Community Update from your Board of Directors 10-1-21 regarding Petition
To: Darien Club Owner’s Association
Fr: John Becker, DCOA President
Dear Darien Club Owners and Neighbors,
We have received inquiries from numerous Community Members regarding a petition circulated in our community by a few owners. So that Community Members are not misled, the Board of Directors has the obligation to provide the community with facts which can be verified related to the Petition circulated.
The Board deemed the petition to be invalid as duplicate names and non-owners were represented on the petition. More so, petitioners made demonstrably false and misleading statements, both verbally and in writing to Owners, some of whom forwarded petitioner emails to the Board. Numerous homeowners have voiced concerns that they were misled into providing their signatures. Despite the petition’s validity concerns, the Board has chosen not to impede the petitioners’ request for a Special Meeting.
Specifically, in the petition, the representatives included two Items:
Item 1 – “Discuss the procedures of and conduct of Board meetings, including, but not limited to: in-person meetings, the ability of homeowners to comment during meetings while receiving equality of time and topic, requirement for homeowners to receive adequate notice of open DCOA meetings including the agenda and prior minutes, and the need for more details in the minutes of the meeting discussions and financials for full transparency.”
The Board is providing the following clarification to the community for Item 1:
In-person meetings: Historical in-person Board Meetings were poorly attended, often having single digit attendance. The current Zoom format was established by the prior Board President (now a Petitioner) based on Covid concerns. The Zoom format has continued for the same reason under the Current Board and has also resulted in the largest attendance and participation in Board meetings than ever before due to the safety, flexibility, and convenience, and as demonstrated by the vast numbers of HOAs and organizations adopting this platform. The safety of the community is priority to this Board. Read the following link on HOA’s moving to virtual meetings: https://www.buildium.com/blog/how-to-run-virtual-hoa-board-meetings
Ability of homeowners to comment with equality of time and topic: Our current Board members instituted a new and formal “Community Comment” session as a part of every board meeting beginning with the June 3, 2021, meeting. Attendees were given 2 minutes to comment on Agenda items and to keep the meeting on schedule. The 2-minute equality of time rule allows ALL residents a forum subject to the time allocated for comment. In recent board meetings, a few attendees spoke well beyond the 2 minutes on items unrelated to the meeting Agenda. Some attendees spoke over each other, and background noises also led to interruptions. For this reason, and consistent with common Zoom practice, attendees are muted while other Attendees speak for their 2-minute interval. There are protocols the Board must follow to keep meetings orderly during community comment. Also, once the meeting is officially convened, public comment is closed. For this portion of the meeting, attendees will be muted. This is protocol for all Homeowner Associations as well as other organization board meetings.
Homeowners to receive adequate notice of open DCOA meetings including the Agenda and prior minutes: The current Board has provided proper notice for all meetings in accordance with the Bylaws
section 4.05 and 5.04. Agendas have been provided by the current board in advance of meetings for the first time in 27 years. Notices and Agendas have been posted on the DCOA Website by this Board. For the most recent meeting, Agendas were delivered by both E-mail, physical mail, and listed on the website. In addition, notices were posted on the entranceway monuments which were removed by unknown persons. Minutes are available to all Owners by request from the current Management Company, Oak & Dale Properties. For the new Management Company, Real Manage, these minutes will be immediately available on the Owner web portal to provide transparency that has not previously existed.Please see the DCOA website for Notices and Agendas for the meetings run by the current Board: https://dchoa.org/
The petition states that there is the “need” for more details in the minutes of the meeting discussions:
The minutes prepared by the board are complete, accurate, and under the direction of legal counsel. Our newest Board Member, Sara Vaince is our Secretary, responsible for minutes, and an Attorney. Board meetings have been recorded to ensure accuracy of minutes. Historical minutes formerly prepared by the prior Management Company often had inaccuracies and omissions. A stated “desire” of certain Petition Organizers was to include their personal monologue in the minutes of the Association meetings. This is inappropriate, historically inconsistent, and HOA Associations should not include these as directed by our Association outside counsel. Again, homeowners can request minutes from the management company anytime.
Financial Statements Transparency: The current board released historical financial statements and the 2021 budget on July 14, 2021, since financial data had not been released in recent years. Oak & Dale’s Email Address is: email@example.com. Please confirm your receipt of the July 14th email that included a community newsletter along with the financial data and to assure you are receiving all Board communications. Check your spam and confirm your email to the management company if you did not receive an email. Homeowners can request financial data through the management company at any time.
Item 2 – “Discuss the Design Manual and the creation of a Commission comprised of a diverse set of participants to be selected by the attending Owners. The Commission’s goal is to be transparent and inclusive of all Owners. The Commission’s purpose is: to review the Design Manual, determine if any changes are necessary or requested by a majority of Voting Members, and if so, provide recommendations, if any, to the Board at an open meeting of the Owners where they will be discussed openly to ascertain the general will of the Owners before being voted upon at the same meeting by the Board in its fiduciary capacity for all Owners.”
Item 2 asks for a discussion but is asking to subvert the 1998 Design Manual Rules & Regulations to the benefit of the Petition Organizers. A significant number of Owners have agreed that the Design Manual Rules & Regulations from over two decades ago are outdated and should be reviewed. Family need, technology, and safety concerns have evolved and ALL Owners, legacy and new community members alike, should be able to provide input as opposed to a vocal minority. All Owners will have the opportunity to provide comment/input via survey while the Board conducts its review of the current Design Manual Rules and Regulations. This process will be substantially more inclusive than a handful of petition organizers usurping the ability for ALL Owners to provide input.
The Board does not wish for this petition to be a divisive factor in our community. The Board was reconstituted on July 29, 2021, a mere 60 days ago. Former Board Members that are petitioners were allowed the latitude and respect to do their work. While change and lack of control may be difficult, this Board should be afforded the same responsibility allowed under the governing documents for this board to do its work on behalf of the community. This Board understands that it represents the community in its entirety and hopes to bring community members together for the benefit of the subdivision.
The Board is proud of recent community events that have brought neighbors together. Please visit the Darien Club Community Social Facebook Page for neighborhood social gatherings, events, and communications. A Halloween Parade is currently being organized by members of the community and will be posted on the Facebook page and DCOA Website. All events are open and inclusive to all community members.
A regular meeting of the Board of Directors is scheduled for October 11, 2021. The Board is currently reviewing contracts for renewal in 2022 for preparation of the Budget. In addition, the transition to Real Manage as the community management company will be effective November 1, 2021. Real Manage will present their services to the community at an upcoming meeting or by way of a welcome packet. The Board looks forward to working with Owners who wish to improve and enjoy their homes and at the same time add value to the Darien Club community. The Pandemic brought much change in recent years. Families found themselves working at home and socializing in their backyards. This led to Owners making improvements to their homes including adding home offices, gyms, outdoor entertaining space, pools, etc. The Board recognizes the importance of this societal change and wishes to work with owners to make their home the perfect family haven while upholding standards of value. ALL owners of Darien Club should equally be allowed this privilege. One of the most significant drivers for the review of the Design Manual Rules & Regulations is to assure consistency in application of the rules rather than what appears to be inconsistent enforcement on a cursory review of the subdivision. Many homeowners have expressed their frustration with the Architectural Review process for improvements to Owner home exteriors. The Board will work to facilitate and improve this process with rule revisions. While there is a need for a formal approval process to maintain value, the process should not be cumbersome or subjective. Any owner that feels they have had a difficult process in the past is welcome to contact the board so that consideration can be given to improve the process through rule revisions. The Board urges homeowners to work with reputable architectural firms and designers to create a beautiful project that enhances value for the homeowner and the subdivision.
We welcome the community to email the board of directors firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions, comments, or concerns. Please feel free to reach out to any one of us anytime in the neighborhood or through the directory. We are here to answer your questions, hear your concerns, and dispel rumors. We look forward to everyone coming together as a community to promote Darien Club as the inviting, kind, and premier neighborhood it is.
John Becker, President on behalf of the
Darien Club Owners Association Board of Directors