permanently reducing the dues paid on the combined parcel.
Treasurer Conrad Meyer noted that combining lots had been allowed since the beginning of the Association, perhaps, in part, because the original development plan was focused on creating lots for small, weekend cottages.
When marketing of the development switched to targeting retirees building full-sized homes, some of the original lots were too small to comfortably accommodate the larger structures.
"We have done this since day one," Meyer, who supports doing away with combinations, said. "The attorney is giving us some advice that we should stop doing it."
The issue of lot combinations — and reversing them — was raised for the Board when one landowner recently wanted to subdivide two previously combined lots. SLLA policy has been to allow previously combined lots to be split, but only if the landowner backs up and pays the dues that would have been owed had the lots remained separate. The landowner in question asked to have the policy waived — a request that the Board turned down.
Increasing costs for everyone else
Sohl pointed out that lot combinations are not allowed in most homeowners associations. By reducing the total number of dues-paying lots, it increases the cost of maintaining infrastructure for all other landowners.
President Steve Ritter worried that changing a longstanding policy allowing lot combinations would result in charges of unfairness.
"We have a legal opinion," Director Bob Racine replied.
"Is this something that needs to percolate a little in the community?" Ritter asked. "Or is this something we should move forward with right away?"
"We have a legal opinion," Racine reiterated. "Are we going to say we are going to break the association law for you?"
"We should move forward and do it," Director Bob Darr agreed.
The Board voted to move the item onto the agenda for the Wednesday, March 19 Open Meeting.
Combined lots that weren't
While taking a look at lot combinations, Treasurer Meyer and the SLLA staff discovered that there are a number of lots recognized by the Association as combined that continue to be shown as separate lots in Moore County's records. Apparently the owners of those lots, having won approval for the combination from the Association, never undertook the survey and deed filings necessary to officially complete the combination.
Manager Sohl proposed a new policy under which those not-officially combined lots would be identified and the owners notified and given 120 days to obtain a survey and file paperwork with the County.
If the property owner fails to take those steps, the lots will be billed separately for Association dues.
"There wasn't a good procedure in place prior to two years ago," Meyer explained. "So, what we are finding is that most folks are doing it correctly. But there are some that have one of the requirements missing. We need to give them the opportunity to correct that in a reasonable time frame."
The Board moved the recommended policy to the Open Meeting for a vote.
Responding to a suggestion that President Ritter made during the February Open Meeting, Manager Sohl provided a quote from Davenport and Company — the Association's landscaping contractor — for snow removal and associated services.
The quote proved to be more of a conversation starter than an actionable proposal and the Board referred the matter to the Maintenance and Facilities Committee.
In other business during the Monday, March 10 SLLA Board Work Session:
Lots for sale. The Board plans to put some of the thirty nine lots it owns — half of them acquired from the Country Club in a recent negotiated deal to forgive back dues — on the market. President Ritter recommended that the Board list the lots with longtime Seven Lakes specialist Whelan Realty LLC. The Board will vote on that proposal in the March Open Meeting.
Citizen of the Year. Each year, the Board names an SLLA Citizen of the Year, and are expected to vote on that honor during a closed session held in conjunction with the March 19 Open Meeting. Director Darr noted that there is no prescribed process for selecting honorees, and suggested the Board formalize the process before the 2015 Open Meeting.
No votes for SLLA lots. The Directors are not inclined to cast votes for Association owned lots in the upcoming Board elections and budget referendum. "Ray [Sohl] noted that our lots don't meet muster," President Steve Ritter said. "We don't pay dues, so we don't get to vote." The decision not to vote the lots will be ratified at the March 19 Open Meeting.
Voting proxies. The Directors will cast ballots for any proxies assigned to the Board by landowners. The ballots delivered to members in the Annual Meeting packet allow them to assign a proxy to the Board, rather than voting themselves. That will be handled in closed session at the March Open Meeting.
Protecting volunteers. The Board asked Community Manager Sohl to develop list of activities that volunteers should not undertake on the Association's behalf — like operating a chainsaw — because they are too dangerous and could represent too great a liability risk for the Association. Sohl said the Association's Worker's Compensation Insurance does not cover volunteers and the SLLA's medical coverage for accidents would limit coverage to a maxim of $10,000.
Another look at cameras. After looking at the cost of security cameras to cover the pool area, the Board asked the Security Committee to take a hard look at the need for cameras. President Ritter said the Committee is likely to recommend only an upgrade for cameras at the entry gates, for now.
Bad debts. The Board will vote in the Open Meeting whether to write off a number of accounts as likely uncollectable. Treasurer Meyer explained that approval of the motion will not stop collection efforts on the accounts, but simply remove them from the Association's books. If they are later collected through efforts of the Board's collection attorney, they will be recorded as revenue.
Backhoe repairs. Sohl asked for Board approval to spend additional funds for major repairs to the Association's backhoe. Repairs are expected to total $15,000. Sohl pointed out that a comparable used backhoe, with no warranty, would cost $30,000. The expenditure will be voted on at the March Open Meeting.
Collections. The Board reviewed a revised collections policy that mirrors CAS's standard procedures and moved it to the Open Meeting for a vote.
Big J repairs. Director Leach reported that repairs underway at the Big Juniper Dock found the structure in even worse shape than expected. A portion of the pavilion roof may need replacing, he added.
Stick that sticker. The Board discussed the best means of ensuring that boat owners affix new stickers to their boat and trailer. Director Meyer noted that Seven Lakes West simply imposes a fine if boats are found to lack updated stickers. Manager Sohl will investigate the Westside's process and bring the SLLA Board a proposal.