Presidents Report

> Post Annual Meeting

Firstly I would like to thank the silent majority of our residents who are happy living in Whitemarsh Reserve and who both appreciate what the Board is doing and who make our job so much easier.  I would also like to express my deepest gratitude to the amazing group of volunteers making up our Board for the last few years.  Being on the Board of an HOA is an incredibly hard and thankless job that would be challenging to have as a paid position, but as an unpaid volunteer you really have to either be totally insane to get involved or be amazingly committed to making our community a fantastic place to live.  Our Board is that amazingly committed group of people, and we have the knowledge and skills to ensure that Whitemarsh Reserve is a desirable community to own or rent a property in.  Most importantly, we stand as one, taking both praise and criticism as a team, as none of us can succeed without the others.

Unfortunately, it is the way of the world that criticism of others always seems to outnumber the amount of praise.  The Board is regularly abused verbally whilst carrying out their duties, their property is physically damaged in retaliation for perfectly legal actions taken against violators, and, without trying to give anyone any ideas, we are only a very very small step away from real physical retaliation against Board members.


How can this situation be improved?

It can only be improved by the silent majority of residents not staying quite so silent in their daily lives, and by voting in the annual elections to ensure they have a say about the issues that they care about and to ensure the people genuinely working hard on their behalf remain on the Board to continue their progress.  Voting in the annual elections means carefully making the decision about who to vote for, so do not simply vote for a new addition based on their own biased portfolio, carefully consider their actual background.

  • Do you know them personally?
  • Do they have a personal rather than a community agenda?
  • Are their motives to be constructive or disruptive?
  • Are you aware of their past record of behavior in the community?

Think carefully, your community really depends on it.


Criticisms and Abuse

To plan our next year, what valid criticisms and verbal abuse did the Board receive in the past year that we need to improve on?  

General Abuse and Disregard for Community Protocol: Lets start with a funny one: (when talking to the teenage boyfriend of a resident after he entered the community using the exit gate):

My gate code is not working” (three years after the community discontinued gate codes)

It’s OK, I have done it many times” and

Everyone does it

Lets all try to respect the community and not try to circumvent protocol or abuse the system. It’s an easy process for owners to get extra gate remotes for themselves or their lessees, and visitors simply need to enter the house code to be let in by the occupant.


Backroom Politics & Closed-Door Decision Making: We are regularly attacked for “backroom politics and closed-door decision making”.  My response is that it is illegal to have more than two Board members meeting and talking about HOA business without giving all residents the ability to attend such a meeting.  Our Board has strictly followed that rule and Zoom board meetings are held as often as practical.  However these are very poorly attended, sometimes there are only one or two residents attending, and I think the maximum attendees we have had in the last three years is twelve.  This is out of 186 properties that make up our community.

Also the fact remains, that those who regularly accuse us of closed door decisions are not regular attendees of Board meetings. Bowing out of monthly Board meetings, and attending the annual meetings once in four years just in order to criticize the Boards decision making is rather lame. If you haven’t made the slightest effort to be involved in the decision making process, you should not expect to criticize the board for making the decision for you.

The fact remains that the Board has decisions to make regarding the community and they provide owners have ample opportunity to have their say at meetings either in person, through Zoom or even by proxy. In many cases it is not practical for the Board to wait for the next meeting to have a larger number of attendees present to decide anything, they must decide one way or another and move forward regardless.


Parking, Again and Again: As everyone knows, parking spaces are a real issue in Whitemarsh Reserve due to the lack of correct planning by developers and Martin County.  The Board has worked diligently to clear the sidewalks of habitual violators to allow residents to safely enjoy their community on foot, by bicycle or with children and pets.  The abuse the Board receives as part of their efforts is unreal and would be much reduced if more residents spoke up earlier and let their neighbors know that what they are doing is not OK, rather than staying silent and just letting the Board deal with it.

The Board has a written procedure of actions we have to follow to make sure we are fair and apply the same rules for everyone, but we still receive huge backlash from violators who feel the rules don’t apply to them.  Just in case people are think we are overreacting, here is a few random examples of the backlash the Board receives as a result of following up on violators:

You two old women should get off your high horse and find something better to do with your life” (we have lots of things we rather do!)

I didn’t know I wasn’t allowed to park there” (after being stickered fifteen times)

My father is in law enforcement, and I will take action against you” (after being stickered almost ten times and having received a couple of letters from property management)

The sticker has the wrong phone number on it” (does that make parking on the sidewalk OK?)

Next time you sticker me I can and will sue you for criminal damage to my vehicle

Sad, middle aged woman who can’t find a man and has nothing better to do than pick on her neighbors” (taunting whilst stood at bottom of widowed Board members driveway with her children filming Board member’s reaction on cellphones)


We Are Volunteers with a Fixed Budget

I could go on with complaints and accusations until the end of the month.  The reality is that all subjects such as speeding, landscaping, pool heating, lack of community events, lack of communication, lack of response from property management and Board are caused by either the lack of budget ($230 a month does not buy a lot these days), lack of extra time available by unpaid volunteers, or simply the fact that they are topics that most residents don’t really care about.  Thing about this:

  • If the HOA was not constantly attacked for its actions by residents, we could spend a huge part of our legal budget on improved landscaping;
  • If the Board didn’t have to spend 80% of its time on reminding a small minority of residents to not park their vehicles on the sidewalks, we could spend more time talking to residents about their concerns and needs, and could have amazing communication flows using our website, social media and even organize community events; and
  • If the Board didn’t receive the amount of verbal abuse and threats that we regularly do, we wouldn’t have to sit quietly in a darkened room with alcohol for a few days frequently to gather ourselves to be able to carry on with our normal lives.  I would like to remind everyone that we are volunteers, and we are human.

The Positives

Apologies for the ranting and raving on the negative aspects of the HOA Board activities, so here is a list of just some of our achievements in the last year:

  • Change of property management to a more professional and responsive provider after the increasing number of failures by McHale Property Management.  Clearing up these failures is an ongoing process;
  • Self-managing the community for over three months during the change-over;
  • Renegotiation of the Comcast contract to include Internet that has lowered monthly overall costs for 80% of residents;
  • Replacing the landscape contractor to a more reliable provider;
  • We improved communications and response times for applicants and residents using the website, providing a direct link to the Board and Property Management;
  • We improved background checks and mandatory meet and greet interviews with applicants to ensure they are a good fit for our community as well as providing them with all the necessary information for a successful integration into the community.  These applicants then also have a direct contact to the Board member that interviewed them for follow up questions which are always promptly answered;
  • We continued following up on parking violations as mentioned above, with the result that the community is now much safer and pleasant for pedestrians and cyclists.  This will be an ongoing process;
  • We continued not renewing leases of repeat violators of HOA regulations;
  • We continued following up on trash rules and receptacles, which has much improved the appearance of the main thoroughfare on trash days;
  • We continued working with residents on architectural modification questions to make sure there are no material alterations to the appearance of our community and any resulting reduction in property prices; and
  • We established a violations committee of residents to oversee the actions taken by the Board regarding violations and fines.

Thank you so much for your patience in enduring this report.  I firmly believe that the hard work of the Board has led to a much-improved appearance and running of the community, and I look forward to continuing this process in the eternal hope that we can move away from the focus on covenant enforcement to physical improvements to our community and a more active community life.

Sincerely,
Britta Fleischhack-Norquoy