For the last few weeks, I've been visiting our second home in San Jose, California, ironically called the Villages.
This community is comparable in size and constituency to the Village of Oakcreek Association. Similar to VOCA, the community has a golf course, tennis courts, and a restaurant and bistro.
It is a community of over 2000 properties, with significant acreage encompassing the association, including common areas, parks, and hiking trails.
The organizational structure includes a staff of people that work in Administration, Public Safety/Security, Maintenance, Golf Operations, and the Restaurant/Bistro.
There are some notable differences. With three times our employee headcount, and the increased cost of labor in California, the payroll costs are astronomically more than VOCA's.
The homeowners' association dues are much higher as well, but there are vast amenities associated with the monthly assessments.
There is a fitness center, several pools and hot tubs, bocce ball courts, and several clubhouse areas that have barbeque grills.
The dues also cover some of the basic utilities such as water, sewer, cable television, yard maintenance, and trash. Speaking of trash, at VOCA, we've had several members express a desire that VOCA limit trash service to a single vendor, for both noise reduction and wear/tear on the roads.
As much as this idea has merit, at the Villages, they are able to do this for two distinct reasons that make it a challenge for VOCA.
First: this is a gated, self-contained community that can control street utilization by service providers, and secondly, and perhaps more significantly, the cost of trash pick-up is included in the assessments.
As far as golf membership, whether a property owner is a golfer or not, a portion of the association dues subsidizes the golf course as well as the restaurant. Golf membership is included with property ownership, but golfers do pay a nominal fee each time they play.
This is different from VOCA where our Bylaws stipulate that our golf course must be self-sustaining therefore none of the association assessments are used for golf operations.
The board meetings I've attended at the Villages are surprisingly similar in dynamic and spirit as the ones at VOCA.
The recent issues discussed at these meetings, and that the board has included in their working goals, include board transparency, cost control and containment, communication, and board authority. These are areas we've either started working on at VOCA, or are on a priority list of to do's, or ones our community continues to challenge us to improve.
Most recently, I had the pleasure of meeting some of the board members, including Bill, the president. We met for lunch a couple of times to exchange best practices, and discuss some of the issues that confront our community.
The things he brought up as ongoing topics of consideration on the Villages board mirrored ours at VOCA. How do you contain costs in order to mitigate increases in HOA assessments?
How do you balance outside play with the needs of the membership in a way that brings greater revenue to the golf course without compromising member experience?
How should the restaurant be managed to minimize the drain to the association reserves, and given the attrition rates of restaurant employees, is it a better option to license the restaurant to a third party who will run the restaurant with their own staff?
Fortunately, in VOCA, we've started showing a positive outcome in a lot of these areas by what's been implementing in the last year.
Another interesting discussion had to do with community involvement. It seems that there are three types of people in the community.
First: property owners who are perfectly happy with the way things are, and leave it to the board and organization to continue. They feel no need to get involved.
Unfortunately we both agreed, that these are the people we need, to not only support our efforts, but also consider volunteering on committees or on the board.
The second type: Those who are apathetic. For some reason, they lack enthusiasm, interest, or concern. Yet we need their input and interaction because something is creating that sense of neutrality/impassivity that keeps them from engaging.
The third type: Those who for their reasons, are never satisfied, consistently complain, raise the same issues, and challenge every action but very rarely contribute by constructively becoming part of the solution.
As it turns out, Bill had been on other association boards before the Villages, and he indicated that this community dynamic seems to be universal.
The challenge we concluded is that there is no answer to how to get the community more constructively engaged. The best we can do, is to do our best, to communicate as much as possible, to be responsive when the community engages us, to continue to represent the overall interest of the community without getting distracted by the few with special interests, and hope that by the time our term on the board expires, we've been able to add some value by the work we've done.
In the end, after experiencing the two Villages, I realized that even with the distance and the uniqueness of each place, the two Villages from a board perspective weren't that different after all!
Posted: Monday, September 1, 2014
Article comment by:
I appreciate that Gwen volunteers her time to serve our community and that she takes the time to write this column. I certainly don't appreciate the miserable comments you folks have made.
Posted: Sunday, August 24, 2014
Article comment by:
uncommon sense uncommon sence
oK.They need a tax to keep their nose out of the sky.Sounds like Disney World.
Posted: Saturday, August 23, 2014
Article comment by:
A very TALL TALE, indeed.
Do they keep the association uniformed and in the dark with decisions being made in private homes behind closed doors too?
Is their building deteriorating around them while they write letters to members telling them how grand everything is?
Does their president and vice president of the board also act in dual conflicting roles? President and General Manager?
I wonder if any of your numerous other homes are managed by the property management companies you invited to bid VOCA without any request to do so from the association? Does San Jose do that to their members too?
What about Sedona Golf Resort or Cottonwood? Tell us another tale.