First, a big thank you to everyone who was able to join our online meeting tonight. We had great representation from the board, committees, and even some homeowners who were attending their very first board meeting. This is possibly the first time the board has ever met via an online meeting. While the face-to-face interaction would have been nice, holding it in this fashion enabled some people to join that would not have been able to join otherwise.
Davis Lane Clearance Project
The Davis Lane clearing project is almost complete. The landscaping company, Valley View, has finished clearing the city-required 5 foot strip and will be mowing it this coming Wednesday, May 13. Once they've mowed it we will notify the city so they can close the incident report. Valley View also had to pick up a good amount of litter that was strewn across that strip. As one neighbor pointed out, it is unfortunate that we had to clear all the way to the trail for a short portion on the western side, but overall it is a big improvement. Turning from Empress onto Davis Lane is definitely much safer.
Old Fence on Community Property
There was also some discussion about the old fence along Campfield near Sweet Clover. It was brought to our attention by some homeowners on Alabama Dr. a few months ago that it was ailing and needed attention. The consensus was that the fence that was shared with the homeowners is their responsibility – the same as those of us who share a fence along community property. However, there is a relatively short section of fence where there is no homeowner sharing it. As that part is now covered with greenery, the decision was made to table removing that part of the fence until winter when it will be more visible and more easily accessed.
General Trail Maintenance
A few more sections of the trail have been identified for repair using 2020 budget money. Those sections are as follows.
Our park and its amenities continue to be closed. While the state may be relaxing forced closures, we discussed the right timeframe for reopening our park. The board in general favors caution over expediency. We will be watching both the city and the medical community for guidance on when we can reopen the amenities safely. We will be providing more on this in the upcoming weeks.
Other items discussed include the following.
The city has informed us that it is the community's responsibility to cut back the growth along Davis Lane. The notice states that we need to, "have private trees and vegetation pruned to provide 14 feet of clearance over the street from edge to edge, as well as provide 5 feet of cleared vegetation from the edge of the payment back to your property".
We were originally given only 10 days to correct this, but due to some great communication between CAM, our landscaper (Valley View), and the city they were able to better define exactly what needed to happen to be in compliance and schedule it appropriately, albeit quickly. The stay-at-home order worked to our advantage as Davis Lane traffic is much lighter right now.
The bids on this project ranged from $14K to $33K. The big difference in the cost is that Valley View, who we ultimately awarded the contract to, was willing to approach the project from the trail instead of the street. This means they did not need to stop Davis Lane traffic with additional crew members and appropriate city permits. Fortunately for the HOA, we had money in the budget for maintenance that we can allocate. It doesn't cover the full cost of the work, but will go a long way. We'll likely further discuss the budget impact at our next HOA Board meeting.
As you may have seen if you have your email address on file with CAM, work began this morning. The crew has already started and cleared the brush by placing it in piles – taking care not to block the trail. Tuesday a crew will come in and use a chipper to grind up the trees into mulch. Redistributing the mulch back onto the cleared strip will help to suppress the rapid regrowth of weeds along Davis Lane. Going forward, that strip along Davis Lane will be mowed monthly. The monthly landscaping contract will increase by $150 per month to cover this additional mowing.
While none of this work was planned or budgeted for, the Board in consultation with CAM and our lawyers deemed it necessary to perform the work as quickly as possible. This is to stay in compliance with the city as well as drastically improve the visibility of turning onto Davis Lane from Empress Blvd.
A tree fell in yesterday's storm. The tree is in the North East corner of Campfield Pkwy near the trailhead. It was covering the sidewalk, but it has been trimmed back now. The Board will engage someone to finish cleaning it up.
Earlier this month an email was sent out from the board letting everyone know we suspended the enforcement of putting up decorative lights as a way to show each other support. It's been great to see folks shining their lights in this dark time. Grand Oaks owners and residents alike continue to be an inspiration in all that they do for their neighbors and local businesses.
As you may already know the city of Austin has issued a Stay-At-Home order. As a result we will be placing signs at the pavilion and playground stating that they are closed. We fully recognize that people are going to want and need to get outside. However, in addition to the Stay-At-Home order we do not have the capabilities to regularly clean or disinfect the surfaces at the park.
Based on the current guidelines, there is no reason to close the trail. Please be safe and courteous as you use the trail. There is plenty of room for two parties to move to the side for a safe six foot passing distance.
Furthermore, we recognize that this pandemic is affecting a large number of people financially. The HOA still has mandatory functions to carry out, such as maintaining HOA infrastructure as well as paying for insurance, utilities, and necessary vendors. Proper funding is critical for those functions. Because of these mandatory obligations, we cannot suspend assessments. However, payment plans will be available as needed. Homeowners who can pay their dues on time should do so, and homeowners who cannot pay their dues on time should promptly reach out to CAM, the property manager to request a payment arrangement. Please email email@example.com to communicate about necessary payment arrangements. I can't stress enough how important it is that you begin that line of communications with CAM. If you're not sure you can make your payment, you know you'll miss your payment, or even if you're already behind on payments you need to email CAM. We are committed to working with each and every homeowner individually to setup a payment plan that works for you.
Lastly, there is currently and HOA Board of Directors meeting scheduled for May 7th. While that is over a month away we are prepared to host the meeting using an online video conference service.
I'm very pleased to announce that we have selected Valley View Landscape as our new landscaper. While the contract doesn't officially begin until March we are off to a great start. They saw that our previous provider, BrightView, was not keeping the neighborhood up to their standards and did a pre-contract service at no cost. We had been having issues with BrightView for sometime and put the contract out to bid. Valley View came in somewhere in the mid-range of pricing, but the references and communications we have had with them during the bidding process is very exciting and promising.
Valley View will be coming out to Grand Oaks on Wednesdays. The schedule is as follows.
Below are all the details of the service so you can see what will be done.
This proposal is based on 32 annual visits for Common areas, and 12 visits for Trails Each Visit will consist of the following services as needed per schedule:
Miscellaneous Trail Areas (12 Visits per Year)
Please accept this as notice that the Grand Oaks Owners Association Board of Directors will meet on March 5, 2020, at 7:00 p.m.
Austin Community College – Stassney Campus – Room 1203
1820 W. Stassney Lane, Austin, TX 78745
Topics may include general association business, including unfinished business and new business, covenant enforcement, budgeting, and assessment collection. Executive session matters may include personnel matters, litigation, contract negotiations, enforcement actions, confidential attorney communications, matters involving the invasion of owners’ privacy, or matters involving parties who have requested confidentiality and the Board has agreed to honor that request. Thank you.
The first Board meeting of 2020 will occur Thursday, January 9th at 7:00 pm. The normal location at ACC is unavailable. As such we will meet at Woodlawn Baptist Church (map) in room M101.
We have a very full agenda including electing officers for 2020, Social Media, web site updates, policies, and park safety.
We need 32 homeowners represented to have our annual meeting and I'm happy to report that we had 35 either in person or via proxy. Thanks very much to everyone who sent in their proxy or attended.
The meeting began with a recap from our acting-president Morgan Witthoft. It was a brief recap of the projects such as resurfacing the parking lot, xeriscaping the median section on Keepsake, trail maintenance, and replacing the grills at the pavilion. The treasurer, Bryan Phillips, gave an overview of the 2020 budget highlighting the $9,000 budget line-item to contribute to the reserves, the 10% increase in dues, and the subsequent $11,000 line item for much needed maintenance in the neighborhood.
During committee reports Kevin Lindley spoke on behalf of the three-person architecture committee. During his report there were some great questions and discussion on various topics. It was discussed that a good general guideline on whether you need approval from the architecture committee is to ask if you can see it from the street. If you can, you need approval. This includes things like planting a tree, painting your house, or even your front door. Kevin also reminded us that you need approval before making a change and not after. There have been instances where homeowners have submitted a request after the change and the request was denied. No one is interested in this scenario happening. A written report was submitted by the committee and will be posted soon.
New Board Directors
All board positions are a three year term with the positions staggered. In addition to the two full term positions we had a position open for the remainder of our past president's term. This position will finish out the last year of that term. We had exactly three nominees and all three were unanimously elected. Russell Hackworth will serve another three year term. Ryan Steans joins the board for the first time for the other three year term. Lastly Ellen Ward will join the board for the first time as well and will complete the final year of a term. Congratulations and thank you to all three of them. Likewise, we'd like to thank Brian Everett for accepting the appointment and serving until the election.
We ended the meeting with an open discussion. Some years this can be quite lengthy and others it goes quickly. This year, it was quick. There were no real questions, but a few comments. Notably, one homeowner let us know the city had removed a tree on his property that was close to the road and rotting. It turns out that D.R. Horton had "buried" the trees on his property when they were built. Burying a tree is when you raise the ground level above the flare of a tree. Our own Russell Hackworth has a degree in horticulture and gave us all a quick overview of this. If you think your tree may be in the same situation, I'd encourage you to consult with an arborist.
First, a sincere thank you to all the homeowners who came out to the board meeting. With only a week between this board meeting and our annual membership meeting we were thrilled to see so many in attendance.
Annual Meeting Next Week (Nov 14)
And yes, our annual meeting is next week. If you can't make it please do fill out a proxy and send with someone who is going or email it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you're not familiar with how proxies work, it's pretty straight-forward. As a home owner you can grant your vote to anyone you would like. The proxy form has the two board members who are not up for election or a write-in. You do not have to give your proxy to Morgan Witthoft or Bryan Phillips. You can write anyone's name that can attend the meeting. That last part is important. The person you give your proxy to must attend the meeting for it to count. Your attendance (or proxy) is important as we must have at least 10% of the HOA to hold the annual meeting.
We have three positions open on the board; those positions will be elected at the meeting. The first position is to fulfill the remainder of our past president's term. It has one year left on it. The other two are three-year terms. If you're interested in running email email@example.com and they'll put you in touch with Rusty Ulrich who is the chair of our nominations committee.
Budget & Assessments (Dues) Increase
The major topic of conversation tonight was the 2020 budget. Our starting point was a balanced budget that maintained the current assessments rate, roughly the same expenses, and set aside the necessary money for our reserves (known maintenance in the future). There were a few places where expenses went up or down, but there was a net zero affect on the total.
The conversation focused on whether we wanted to continue with the status quo or put more money into the maintenance and upkeep. After a lengthy and fruitful conversation with both the board and the attending members the board approved an increase of $35 per year (or $8.75 per quarter) for the purpose of maintaining the neighborhood. Assuming 100% collection, we'll have an additional $10,500 that is going to be placed in a budget line item for "General Maintenance". That money will go towards much needed upkeep in the neighborhood and be allocated to various projects over the next year. Examples of potential projects include addressing the exposed pipe at the park, additional trail maintenance, and xeriscaping additional common areas.
A full copy of the budget will be available at the annual meeting and mailed out to each homeowner.
Our current landscaping company (Brightview) has 8 more visits left on their contract. We're currently taking proposals on the 2020 contract. Below are the service dates for the remaining contract.
Please accept this as notice that the Grand Oaks Owners Association Board of Directors will meet on Thursday, November 7th, at 7:00 p.m.
Austin Community College – Stassney Campus, Room 1312
1820 W. Stassney Lane, Austin, TX 78745.
Topics may include general association business, including unfinished business and new business, covenant enforcement, budgeting, and assessment collection. Executive session matters may include personnel matters, litigation, contract negotiations, enforcement actions, confidential attorney communications, matters involving the invasion of owners’ privacy, or matters involving parties who have requested confidentiality and the Board has agreed to honor that request.
News updates from the HOA Board.