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Friday, June 22, 2007

My GNW HOA Minutes: Okay, Hours Really...

As I wrote earlier, I attended my very first meeting of the GNW HOA on Thursday. I have been planning to attend for years, but never found the time. I’m glad I made it.

The meeting has a format which affords residents wishing to address the board of directors a chance to do so before the formal meeting agenda kicks off. There is also a sign-up which allows residents to speak while agenda items are discussed. I found this to be a great format though the execution was not as formal as it was probably intended.

A few residents to speak had clear, seemingly non-confrontational issues for the board regarding the pools. One lady asked about the diving boards being removed and another asked about hooligans hanging around at the pool. Okay, hooligans was my word, not necessarily hers.

Then it got interesting. A lady chose to ask a specific board director, Mr. Guy Pucci, if he had planned on giving the money he received in a lawsuit settlement from the association, back. She called him unethical for sitting on the board after costing residents $75K for his lawsuit against the very board he was now a member of. Before he could respond, Mr. Joe Martinez (publisher of the Sentinel Newsletter) admonished the board that this woman (whose name I did not catch) was out of order. “Out of order!” he repeated multiple times, to which the lady replied, “Sir, we aren’t in session; how can I be out of order?”

At this point there was a lot of talk between board members and onlookers in the audience, and I could see factions of people dividing like a wedding with the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s. I realized that the descriptions of board meetings given to me by neighbors who have participated before were pretty accurate. Another lady whose name I did not catch provided a formal letter to the board and then stood there and read it. She had three different complaints, all of which seemed petty to me, but the one that came up again in the formal portion of the meeting revolved around a particular volunteer having been let go by the board some 6 years ago. Whatever. I think audience members and the board all agreed that as long as the volunteer wasn’t doing anything bad now, let’s move on. Agreed.

Two gentlemen fully decked out in motorcycle gear spoke of their desire to form an area motorcycle club that HOA residents could join in and have twice monthly rides, perform community service events and perhaps hold meetings at the lodge. They were seeking permission not to form the club, but to be recognized as residents, and not as Hells Angels if neighbors saw a group of them meeting in the parking lot of the lodge etc. If ever there was a no-brainer, this was it. My gut feeling was that a member of the board would immediately move to have a proclamation of some sort, naming this new motorcycle club as a Friend of the Association or some such ceremonial convention. Instead, board member Ms. Sigrid Long brought up the fact that this group could somehow be a liability to the HOA, and that lawyers would have to be consulted.

Beyond being shocked, I was distressed that during the course of the meeting (which still was not actually in session yet) the “need to consult lawyers” had been proclaimed numerous times by Ms. Long and others.

Mr. Lee Besing, the chairman of the board was quick to dismiss Ms. Long’s concerns, citing that unless the motorcycle club was going to use the name, “Great Northwest Community Improvement Association, Inc. Motorcycle Gang” and perhaps use the GNW logo, there really wasn't any issue. Mr. Austin Sheldon, one of the club founders, confirmed that they would not be wearing leather jackets emblazoned with the seal of the GNW.

Interestingly enough, later in the meeting Mr. Besing noted that a group offered to let GNW board members ride in Corvettes during the 4th of July parade. I couldn’t help but wonder if Ms. Long would want to consult lawyers for liability issues prior to jumping in for a ride down Timberwilde.

Another topic that came up in the early “residents to speak” session and then in the formal meeting was the use of e-mail addresses. Ms. Kathy Callahan pointed out that one board member; Mr. Pucci in particular did not wish to correspond with her via e-mail. Given an opportunity to explain his reasons, the fact that she was sending mail to his work address, the matter was resolved somewhat. Later, Ms. Long made the suggestion that board members should only be using official e-mail addresses for correspondence with residents and further, that any e-mail sent to one board member should go to all board members. Somehow, this good idea of making board members accessible via official e-mail addresses turned into a free-for-all with board members recounting the various e-mails they had received from their adoring public, and how they responded to them. This was fine, but it seemed as though the meeting never gained any momentum toward getting through the stated agenda because every sentence uttered required some legal review or interjection from an audience member.

During a break, my neighbor Eric introduced me to board member, Janet Doherty and former board member Kathy Callahan, both of whom seemed to be very nice folks just concerned about making the HOA work.

This brings me to the point. For all of the infighting and ruffled feathers over seemingly insignificant matters, these people all seem very concerned about doing the right thing for the community, yet I think there is some one-upmanship and pettiness spoiling what would otherwise be a tough job in the first place. Listening to the temporary accountant and one of the department heads discuss the very real and important issues facing the people who do the day-to-day running of this HOA and all the facilities, it comes across as unsettling to observe otherwise well intentioned people act like 6th graders.

The Great Northwest is bigger than many towns in the state of Texas, and with a budget that far exceeds what I dismissively thought of as a pool and a few security guards. There are many hardworking people (the ones that have not quit, anyway) who have an important job to do to keep our community facilities running. To help guide the direction of the community are a group of volunteers who have been elected by a very small percentage of the total HOA membership (which by the way doesn’t diminish the fact that they are elected). It seems such a shame that the meeting could go on for so long (two hours before I gave up and left) to contain really only 20 minutes or so of real content; the rest of the time taken up by petty sniping and quibbling.

I’m no stranger to immaturity though, so I plan to be back at the next meeting and perhaps I’ll bring a cowbell or one of those air horns to give off an alarm each time someone starts being stupid. I feel like I’m going to like these people; they are my neighbors after all.

* If I mentioned your name, please don’t sue me, but please don’t hesitate to e-mail me if you’d like.

*No, I'm not really going to bring an air horn or a cowbell next time.


guy pucci said...

Very precise in your observations and I agree with your opinions. I WON'T FILE SUIT.
Guy D.

Dave said...

You are too kind! Thanks for reading.

Bryce said...

Hey, nice to see a blog about Silver Creek. My wife and I are planning on moving to SC within the next few months. I was wondering if you knew of a direct link to the HOA?

It looks as though we have chosen a great community to live in!


Bryce said...

Looks like I found the link on your blog! I have one unanswered question that maybe you can help me out with? Does the HOA bar you from building additional structures on your property? For instance, my wife and I were wanting to build a Tuff Shed storage unit in our backyard? Do you know if you can do this?

Thank you very much for any help you can offer!


Dave said...

Hi Bryce, Welcome to Silver Creek. I can't speak for the HOA or the Architectural Committe, but according to the handy manual that I picked up from the office, you can put in a shed/storage building in your back yard, but there are some specifications involved in the height, where it can be placed and whether or not you can move your maid and her six kids into it.

If you e-mail me directly, I'll be happy to send you specific verbiage from the document I have.

Send it to silvercreek78250 at gmail dot com (name@gmail.com).

Again, welcome!

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I love to observe the odd things happening around me as I go about my day. I especially like it when I can get a picture of people being themselves. Here, I attempt to report the various people and events I have encountered in my neighborhood, and my city. I'd also love to hear from you. Feel free to e-mail your experiences and photos of life in San Antonio.

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