Can I Get Some Help Here?

It started simply enough–with an e-mail from the community manager of our homeowner’s association.

The message was about a public hearing for a “Unified Development Ordinance” being implemented by our town’s planning board.

The idea was to simplify the processes for zoning, permitting, and development within the town. Under the current model, any kind of development or property improvement required you to navigate through a convoluted labyrinth of processes, departments, and procedures.

In theory, this unified plan would bring it all together into a comprehensive and easy-to-understand model.

There was just one problem...

“Conventional District Retrofits?”

Apparently, in order to plan for anticipated growth, this new ordinance included something called “Conventional District Retrofits,”
which would allow developers to have current property rezoned without holding public hearings or getting approval from the town’s elected Board of Commissioners.

Aside from the general issue that major zoning decisions would be happening without input from the public and direct oversight by our elected officials, there was a more immediate concern for residents in our community.

In the image of the zoning map, the big area labeled “CU-HB RZ-13- 18” is zoned as “Highway Business,” which allows for restaurants, medical offices, and small retail shops.

Under the proposed new ordinance, this could be converted to another zoning class that would allow the developers to construct a 300-unit threestory apartment complex.

The problem is that this would completely change the character of the area, especially for homeowners whose backyards face this piece of property, which is currently wooded and undeveloped. All of this is important as background; but what we really need to
talk about is the interaction we had with the company that manages the homeowners association.

“I Have a Few Questions...”

Since we just moved into our new home, I hadn’t had the opportunity to interface with the management company, so I went to their web site to learn a bit about them.

Their home page features the promising quote in the box above, leading me to believe that I can look forward to exceptional customer
service when I call.

And the “Our Staff” page has cute descriptions of the owners and employees, including one for Melissa Johnston–the person who sent the e-mail. This certainly seems like the kind of company I’m going to enjoy working with.

So I called the number, and spoke with a very pleasant, very professional woman. I explained that I had received the e-mail from Melissa and had some questions about the situation and wanted to find out who from the community was going to be in attendance at the public hearing.

She said she would pass my information on to Melissa who would call me back.

This was around 4:30 pm Monday afternoon.

Still Waiting...

When it got to be 1:00 pm the next day, I called them back again, only to be told that I should give the community managers 24 hours
to respond, and I could feel free to check back if I hadn’t heard anything by then.

Mind you, the public hearing was at 7:30 pm the same evening.

Fast forward to 4:30 pm, and I called again to explain that I hadn’t heard back from Melissa yet.

I was put on hold for a few minutes when the same woman came back on the phone and said, “I checked with Melissa, and she said she didn’t know anything more than what was in the memo and I’d just have to attend the meeting if I wanted more information.

I asked,“So I had to wait 24 hours and call three times to get that answer?” She replied, “Sorry, I don’t know what else to say.”

I then asked if I could get the phone number for Al Gibson, the elected president of the homeowner’s association, who was referenced in the original e-mail.

The woman said I could e-mail Melissa for that information. And then what? Wait another 24 hours? The meeting was less than three
hours away at this point.

She put me on hold and, apparently checking with Melissa, came back and said that they couldn’t give out the personal information for
board members.

“So this person is the elected president of our association, and you can’t tell me how to get in touch with him about a matter so critical
and urgent that you felt compelled to send a broadcast e-mail to all 1,100 homeowners in the community?”

At a loss for what to say, she suggested that I check with my neighbors– that one of them might know how to contact Mr. Gibson.

Okay, I’ll get right on that–I’ll start ringing 1,100 doorbells and won’t stop until I find what I’m looking for.

Who’s in Charge Here Anyway?

I asked if I could leave a message for the owner of the company, and was forwarded to his voice mail. I’m still waiting for a call back.

These companies are contracted by the homeowner’s association to provide service to their members. I’m guessing that when their contract is up, we may start looking for a new management company...