By Greg Ellison
(Oct. 10, 2019) Curtailing time frames for Ocean Pines Association members to address aesthetic violations is the intent of the proposed amendments to compliance resolutions and architectural guidelines discussed during the board of directors’ meeting last Wednesday.
Board member Frank Daly said the goal is implementing policies and procedures for speedier resolutions of Declarations of Restrictions violations.
“It compresses the timeline,” he said. “You have 30 days to correct it.”
Daly had suggested rescinding and replacing Resolution M-01 with a new M-10 resolution, along with revising resolutions M-04 and C-02.
During its June 1 meeting, the board approved a motion to alter the Declarations of Restrictions language to authorize levying fines for continued infractions.
Subsequently, General Manager John Viola formed a “fines work group,” to delve into the issue and find compliance solutions. The group consisted of Viola, Daly, Architectural Review Committee chairperson Lisa Schwartz and Dino McCurdy with the Compliance Permits and Inspections.
Board member Steve Tuttle said the ARC Committee had previously supported revising the related regulations.
“It’s important to note the GM has the authority then to go directly to get a court order … but it does not come to the board for a decision,” he said.
OPA President Doug Parks said the issue boils down to a procedural question.
“Does it make more sense to modify M-01 or rescind M-01 and add in M-10,” he said.
Parks proposed seeking the opinion of the Bylaws and Resolutions Committee.
Daly said previous discussions with the Bylaws Committee indicated the sentiment seems in favor of modifying M-01.
“We would also be OK with incorporating M-04 into M-01,” he said. “If you have a better way to do it and want to come back to the second reading … we will accept it.”
Parks suggested Daly take the lead in contacting the bylaws committee for additional information before the next board meeting on Nov. 2.
Taking exception with the approach was resident
, who said for the board to take any action related to aesthetic abuses the association member in question needs to be declared in continual violation.
“You’re essentially giving that authority to the GM,” he said. “This rush to make these changes via board resolutions … this board needs to read the Declarations of Restrictions.”
Board member Tom Janasek said based on previous discussions with OPA attorney Jeremy Tucker, a primary goal of amending the restrictions is recouping legal fees.
“I can’t understand why we have to have our lawyers working 6-8 months on trying to get people to fix their houses but can’t go after them to pay for our lawyers,” he said.
Daly said the CPI department gets on average a dozen complaints per day.
“The vast majority are rectified within 30 days,” he said. “In fact, not only are they rectified within 30 days, most of them are rectified over the phone without any formal documentation.”
During the initial 30-day window for documented violations, Daly said association members have two opportunities to meet with the ARC Committee, as well as contacting CPI to discuss the issues.
“At end of 30 days, at some point it comes to the board and a letter is sent to the violator from our attorney,” he said. “There are further reductions of the violations at that point when people see the … notice from the attorney.”
In practice, a miniscule number of cases remain unresolved by this point, Daly said.
“At end of the day, we sent 17 cases to the attorney, which is .002 percent of all the homes in Ocean Pines,” he said.
Previous OPA administrations have been less responsive to the concerns, Daly said.
“There have been past general managers that have refused to follow them and implement them,” he said. “CPI has clearly indicated the times they have gone to the GM for fast track actions and the GM has refused to follow up on it.”
Daly said in response to concerns voiced by Reynolds that maintaining property values is the main objective.
“You’re right, Joe, our number one job is to protect homeowners’ value,” he said. “If we’re not doing that, we’re not doing our job. That’s exactly what these changes are designed to do.”
Highlighting costs, Daly said Tucker had estimated the price tag to pursue a court injunction for aesthetic violations could range anywhere from $5,000 -$50,000, with a procedure to collect legal fees sorely needed.
In a 2018 community survey on the topic, Viola reported that 68 percent of nearly 1,700 respondents expressed support for a referendum to enhance enforcement of covenants and regulations, including the potential for a limited/capped fine structure for ongoing violators.
Parks closed the first reading of proposed amendments to associated restrictions and suggested sending the matter to the Bylaws Committee for additional comment.