Quick Takes on the March 27th Board Meeting

Here’s our quick take on the March 27th board meeting. We now include video thumbnails directly in posts. If you click on the thumbnail, a video player will pop up and begin playing the video. Look for this feature in future posts. If you have problems using this feature, make a comment on our Help page.

We’ve uploaded 15 videos from the March 27th meeting, representing over 1 1/2 hours of about a 2 hour meeting.

One of the first orders of business: fill the board seat vacated by Rick Bleck, who did not meet the 1 year ownership requirement for nomination set forth in LHCC’s bylaws and was invisible on the campaign trail but was elected anyway. There were 2 candidates: Bill Masters and Mike Sweeney, who is the husband of board member Robin Pedlar.

LHCC’s own Articles include the requirement that “A Lot shall not have more than one membership, but the single membership shall be shared by all owners of the lot.” Since Robin Pedlar is a director, she must be a member. If there’s only 1 membership for a lot, there’s no membership opportunity left for Mike Sweeney. LHCC’s directors get around that major roadblock by obtaining a legal opinion from Juan Cardenas of Rees Broome. That opinion starts out “Assuming Mike Sweeney is a member of LHCC….” As far back as Aristotle in 350 B. C., this con job has been understood to be a logical fallacy, often referred to as “circular reasoning.” Check it out: Assuming pigs can fly, then pigs can fly. Use it, like Wayne Poyer did, to impress passive directors and gullible neighbors. Just don’t actually try to fly, because that will expose the fallacy pretty quickly. Buermeyer gave a speech intended for the camera that encouraged diversity on the board yet offered Masters the hope of joining the board only if he became a clone of Buermeyer himself. Buermeyer and Pedlar abstained; Murphy and Marcus avoided controversy by skipping the meeting. Task #1: pass a resolution to make the vote on this charade an open vote. Watch LHCC’s rules trampled on and tossed away in these 2 clips, Breaking The Rules Pt 1 and Breaking The Rules Pt 2. This action shows the board will recklessly violate LHCC’s own governing documents to keep its grip on power.

GM Ray Sohl gave the management report, Mar 08 GM Rpt Pt 1 and Mar 08 GM Rpt Pt 2, in which the topic of the effectiveness of the Roving Patrol was raised. Is it effective? The board moved that question to Executive Session, so members will never know just what the roving patrol led by Zeb Brevard, the roving patrol supervisor, actually does all day. Treasurer John Martel, who sometimes struggles with accounting issues, offered a friendly health tip in his Treasurer’s Report. Wayne Poyer raised a concern that an owner/builder was possibly blocked from using white garage doors, which should automatically be approved, in our clip Garage Doors and asked Judy Platt about stocking the lake with non-native fish.

There have been 2 serious accidents on West Masters Drive, so the topic of guard rails (Guard Rails Again Pt 1 and Guard Rails Again Pt 2) came up again. We’ve heard reports that a driver was very seriously injured, perhaps paralyzed, in a recent accident on West Masters. If guard rails had been installed, the seriousness of these accidents may have been reduced. Steve Locke did offer a suggestion: put up caution tape. Action on the guard rail issue was “tabled” because of LHCC’s “serious financial headaches.” Estimates for dam culvert work (just 1 part of a much bigger project) came in at approximately $175,000 compared to a budget of $45,000. This $130,000 surprise didn’t find its way into Wayne Poyer’s April 2008 President’s Report, which discussed dam costs.

Changes were made to construction guidelines, apparently requiring a member to be in good standing for all properties owned, rather than the property for which construction approval is applied, before approving new construction permits. If allowed to stand, this will just about kill any new construction at Lake Holiday. The board also discussed taking more aggressive action against serious compliance violations. That could mean spending more money on lawyers at a time when money is in short supply. With her husband’s help, Robin Pedlar outlined the plans for 2008 social activities and suggested that LHCC in effect have a second set of books to get around the troubles created by accrual accounting. Directors seemed comfortable they could find a way to shift expenses from one time period to another to make everything work.

Dave Buermeyer led a discussion of changing LHCC’s water conservation rules, but most of that discussion focused on eliminating the single word “services” from a motion actually made by Jo-anne Barnard. Barnard was concerned about expressing positive comments about Aqua Virginia’s services when there have been so many complaints from Lake Holiday homeowners that Aqua Virginia’s service is “not at an acceptable level.” Buermeyer lost control of his own topic, and in the end, voted against the resolution he presented. John Martel seemed to have no idea what he just voted on, since he voted against Buermeyer’s resolution but said that he wanted the resolution to pass. Maybe that one word “services” was the glue that held everything together. Maybe some would pout and block their own ideas if they couldn’t have it their own way.

The Middleton story that we previously covered has recorded a new chapter, after he put “No Trespassing” signs on his property. Wayne Poyer vowed to “do it much more crisply than we did the last one.”

We’ve also added a link on our sidebar to SchoolMatters, a Standard & Poors website with test scores, demographics, district finances, parent reviews, and other information on schools nationwide. It’s easy to compare schools. Our link is for Frederick County, VA schools. Check it out.

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Twenty Certified Letters Later…

…can the President of LHCC just pick up the phone, call a homeowner, and say “Oops, we goofed. We’re truly sorry”? Apparently not.

That answer was hidden away in a tab of LHCC’s board book called “For Your Interest.” LHCC directors now bury letters and emails from property owners to the board in this tab instead of reading and discussing them during the open meeting. That’s one way of blocking criticism from making its way to video and onto the internet.

Fortunately for Lake Holiday property owners, this “don’t discuss criticism” technique flopped at the December 27th board meeting.

The first example of this involves homeowner Robert Middleton, whose property was hit with a lien of $1800 for alleged violations of Lake Holiday’s sign prohibitions. A hit of $1800 – ouch! As the board discussed in our Compliance Reporting video (it’s in our video gallery on our Videos page), if Middleton violated any sign prohibition, he didn’t do it on his own property. In that video, GM Ray Sohl said that the signs should have simply been taken down instead of placing liens on Middleton’s property. It’s possible that Middleton himself watched the video and used it to support an argument that the liens should be removed, which is something that the board did not acknowledge at the November meeting. At the December 27th board meeting, shown in the following video, the board finally decided that Middleton is “no longer liable for $1800.” It’s good that LHCC reversed course on this issue.

The board discussed how to communicate this good news to Middleton, who apparently refused to accept several recently-mailed certified letters from LHCC. Ray Sohl described that LHCC has sent 20 certified letters to Middleton over this alleged violation, which apparently turned out to be no violation at all. Perhaps Middleton grew tired of seeing his own money spent to send him certified letters to communicate the message “We are 100% right, you are 100% wrong, so we’ve put an additional lien on your property.” An unsurprising outcome.

Some directors were reluctant to communicate with Middleton directly. In the video the best option developed by LHCC President Wayne Poyer was to put a message in a plain, unmarked envelope addressed by hand. That only seems strange to someone who does not understand that the board prefers to sneak their good news to Middleton to avoid having to acknowledge their error. Director Pat Shields even recommended no further effort to reach out to Middleton, ignoring that LHCC decided to remove the lien. Shields tried to focus attention on Middleton as the culprit, rather than LHCC itself: “He’s played the rules since this whole thing started.”

We have a simple suggestion for LHCC: have a senior official pick up the phone and call the man. Try starting the conversation off with: “Ooops, we goofed. We’ve removed the liens. We’re truly sorry.” Stop trying to shift the focus to Middleton’s alleged wrongdoing and away from the fact that LHCC improperly filed liens. We’re sure a straightforward, sincere apology will go a long way toward addressing any bad feelings Middleton may have.

Ray Sohl supported further efforts to reach out to Middleton for a good reason:

…you want to encourage participation of all members. The more participation you have, the more responsible community you have.

The secretive “For Your Interest” tab also revealed the second example of the unwillingness of LHCC’s leaders to admit a mistake. In our post It’s Not Our Problem Anymore we criticized LHCC’s efforts to wash its hands of helping property owners deal with utility problems. Apparently, LHCC has reversed course on this issue. LHCC Secretary Ken Murphy, a former LHEUC board member, has initiated efforts to communicate with Aqua Virginia and the SCC about utility complaints from Lake Holiday homeowners. Judging from the discussion in the video, complaints continue to roll in. We don’t see entirely smooth sailing, based on Murphy’s comment that he has “yet to identify the person at Aqua who will listen to me.” A little more than 1 year ago, LHCC closed on the sale of LHEUC’s assets for more than $1 million, and Aqua Virginia continues to serve Lake Holiday. Given those facts, one would hope that the board identified some responsible people at Aqua Virginia who would listen. One would also hope the board kept the contact information of those people. Nevertheless, we applaud this long-overdue correction.

Burying these 2 fixes in a section of the board book that is not intended for open discussion shows just how hard it is for LHCC’s leaders to admit they made a mistake. When faced with having to admit its error in putting a lien on Middleton’s property, the board preferred to communicate via cold and impersonal certified letters rather than a simpler and cheaper phone call. The personal phone call is both simpler and more appropriate in this situation.

Lake Holiday property owners are justifiably concerned about utility problems, and the board has tried to distance themselves from these concerns. If the board abandoned that effort and plans to play an active role in resolving these problems, that’s a good thing. The proper response to both our post and the complaints raised by others would have been to publicly acknowledge the mistake and openly commit to a new course.

Stubbornly refusing to admit a mistake sends an “I’m unreasonable” message to the world.

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