By Greg Ellison
(Nov. 7, 2019) Stressing accuracy over speed, the Ocean Pines Board of Directors on Saturday opted to seek a legal review of several proposed changes in how the association can remedy non-compliance violations of the OPA Declaration of Restrictions.
Board member Frank Daly revived discussions of a proposal to replace resolution M-01 with the new M-10 for more timely enforcement of violations, along with revising resolutions M-04 and C-02, during the board meeting last week.
After exploring the topic during the board meeting on Oct. 2, Daly sent the matter to the Ocean Pines By-Laws and Resolutions Committee for additional vetting.
“Now, M-01 does incorporate comments from the committee,” he said.
The bylaws review also garnered several questions.
“This is a very complex change in the way that we handle violations of our Declaration of Restrictions,” he said.
Daly said both bylaws and the Ocean Pines Architectural Review Committee should examine the proposals further.
“I think each of you as a board member needs to take a look at it,” he said.
While not standard operating procedure, Daly concurred with a suggestion to have Ocean Pines Association attorney Jeremy Tucker inspect the latest draft revisions.
“The [bylaws] committee feels this one should be sent to the attorney and I think we should do so,” he said.
Daly said another issue of contention involves authorized entry onto private property.
“Do we as a board still want to give the general manager the option of going on the property?” he said.
In the overwhelming number of cases, when violations are reported, compliance is achieved within the 30-day window provided, with the option to confer with architectural review also offered, Daly said.
“We can amend this procedure to say the architectural review committee can give the option to the violator of us going on the property with their permission and billing them,” he said.
While in theory this would authorize the general manager to send public works onto the parcel if agreed to by the homeowner, in practice, the minor language tweak would be unlikely to take care of the most egregious violations, Daly said.
“The majority of the people on that chart, the violations that go back for years, simply ignore what they’re being asked to do,” he said. “That’s why we need the court order to force that issue.”
Association President Doug Parks responded that many legal issues need more research.
“I’ll go back to what my dad told me a long time ago,” he said, “If you don’t have time to do it right, when are you going to have time to do it over.”
Parks backed the suggestion to forward the matter to Tucker for review.
“There’s a lot of interconnectivity, not only with the Declaration of Restrictions, but the bylaws and also some of the resolutions,” he said.
While acknowledging sending association employees onto private property presents some risk, Parks asked if existing authorizations might suffice.
“The stringent letter of the law side of me says the Declaration of Restrictions allows us to go onto the properties,” he said. “We’re paying to get a court order to do what we’re already legally allowed to do.”
Parks also confirmed with General Manager John Viola that slightly delaying a decision on the amendments would not have little effect.
“We have the luxury of time [and] we’re not holding up anything operationally,” he said.
Daly suggested having Tucker offer his opinion on the bylaws committee’s recent comments.
“The [bylaws] committee has already advised to have an attorney review,” he said.
The goal is to enhance enforcement of Declaration of Restrictions violations, especially long-term abuses.
“The past boards have taken the position, when they’re put in that situation, they back down and that’s why we have violations going back to 2005,” he said.
Parks proposed sending Tucker’s forthcoming comments to the bylaws committee for additional inspection before the board resumes its consideration.
Daly said he could send the latest revisions to Tucker within a few days.
“I would say within the next … 10 days, we can have this finalized in the committees’ hands with the changes and input from the attorney,” he said.
suggested that brisk pace might not work.
“I don’t think the attorneys are going to get this back to us in ten days,” he said. “Lets’ take our time and do it right.”
Daly said regardless of timing parameters, the issue needs to move forward, while simultaneously acknowledging pursuing court action for violations would only be appropriate in a small number of instances.
“You can’t legislate common sense and compassion,” he said. “If somebody has a pile of leaves in their front yard and we go down to court, I would hope that the [judge] would call us into chambers and ask us to discuss some things regarding our relative sanity and what we’re doing wasting court time.”
Parks closed the discussion by noting the next related action would involve looping in Tucker for a legal review.
“Based on when we get that feedback, we’ll take the next appropriate steps,” he said.