Declaration Project Summary and Update Oct 2012

Declaration Project Summary and Update from Alison Lennarz

The October Forester Newsletter seems to have caught people’s attention, which is a good thing, but also to have caused some regrettable confusion.  Hopefully, the following information will be helpful.  First. the proposed Declaration is posted at the WFA website, with the current bylaws (as they were changed last year) .  The Board has been trying for years to find some way of assuring a steady, reliable revenue stream and to be able to put funds aside for capital improvements as needed.  In any given year, 40-60% of WF residents join WFA.  We have made budget so far this year without too much hardship with 60% of residents joining WFA, so we have determined that is the threshold for moving forward.  In advance of that, however, the Bylaws would have to be modified to be consistent with the Declaration.  The proposed Bylaws are also available on the website, and if approved, they would make signing the Declaration a condition of membership in WFA (assuming we have the requisite 60%).  The new Bylaws will be subject to the vote of the WFA membership at the annual meeting in November (or at a later special meeting called for that purpose), by the vote of 2/3 of the membership at a meeting at which a quorum of members is present.

If the proposed Bylaws are duly adopted and the Declaration receives the requisite support, only those individuals who have signed the Declaration and paid the WFA assessment will be members of WFA.  It would be quite unfair to those who have committed their property to WFA in perpetuity if residents who are willing to commit only for a year at a time were permitted, for example, to vote on a budget that could leave the “permanent” members with a future mess, because that budget was inadequate or was predicated on major increases in future years, or if they could vote to repair or replace facilities for which they are not ultimately responsible.  The Bylaws state that members determine who may use the amenities, so WFA members could decide whether non-members could use the facilities and the amount of the fees. This, like the amount of the annual dues, would be proposed by the Board but determined by the vote of the membership at an annual meeting, just as the annual dues and non-member fees are approved by the WFA membership at annual meetings now.

About 40 residents have expressed their support for the project to date, and three have expressed their opposition.  Interestingly, the 3 opposed have never served on the board, and they don’t believe the neighborhood is in any danger of decline in the future if the status quo is preserved.  Most if not all who have served on the board, and many WFA members who have not, know that the neighborhood’s facilities are aging.  What many people do not seem to know is that the Windsor Forest Association owns these facilities regardless of whether current members wish to pay for their maintenance.  The WFA Boards over the years have done a great job of extending the facilities’ usable life, at relatively low expense.  This cannot continue forever, and we need to have a capital maintenance plan and to be steadily building our reserves for repairs and replacements if needed.  The time to plan for this is now (overdue, in fact); not when the repair or replacement is no longer avoidable.

There is a reason why only older neighborhoods have voluntary homeowner’s associations–voluntary associations are ill-equipped to deal with the ongoing needs of modern neighborhoods.  None of the more recent neighborhoods in Williamsburg or beyond have voluntary associations; they all have mandatory homeowner’s associations.  The amount of their dues and the complexity of their declarations of easements, covenants and restrictions vary with the size of the neighborhood and the kinds of amenities they offer. A mandatory homeowner’s association does not have to be heavy with rules and obligations; it’s most important function is to preserve the quality of the neighborhood and a significant aspect of that is collecting dues.

Once great neighborhoods can and do experience blight.  Blight usually doesn’t happen overnight, but slowly over many years of seemingly benign neglect.  It is certainly a possibility for Windsor Forest.  Windsor Forest can choose to either face change head on and manage it to our benefit, or we can let change happen and scramble to react or accept the decline to the quality of our lives, neighborhood and property values.  Change is hard, and the change proposed is particularly hard for a few reasons.  There is an element of unknown. Because no other neighborhood is structured quite like Windsor Forest, with its many different sections subject to separate easements, covenants and restrictions that automatically renew every ten years for another ten year period, all on different schedules, we cannot follow the lead of Queen’s Lake, with its deed restriction program.  We can’t follow the lead of Kingspoint, which sold a waterfront lot (which WFA obviously doesn’t have) several years ago and engaged in a massive capital campaign to replace its pool, clubhouse and playground.  Additionally, the process for change is cumbersome, requiring a critical mass of support in order to be effective.

This project has been in the works for over three years, however, and it’s time to take a serious and objective look at the upsides and downsides of moving forward or resting in the comfortable–for now–status quo.  If the project fails, residents will need to be prepared with other ideas or to invest significantly more time and money in the future. . .  or live in a neighborhood that is less generally less desirable.  The choice is yours; no one can make you approve the proposed Bylaws or Declaration.  Please choose thoughtfully.


The following additional documents are all  available to review on the website here

· Redline comparison to WFA Bylaws in effect prior to January 2012 meeting;

· Brief explanation of the changes to the WFA Bylaws as a result of the Amendment and Restatement of the Bylaws;

· Proposed Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions to replace the 20+ recorded Restrictions presently applicable to Windsor Forest and automatically renewing every ten years on varying dates.

· Draft proposed Bylaws to accompany the proposed Declaration of Covenants, Conditions and Restrictions.

For further questions regarding these changes contact Alison Lennarz