Wednesday, March 18, 2009

And the survey says......

Homeowner Survey Results

Nellie Gail Ranch Owners Association

Homeowner Survey


1)      Do you feel it is important to keep the original ranch theme of the community?

       441 Yes     67 No     21 No Opinion    15 Declined to Answer 

2)      Are you aware that architectural guidelines in effect from 1996 to 2005 specifically allowed for the following uses in the “open space” portion of your lot:  “swimming pools; children’s play areas; single story recreational, storage or agricultural buildings; horse stables and corrals; tennis and sports courts”?

     375 Yes     129 No      32 No Opinion     8 Declined to Answer 

3)      Do you feel that our community’s original unique open space design with the undeveloped hills directly relates to our home values and the value of the community?

      456 Yes     61 No      18 No Opinion   9 Declined to Answer 

4)      Many residents feel that the removal of property rights in 2005 leaves Nellie Gail at great legal risk.  Do you agree?

       234 Yes     83 No     181 No Opinion     46 Declined to Answer 

5)      Do you believe “open space” on the lots people own should be primarily for the owners of those lots to develop and use for their recreational pleasure?

       404 Yes     106 No      20 No Opinion    14 Declined to Answer 

6)      Do you believe greater consideration should be given to providing an ambiance of openness for the entire community of Nellie Gail relative to personal enjoyment of the property?

      268 Yes     179 No     66 No Opinion    31 Declined to Answer 

7)      Do you object to the use of natural, native plants in place of front yard lawns?

      168 Yes      326 No     45 No Opinion    5 Declined to Answer 

8)   Should the guidelines allow the use of products such as synthetic wood and artificial turf in front yards?

      192 Yes      210 No     41 No Opinion     101 Declined to Answer 

9)   Do you feel that allowing the grading of our slopes for uses such as sport courts, gazebos, game courts, play equipment and swimming pools will undermine Nellie Gail’s uniqueness and value as a community?

     140 Yes      289 No      20 No Opinion    95 Declined to Answer 

10)   Do you believe proper screening using natural foliation can be used to allow residents to utilize their yards within the parameters established prior to 2005 without negatively impacting the open look and feel of Nellie Gail?

     351 Yes     50 No     44 No Opinion     99 Declined to Answer 

11)   The CC&R’s state that development shall be in harmony with surrounding structures and topography.  Do you believe the grading of open space for the construction of pool houses, sport courts and storage sheds produces an environment that is harmonious with the surrounding structures and natural topography of Nellie Gail?

     278 Yes      124 No     32 No Opinion    110 Declined to Answer 

12)   Do you believe that well designed and properly screened structures such as pool houses, sport courts and storage sheds, auxiliary structures and swimming pools on areas other than the graded pad for residential construction, produces an environment that is harmonious with the surrounding structures and natural topography of Nellie Gail?

     328 Yes      90 No     24 No Opinion    102 Declined to Answer 

13)   Do you feel that it is fair to prohibit some Nellie Gail residents from having landscape features that others were in the past permitted to have?

     171 Yes     242 No      35 No Opinion     96 Declined to Answer 

14)   Do you favor more aggressive enforcement of our CC&R’s?

      188 Yes      205 No     56 No Opinion    95 Declined to Answer 

15)   Should the Association enforce minimum maintenance standards for properties, including use of legal action if necessary?

      379 Yes     55 No      20 No Opinion     90 Declined to Answer 

16)   Do you feel that we should protect the intent of our CC&R’s and architectural

guidelines by maintaining our set backs?

     418 Yes     50 No      57 No Opinion     19 Declined to Answer 

17)   Should we as a community have a more stringent set of set back standards than surrounding communities?

     266 Yes      178 No     87 No Opinion     13 Declined to Answer 

18)   Should the Association regulate improvements that cannot be seen or heard by neighbors?

     141 Yes     368 No      34 No Opinion     1Declined to Answer 

19)   Article VIII, Section 12 of the CC&Rs provides:

Natural or Open Space Controls.  That portion of each Lot, other than the graded pad for residential construction, is hereby designated a natural or open space area and shall be subject to certain additional restrictions limiting the use thereof.  Those areas shall be limited to the following uses:

            (a) Equestrian - including barns, stables, corrals, and similar facilities in connection therewith.

            (b) Agricultural - including animal husbandry (subject to County regulation), gardening, orchards, pastures, hothouses, greenhouses, etc., subject to the County Building Code.

            (c) Fire Hazard Reduction Regions.

            (d) Other similar open space uses.

Does the phrase “other similar open space uses” above (Article VIII, Section 12(d) mean uses other than equestrian and agricultural?

      301 Yes      166 No     63 No Opinion     14 Declined to Answer 

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nellie Gail ARC Info, the real deal...

I would appreciate you taking a few seconds to review this matter for the good of yourself, and the entire community

Some of you may have received a document, hand delivered to your door, that is truly a work of fantasy.
While some facts are true, most of it is constructed to manipulate you.

Here are the facts:

  • The revised ARC guidelines restore your property rights that were taken away in 2005. Prior to 2005, the guidelines read Recreational uses shall be limited to landscaped areas; swimming pools; children’s play areas; single story recreational, storage or agricultural buildings; horse stables and corrals; tennis and sports courts.”

  • From 1996-2005 ARC projects were supposed to be judged on their own merit. The new document reverts to those same values. You still can not build on more than 35% of your pad to maintain open space. Read the new document yourself.

  • These new revisions ARE NOT in conflict with the CC&R's. Dig out your copy and read them. They clearly state "other uses." That would imply the listed uses were not all that was approved, but were specifically mentioned so that they COULD NOT BE ELIMINATED, not that they were the only uses.
  • The HOA is currently under threat of being sued, because people who bought their homes prior to 2005 with the expectation of being able to enjoy their property in compliance with the guidelines that WERE in place, are now no longer able to. This comes from Association Attorneys.

  • I am for property rights. Many of us spent millions of dollars on these properties and should have the right to enjoy them, within reason. I want my property rights restored, responsibly, back to the way it was in 2005. in this economy we should encourage investment in our properties to keep our home values stable and have them increase.

The question I have for you is: Are these changes reasonable to YOU?

What ever your opinion, please send an email to your board of directors through:

Don't let this very vocal minority continue to take away your rights.

- and pass this along to your friends so their opinion can be heard as well.

Rebecca Zomorodian

To compel a man to subsidize with his taxes the propagation of ideas which he disbelieves and abhors is sinful and tyrannical. Thomas Jefferson

Revised Guidelines may be found here:
Nellie Gail Ranch ARC Proposed Guidelines - or I would be happy to email you a copy.

Here are the current Guidelines - you may want to compare.

More information on this issue can be found at:

From the web site: "That’s all it took! Creation of an ad-hoc committee one meeting, approval of their recommendations the next and POOF - 30 years of precedents for property rights are gone! 5 individuals with an agenda took control of every homeowner’s back yard without the input of a single resident. As a result of the new Architectural Guidelines, the current Board now mandates that any use of "Open Space" be limited exclusively to equestrian or agricultural use . Any other use is prohibited. This action was taken against the explicit recommendation of the retained Landscape Architect at that time, Daniel Stewart, who expressed his concern ofdisastrous implicationsof the revisions in a letter submitted to the board (see Daniel Stewart Letter page - a must read).

After this letter surfaced during an Architectural Appeal to the Board, Mr. Stewart was informed his services were no longer required at Nellie Gail. Don't believe the position that the 2005 Board was simply acting on the recommendation of our legal council when they changed our Architectural Guidelines. The minutes clearly show that legal approval was sought after the fact."

(This email was copied with permission)

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

ARC just the truth, no lies...

Who, allegedly, has been spotted leaving this huge document with the front page advertising the Nellie Gail Deficit? Why Chuck Curtis, husband of Jan Curtis, former board majority member.

Why is that interesting? Well, because the former board majority CREATED the deficit. The current board just inherited it from THEM. Surprise! This group is amazing, they constantly try to manipulate our beloved Nellie Gail. This group also sent out the lies in the documents mailed to your homes regarding the ARC.

Take a minute to send an email to your board of directors via:
to let then know what you really think about the proposed revisions that give you back your property rights. Take time to read the document and decide for yourself.

The revised document can be found here:

Nellie Gail Ranch ARC Proposed Guidelines

Take a minute to get involved in YOUR community, and don't let others decide for you.

And, what about the Great Nellie Gail Bail Out? The old majority on the board is also responsible for that. More on that later.....Too bad that group does not spend some time doing charity work for Meals on Wheels or something. It would keep them busy and truly help the community.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Who sent the trashy lies? It will come as no surprise.

Read the comments on the previous post.

Link to comments

Apparently one of the 'old majority' and her group put the mailing out. She is a long time past board member, and part of the group that constantly accused James and the 'new majority' of divisiveness.

It is finally time that the truth came out. I thank them for doing it for us.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Shall we really set the record straight?

In an attempt to muddy the waters of the Open Space discussion a vocal few have fired off a rambling tirade of gibberish. Their intention is to convince homeowners that certain Board members are conspiring to pull a fast one. They are saying that these board members are trying to sneak through some self-serving diabolical Architectural Guidelines. We give you a little more credit than that.

Let’s set the record straight.

1) The subject of Architectural Guidelines Change was on the agenda for the September 16, 2008 Board meeting.
a) The current schedule includes a Town Hall meeting on the subject.
b) This will then be followed by a 30 day period for a proposal to be reviewed by the community and input to be considered.
c) This is anticipated to result in a vote by the Board of Directors at the December 17, 2008 Board Meeting - hardly a “railroading” of the process.

2) Let’s contrast that to the changes made in 2005.
a) Let’s see… according to the Board meeting minutes, “modifications to the Architectural Guidelines” were proposed on April 14, 2005.
b) These Guidelines were then accepted by a unanimous vote on… what do you know? April 14, 2005!! At least they were good enough to publish the revised guidelines in the Pony Express after the fact.
c) There was no review, by the general membership.
d) No notice to the membership, nothing.
e) There was no input by the membership
f) There was no town hall.

3) Further evidence of how underhanded some of the current Board members are is the way they tried to hide the fact that they were considering changes to the guidelines.

a) Who would possibly have read the President’s message on the subject found on page 5 of the October Pony Express, or item #5 under the heading “Redefine the ARC” located on page 7?
b) Or the post card that was sent to the community.
c) Or the full page letter written by the Associations architect on page 9?
d) Or the large paragraph representing the bulk of the General Manager’s Message on page 11? - You’ve really got to watch these guys.

4) If the current Board truly intended to wreak havoc on the Open Space they would simply support the 2005 Guidelines as written.
a) You see, all specific guidance pertaining to allowable uses of Open Space found in the 1996 Guidelines was removed.
b) As a result, the ARC has no defining document to work from; residents are confused as to what is permitted and what isn’t permitted.
c) Now, all the power rests with the Board to wield at their discretion.
d) That policy worked for past Boards without a peep from the people who produced the gibberish you are receiving now.
e) The new Board wants change.

The current Board is working with the Association’s architect to create a revised set of guidelines that will be useful for all residents planning projects on their homes and properties. They are inviting input from the neighbors and putting everything out in the open for all to see (as per their Annual Strategic Plan on pages 6 & 7 of the October Pony Express.) By implementing Common Sense Guidelines, the power is in the details of the documents not in the hands of the Board.

The ranting you read in recent mailings is the desperate attempt by a small group of residents to hang on to the power grip they have had on our community for decades. Their ship is now sinking. And, have no doubt; it is being sunk by truth, transparency and for the common good of all Nellie Gail residents.

Please come to the meeting to see for yourself.

Nellie Gail Homeowners for Common Sense Guidelines

For 30 years the Nellie Gail CC&R’s were interpreted to allow for open space uses other than equestrian and agricultural.

That all changed in the spring of 2005 when a small group of individuals decided their personal interests took precedence over those of the rest of the community and took the following action:

Excerpts from Board Minutes:

Minutes of the Regular Meeting – Board of Directors – Thursday, March 17, 2005, 6:00P.M Item 9F
“An item for the Board of Directors to discuss and review the Architectural Guidelines.

Minutes of the Regular Meeting – Board of Directors – Thursday, April 14, 2005, 6:00P.M Item 7, Bullet Point 4
“Architectural Guidelines Committee – Discussion by committee members of suggested modifications to the Architectural Guidelines.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Your Property Rights were removed, without you having a say in the matter.

Dear Fellow Nellie Gail Homeowners,

Three years ago your property rights were taken away and your home values were reduced. It’s time to get them back!

The Nellie Gail Board is considering a revised version of our Architectural Guidelines that will restore our Open Space rights. It is critical to show our support for these new guidelines. (Open Space refers to the sloped potions of many lots).

This is why:

From 1996 to 2005 our Architectural Guidelines pertaining to Open Space read:

“Recreational uses shall be limited to landscaped areas; swimming pools; children’s play areas; single story recreational, storage or agricultural buildings; horse stables and corrals; tennis and sports courts.”

In 2005 a small but influential group of Nellie Gail residents decided that their preferred use of “Open Space” was all that should be permitted for the entire neighborhood. A likeminded Board obliged and quickly changed the Architectural Guidelines to forbid the use of Open Space for any purpose other than Equestrian or Agricultural.

What does this mean to you? Let’s review:

  • Ready to put in that BBQ area you’ve been planning for years? – No longer allowed!
  • Want to create a safe place for the kids to play away from the street? – Nope!
  • Want to replace your gazebo that is falling apart – Don’t even think about it!
  • “But… I just want to improve my property like my neighbors have” – Tough luck!!

Sound reasonable? Hardly! It doesn’t matter if your yard is completely screened with trees and plants. It doesn’t matter if your neighbors have signed off on your project. The answer is NO.

Certain homeowners claim that restoring the right of all residents to enjoy their yards somehow threatens their ability to enjoy the Nellie Gail equestrian lifestyle. This is both selfish and inaccurate. Common sense screening and setbacks can allow all residents to utilize their yards with zero impact on the equestrian experience.

For the good of our entire community we encourage all Nellie Gail homeowners to show their support for guideline revisions by sending an email to telling them to “Restore my Property Rights”. Numbers matter – please send an email today!

If you can make it, please attend the Town Hall Meeting on Oct. 21st and let your opinion be heard.


Nellie Gail Homeowners for Common Sense Guidelines

Risk to our Community

Dear Fellow Nellie Gail Homeowners,

Three years ago our Architectural Guidelines were changed in a way that put our entire Association at great risk. The Board is considering a revised version of the Guidelines that will restore our Open Space* rights and remove that risk. We need to show that we support their effort. (*Open Space refers to the sloped potions of many lots).

This is why:

From 1996 to 2005 our Architectural Guidelines pertaining to Open Space read:

“Recreational uses shall be limited to landscaped areas; swimming pools; children’s play areas; single story recreational, storage or agricultural buildings; horse stables and corrals; tennis and sports courts.”

In 2005 a small but influential group of Nellie Gail residents decided that their preferred use of “Open Space” was all that should be permitted for the entire neighborhood. A likeminded Board obliged and quickly changed the Architectural Guidelines to forbid the use of Open Space for any purpose other than Equestrian or Agricultural.

Let’s consider how these guidelines create risk to Nellie Gail:

Consider two next door neighbors that purchased identical properties in 2003. One built a children’s play area, a landscaped seating space and a fountain in their open space. The other planned to do the same in 2006 only to find out that those improvements were no longer allowed. Both put their homes up for sale in 2008.

Who do you think the resident with the dirt and weeds on his open space is going to hold accountable for the difference in appraised value?

It’s not like the 2005 Board wasn’t aware of this risk. They chose to disregard the written recommendation of Daniel Stewart, our Landscape Architect at the time, who expressed his concern for the “disastrous implications” of the revisions (see letter attached).

We have been fortunate. Since the August 2005 guidelines have been in place there have been several appeals to the Board related to open space use and multiple homeowners have sought legal counsel based on restricted property values. However, no legal action has been taken against the Association – yet.

Certain homeowners claim that restoring the right of all residents to enjoy their yards somehow threatens their ability to enjoy the Nellie Gail equestrian lifestyle. This is both selfish and inaccurate. Common sense screening and setbacks can allow all residents to utilize their yards with zero impact on the equestrian experience.

For the good of our entire community we encourage all Nellie Gail homeowners to show their support for guideline revisions by sending an email to telling them to “Restore my Property Rights”. Numbers matter – please send an email today!

If you can make it, please attend the Town Hall Meeting on Oct. 21st and let your opinion be heard.


Nellie Gail Homeowners for Common Sense Guidelines

More from the Blog

The blog has now given permission to:

Nellie Gail Residents for Common Sense

to post items on this blog.

Welcome Back!

This blog is no longer being hosted/or contributed to by James Vaughn, unless he posts his name to a piece.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Election Results

Here are the results from the tabulation of tonight's ballots at the annual meeting. We had a 27% turnout:

Dr. Robert Bettey 495 (26.7%) 2 year term
Bill Enholm 467 (25.1%) 2 year term
Jim Cormie 326 (17.5%) 2 year term
John Frank 289 (15.6%) 1 year term
Bill Frey 278 (15.0%) 1 year term

1,855 total votes

Bylaw Amendment # 1 Staggered 2 year terms

Yes 329 (88.4%) No 43 (11.5%)

Bylaw Amendment #2 Elimination of Proxies

Yes 267 (72.1%) No 103 (27.8%)

Bylaw Amendment #3 Elimination of Cumulative Voting

Yes 218 (58.6%) No 154 (41.3%)

The lawyers are still debating whether 50% of quorum at 50% is required or 50% of the quorum of the meeting (25%) is required so they will not state the results of the elections (that the bylaw amendments passed) until the new board meets. I suggest the new board vote to accept the results declaring the bylaw amendments have passed because the bylaws state that 50% of quorum is required at the annual meeting. Since the quorum for the annual meeting is 25% if we do not reach 50% the first attempt, the quorum of 25% applies for bylaw amendments as well. And remember, the lawyers advise, but the board ultimately votes to make the decision. Congratulations to all our new board members.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

My Farewell Address

You didn't think an ego such as mine would go quietly without a final word did you?

I never really wanted to be on the Board. I wanted to contribute in some small way like a committee. I figured running for the board would get the attention of the community and after gracefully losing I'd be picked for some project to help on. Then I discovered that there was a group of people who really felt disenfranchised with what was going on. I found that many people felt they weren't being treated fairly. One of my many faults is that I see red when I think people are being unfairly treated. So I ran full out for the Board and was elected. I had some concrete goals that I ran on, but the over-arching goal was to make the process work for everyone.

The concrete goals (a code of ethics, improved communications, better scheduling policies for the facilities to accommodate all residents) were easy. The hard part was getting one segment of our community to understand that there were many people who wouldn't/couldn't/were afraid to speak up and let the Board and others know they felt they were being treated poorly. I thought all I need do is point this out and things would change (They obviously just didn't know, I thought, so it was benign ignorance, not intentional malice.) But it seemed that there was denial or a refusal to be informed (because knowing it means having to change the practices).

So I realized about half way through that what was needed was a bad cop or person willing to speak up and say publicly what was being said in private (oftentimes by the same people who others thought were the root of the problem.) I realized that if the air wasn't cleared and all of this didn't come out and be addressed and dealt with it, it would never go away. I recognized that many of those who might be in a position to speak up also had to live with those (so to speak) that they had to confront. So privately to supporters and to the Board I said I'd be the bad cop and speak up and force people to address the crap. I did it multiple ways and sometimes being flat out mean seemed to be the only way to get the attention of those who simply refused to want to admit there was a problem. And I don't mean Jan. She was actually wonderful. But she was the figurehead of the faction that needed to be grabbed by the shoulders and made to pay attention. So unfairly, she took the brunt.

It also became clear that the only way the mentality would change was to have a change in leadership. So I began hounding Jan (and Bob to some extent) to make clear that change was going to happen come hell or high water. And for that I will apologize to Jan and Bob publicly. Yeah, there were times I was unfair because I wanted people to understand what others were going through and telling me. And I determined at that midway point that I was not going to run again because in the ideal world Jan and I would not run for office again and the healing of the community could begin. We both have valid viewpoints and lots to contribute. So I took on the role of the"Take your medicine. See how you like being treated the way others feel they are being treated. It's not all about you" bad guy. And I knew I couldn't run for the Board again if I did so.

And a funny thing happened. It worked. I started hearing the concerns of one side being espoused by the others. Both sides began to understand each other and there were times when the opposing sides of the equestrian clash came together (like when I made my fuss about the EC budget not really balancing.) Open Space die-hards began to understand the concerns of those who want to put simple projects in open space that WON'T destroy the wonderful feel of Nellie Gail. The same concerns I raised were being raised by other Board members. I can not and do not take all or maybe any of the credit for that. I'm just glad it happened.

I know I took a risk. And I paid a very heavy price for it. Amongst my friends and other organizations I work with I am actually considered a nice guy. (No, really) The peacemaker. I'm the first person my feuding family decided got along with everyone well enough to be the executor of my Dad's estate. That nice, funny guy everyone enjoys being with is hardly the reputation I have in this community at this time. So I paid a price. But I knew it when I started this. (This ain't a pity party. I deserve everything I got.) So all I ask is that the community take advantage of this air-clearing period to work together. Take into account there may be different viewpoints. That disagreeing doesn't mean the other person is wrong. I come from a background in politics where punches are thrown daily and you get up when done and go have a drink together because it was never personal (even when it sounded that way). I figured from how the campaign was ran last year that this was that kind of community. I was taken aback at first, but since I knew the game I came out swinging as well. I over-calculated the extent that was true so I'll definitely apologize for that.

But I really do feel good about what was accomplished in the end. I think our community is better for all our efforts this year. We have a new start. We understand each other better. I hope we learn to be a little more honest with each other even if we think the other person isn't going to like what we have to say. They can't change what they do if they don't know how the other person feels. And power can be fleeting. and if ignored long enough minor annoyances fester into blazing battles with negative consequences far beyond the initial minor issue.

So this may or may not be my last blog posting. I'm invested in my community too much now to ever say never. But others will need to step up and do these meeting recaps. And things are going so well and everyone getting along for the most part that there's no need for my past brand of political vigilante postings. (Many noted that the tone of the blog has changed for the better. Trace that back to the day we knew the election results were going to change the tone of the board and a new era was dawning in Nellie Gail. Jan and James have retired to the sides, let the healing begin. For the record, I'm sorry Cindy didn't run again. I gained a great deal of respect for her and she is an under-appreciated asset. Jan took the brickbats, but she got the praise as well perhaps because of it.) I hope that these detailed postings continue because I was told it helped many people get a real feel for what was happening (even when sometimes they didn't like knowing.) Communication. Communication. Communication. Without it, none of this is worth it because the good stuff will go unreported and the bad stuff will be blown out of proportion.

I thank you all for all that you have done. The words of support when I needed them. And the kicks in the butt when I especially needed those. I hope my year was worth it to the community. I know it was for me. And I'll treasure that (and EVERYONE I met and interacted with) always. I'll see you around the ranch.

Board Meeting July 2008

The last board meeting for Jan, Cindy and I. Things went very smoothly and ended with tears (of happiness I assure you). Here is my final board meeting report:

Executive Session: 6:11pm

1) Updates on lawsuit status. Three lawsuits. One has dragged on for years and appears to be headed the same way for now. One may be resolved and the other might be headed that way.

2) Violation Report - Sandie's Naughty List was light this month.

3) Approved 4-0 a retainer with Judge Law Firm to handle any delinquency suits if they come up. we generally have very few. This firm is based locally so it's supposed to be better for us.

4) Renewed the contract with our law firm 5-0. They noted that they provide us with quite a bit of free service and Maggie approves of them.

Open Session:

Our final session opened with a big presentation and thank you to Shirley Charn who was been with Nellie Gail staff for 28 years. Councilwoman Melody Carruth stopped by with a gift and congrats. And the Board gave her a life membership to the Swim and Tennis Club. Our evil plan is to keep her nearby so we can enjoy her company and ask her "Do you know where to find..." type questions. ; )

Homeowners Forum:
Lorinda Engelhorn - Thanked Jan and Cindy for their years of service and thanked me "for driving us all crazy."

ARC Appeal - Mardi Vardell seeks to build a deck over what is technically considered open space (which means the 5 feet of yard between the pad and her barn.) The Board had concerns about screening from the neighbors and the scale of the deck so once the architect approves fixes to those concerns she is good to go.

Consent Calendar - James moved and Cindy seconded a motion to add the emergency Preparedness Committee Postings and the Delinquency Policy Template to the consent calendar. Approved 5-0. The Consent calendar (with approving minutes and receiving the financial statement) was approved 5-0.

Tennis - 600 burgers were served at the Open House. Lots of neighbors took the tour of the facility. The courts are busy, especially due to camps.

Swim - The pool is busy especially due to swim lessons. All private lessons are booked, but there are still slots left in the group lessons. The swim team is having it's best season thus far.

Equestrian - Budget has been difficult. More homeowners have gotten into the stalls at the Center. Riders are doing well at the national level in competition including Christine.

Old Business:

CUP Amended Proposal - The consultant wants even more money. (Big shock). But we need to get this Conditional Use Permit (CUP) approved and it wasn't worth a heated debate over how they managed to "mis-underestimate" what we told them was part of the proposal. We need to get in compliance with our permits at the EC. (And a "You're welcome" to the equestrian community for the HOA funding this project from the HOA budget.) Note to future board members we probably don't want to use this company for anything again. Cindy Moved/Jan second. Approved 5-0.

New Business:

Cell Phone Tower Revenue - James proposed and Cindy seconded a motion to designate the cell phone tower revenue as HOA revenue to be part of a discretionary budget line item and that for the 2008/2009 budget that revenue be allocated to the Equestrian Center Operating Budget. It was (I felt) a fair compromise that recognizes the cell phone tower revenue is all of Nellie Gail's, while acknowledging that the EC has depended on that revenue going to them to make their budget balance. It was noted that next year the equestrian community and the board will debate amongst themselves if this contribution from the entire community is still needed to make up for the structural deficit that exists in their budget. (To be fair, it was noted that the cell phone tower was placed on land that the EC might have been able to use so perhaps future boards might determine how much space the tower takes up and how many stalls there might have been and allocate by that formula.) Motion passed 3-2 with Bill, Cindy and I in favor and Jan and Bob opposed.

2008 Reserve Study - A required interim "paper" study of our reserve funds was conducted and found that the business centers are at 100% of reserve funding while the HOA is at 82%. A full physical reserve study will be conducted next year and many items that are under-estimated or not included, especially at the equestrian center will be addressed then. The study was approved 5-0.

2008-2009 Budget Approval - A budget was approved 5-o that DOES NOT raise HOA dues, Tennis or Swim dues this year. The equestrian center budget was adapted to remove the $18,000 "reimbursement" from the HOA for wear and tear on the driveway leading to the trash containers. (That alone eliminated $3 of the proposed $7 a quarter increase).

The boarding fees at the equestrian center will be raised from $415 to $480 ($65 increase) for residents and from $490 to $565 ($75 increase ) for non-residents in anticipation of increased hay, shavings and manure disposal costs. If we were to pass along the actual increase expected the rates would have gone up $100 a month just for those costs alone much less the costs of management, pay increases etc. Thanks to one of our incoming board members, we found out that we are the cheapest facility in the region. The median rate for a box stall is $540. There may be a new increase (or not) depending on what the actual prices of those things turns out to be.

The equestrian community really stepped up to the plate in identifying potential places to cut costs. Some examples: We clean stalls twice a day. No other facility does. (Cleaning once a day will reduce costs for disposal and labor). We feed four flakes of hay across two feedings. Other stables feed only three flakes. If we follow those practices, the costs should come down dramatically keeping the board increase low and perhaps allowing for items on the wish list like a new wash rack by the lower stalls. So ultimately we were offering Cadillac service at Yugo prices. Playing hardball with the EC over the budget helped focus attention and root out these practices that should help eliminate the structural deficit and perhaps allow us to reallocate that cell phone tower money elsewhere. For example, we had to eliminate any capitol improvements for next year to eliminate the need for a fee increase. Since we are way behind on doing reserve projects, it was suggested that we won't have time for capitol projects anyway so it shouldn't cause any hardship. There's been nothing on the urgent list anyway.

Vista Firenze Fence Request - Thanks to Jan, we were able to determine the item to approve the fence was not so simple after all. She noted the bid staff suggested we accept did not indicate if the posts should go in concrete or not. The lowest bid didn't have concrete. The highest did. And according to Jan and others, concrete is not really ideal for fences (and none of the others have them). So the board sent the bids back to staff to rebid with no concrete. Good catch on Jan's part.

"Not Directors' Comments" - (The attorneys made us eliminate directors comments so board members spoke as neighbors in a re-opened homeowners forum.)

Jan Curtis - Acknowledged the wonderful work of Tom Brockmiller over the years and noted that the last activities coordinator got a nice thank you and dinner gift certificate. Staff was "suggested/directed" to do the same for Mr. Brockmiller. Thanks for your many years of effort Tom!

General Managers Report - Maggie deferred her report to the end for purposes of presentations to the retiring board members for their service.

Jan Curtis - I rose to thank Jan Curtis, on behalf of the board, for her many years of wonderful dedication and service to the community. I noted the hours, blood, sweat and tears as well as the pleasure and the crap she received. (Most of the latter from me the last year). And we wanted an appropriate way to acknowledge that contribution. I presented her with a box (which she was afraid to open because she thought it was literally going to be a box of horse manure...) I narrated for the audience as she opened it noting that while the gift actually had not arrived, inside was a replica of the bronze plaque that will be posted at the Dressage Arena naming it the "Jan Curtis Arena" in honor of her years of service. She was very visibly moved and appreciative. I said the Board felt this was an appropriate way to honor her service. There was a picture showing her what the sign will look like when it arrives. (Thanks to Sandie) Perhaps an unveiling of the sign would be appropriate when it arrives and is installed?

I concluded by noting that I truly had admired and appreciated and understood all the work she put in to the community and that if I ever make a fraction of the difference she has made in this community I will consider myself lucky. I want everyone to know that while we battled on the field of ideas I never once took for granted and under-appreciated all that she did. We agreed many many times, perhaps more than we disagreed, but that doesn't make for good gossip around the Ranch. ; )

Cindy Greengold - Received a new tennis racket and noted the great pleasure she'd had the past year son the board and all the great friends she made. She noted that she learned a lot, perhaps more this year than in any other year.

Me - I received a terrific emergency radio and lantern with the Nellie Gail Ranch logo on it. I also thanked everyone for all that I had learned and the many wonderful people I met. I said I had a limited agenda of what I wanted to accomplish and I did it. (More in my next post farewell post.)

We adjourned to the patio outside for cake and punch. A fitting way to end a great year.

Monday, July 7, 2008

Budget Meeting July 15th

Don't forget that there will be another budget meeting workshop on July 15th at 5pm at the HOA Office.

We're getting closer to a budget, but we're having a big increase in costs from vendors, contractors and others. We are holding the line as much as we can, but the last budget submitted by staff indicated a raise in dues might be required. We are all working against that at the moment because raising dues should be a last resort since we are all facing increases in our costs from all sides.

The biggest hit is in the Equestrian Center budget. The cost of feed, shavings and manure disposal is skyrocketing off the charts. An increase in boarding fees seems completely unavoidable at this point, the question is how steep an increase. A group of dedicated equestrians have been meeting to look at places to cut the budget and find new sources of revenue, but a subsidy from the HOA (proposed by some as a special increase in all our HOA dues) is being proposed by some as a means to offset any board increase. Exacerbating the deficit is the fact that many such as myself are pushing for changes in the budget so that the cell phone tower revenue and the fee paid by the HOA to the EC of $18,000 for HOA using their road to access dumpsters be re-allocated (or at least renamed for what it is - a subsidy to the EC). I was told that long ago the EC gave up some of the adjacent property (that could have been used for more stalls) in exchange for receiving the cell phone tower rent. I am now more on the fence on this issue since learning that. But the $18,000 for using the road needs justified more because we could easily charge the EC for using the upper parking lot, the staff time to do the EC billings etc. Transfers can't be one way and still be fair. Calculate the actual damage and or costs to the EC that come out of their budget and I will be more than willing to find a reasonable amount.

Anyway, you can see there is more than meets the eye when it comes to budgeting. You can't keep dues down without a trade-off. Naturally we're first looking at waste or fat to trim and then other ways to do the same things but cheaper. Our dues are low and we want to keep them that way. If we raise them now just because we can and they are low, what happens if some natural disaster or big project we all find we need to do comes along that needs funding? Or suddenly getting a skyrocket in costs for things like water or electricity or other services like the EC faced. We need to save any increases for when they are really needed almost like the equivalent of a rainy day fund. The reason California is in bad shape with the budget is because people spent up and maxed out the tax rates for projects in good times and left no excess capacity in the bad. Now they want to raise our taxers just to keep up. We don't want to ever be in that position here. A little bit of belt-tightening and scrimping now may help save us greater pain down the road. But let us know what your thoughts are by either attending the meeting or posting them here. Thx!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Board Meeting June 18, 2008

Quietly and quickly, last night's board meeting was over and done in an hour. The executive session before it lasted longer. Here's the recap minus the boring stuff like adopting the minutes and financial report.

Jan, Cindy and James were present. Bill's daughter was graduating from high school and Bob had a business meeting.

1) Oso Parkway Improvements - Congrats to Cindy, Jan and all the many past board members who after 30 years(!) are finally getting some wonderful landscaping improvements on Oso Parkway. There will be $1.5 million spent for each side of Oso Parkway with emphasis on the corners at Moulton parkway and Oso Parkway and at Nellie Gail and Oso. We will see new trees, bushes, and flowers all native to the area. A new "bio-swale" will capture and restrict urban run off before it goes into the drain system to the ocean. A new wetlands will be formed by this process and will eliminate the standing stagnant water that bred mosquitoes.
Congratulations again. This is a nice send off victory for Jan and Cindy. Thank you both for all your efforts on this.


Mike Bland - Noted that he and his wife Jean and Tom Epperson are now regularly attending Laguna Hills City Council meetings. Jean is typing up the results in a recap format to share with folks. (Hmmm.... sounds familiar...) It's called the Laguna Hills Watch Dog Report and according to the latest edition here's how you can sign up: **To receive these free e-mail reports on the Laguna Hills City Council go to , and sign up with your name, e-mail address, city and the enter the words "Watch Dog" in the comments section.

Marlene Sandler - provided a great update on the General Plan update efforts. She noted that there are two areas near us that might be impacted. One is the La Paz Gateway - La Paz at the 5 freeway. The City wants to determine what should be allowed if the developers ever want to redevelop the area such as new condos, shops and the like. The consensus of the citizens attending was that whatever it is, don't increase the traffic because it's bad already. There is another area along La Paz under similar consideration. There is an area that might be designated for more playing fields (a big demand in this city) but nearby residents noted that there is no parking for the existing fields as it is. Check with Marlene for more details. (And thank you for monitoring this for us!!)


- We've fixed the lighting in the parking lot at the Tennis Center near the back.

- The HOA election ballots will be mailed out this week. (Don't forget to vote! There are three Bylaw Amendment changes and the top three vote getters will receive 2-year terms if the bylaw amendment is passed. Just because there are only five candidates doesn't mean your votes won't matter. ) And Kathy Bennett has been named as the elections inspector.

- Budget - we have a meeting on Tuesday the 24th of June at 5pm if you want to see how your money will be spent next year. The biggest concern is the Equestrian Center budget and how much of an increase in fees might be required to off set all the soaring costs in hay, shavings, manure disposal etc. This will be at the Swim and Tennis Center.

- Retirement - Sadly for us, long time staff member Shirley Charne is retiring in July. Shirley embodies institutional memory for the HOA and the office and has been an incredible asset to this community for many years. We will all miss her greatly and wish her the best. (More time for her golf passion and hitting some tennis balls with Cindy!)

(Things are going wonderfully under Maggie and her team. Everyone on the board, especially those of us retiring, are heaving major sighs of relief knowing the Association is in such terrific hands.)

- Budget is under way. (Again, if you want to have a say in the budget, be sure to contact Maggie Merante or attend the budget meeting)

- One of Manuel's staff had to leave us for family reasons. We wish him well.

- Many delayed reserve purchases, maintenance and improvements are now entering into the bidding phase. Look for some sprucing up at the center in the months to come.

- June 20th is Movie Night. Come to the Pool and Tennis center to watch National Treasure: Book of Secrets.

- There is a horse chiropractor workshop coming up. Watch the bulletin board for details.

- New camps starting for the summer. "Margarita Tennis Night for Women" starting.

- Don't forget the Open House July 5th with the In and Out Burger Truck providing free food sponsored by one of our local Realtors.

- The Tennis Court Reservation system starts in again. Book your courts in advance to avoid the heat of the day.


LERP Infestation - The eucalyptus trees in our community are being attacked by a "piercing sucking insect" (I figured there was a joke in there somewhere but I let it go...). The Board approved a bid from the only pest control company that can handle this to see if we can save some of the infected trees and prevent the spread to others. Approved 3-0

Miller Tree Removal Request - Under the "Irony" section of the agenda, our next item was a request from a resident to remove 6 healthy eucalyptus trees. We believe they want them removed as it was conveyed to them that they have to maintain them. Staff was directed to let them know the HOA will maintain them per the CC&Rs and perhaps that will assuage their need/desire to remove them. (I (jokingly) suggested they scrape some of the LERP pests off the sick trees...)

Web site - The RFP is prepared and we're getting bids to improve and redesign the web site. Cindy wanted to know when and it was noted we have to have a budget first, but we will move quickly once we have an approved budget and funding.

Trail Crossing Signage - Marlene has been working with the city to get good sign "packages" to alert motorists at horse crossings. The city is amenable, but the best options are the most expensive of course. It was noted that the city had told us we could put up mirrors for riders to see oncoming cars from the trail - GREAT! But they have to be placed well off of city property or Nellie Gail assumes the liability for any accident that happens there that is blamed on the mirrors - BAD. So, we continue to explore all the possibilities. Again, thank you Marlene for riding herd on this.

Crime in Nellie Gail - I noted that the last two months have seen several daytime break ins on Dillon Rd. Cindy suggested we get Lt. Loan and the Mayor to our next meeting to ask where is the reporting substation at the NGROA office we were promised, why we are down two officers and where are the patrols we used to have coming through. We'll be promoting this on the website and other places so watch for details.

July 4th - Celebrate the 4th with your neighbors as we honor our own military members and veterans to the sounds of WW II Big band music. This takes place in the mid day so you can still feast at another barbecue and fireworks later in the evening.

And that was it. There's only one more meeting for me to go after this. (Even if we fail to get 50% quorum I'm hoping to reschedule the 25% quorum annual meeting before the August board meeting so the new board can get going.)

If I got any of this wrong, if you have corrections or additions (such as more details on any of these events) please let me know. See you around the Ranch.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Board Meeting May 21, 2008

A really great meeting. Short, sweet and to the point. Let's hope they are all like this from now on. Cindy wasn't able to join us but Dr. Bettey wielded a fast moving gavel (rubber mallet actually) as Vice President and we moved through things at a good clip. Here are the highlights.

Executive Session:

- The Board approved a contract with Merit Companies to handle our billing, financial reporting etc. This will save us about $2000 a month compared to the way we do things now. Way to go Maggie!

Open Session:

Open Space Variance Request - A neighbor whose home contains a bit of open space that is surrounded by a 13 foot wall and not visible from the horse trail (or anywhere seemingly) sought to turn a weed strewn patch into an area with a koi pond, sport court and playground area. This proposal was approved 3-1 with Bob, Bill and I in favor and Jan opposing. A victory for common sense.

Equestrian Stall Board Fee Increase - We heard from eight neighbors all opposed to increasing the board fees. Big surprise. Costs are increasing and the Board has approved a number of salary and other increases, gotten a new EC manager and other things for the Center to respond to concerns by the folks who use the EC, but now it seems we're hearing from a group that doesn't want to pay for those. In fact, we heard from some of these folks that non-equestrians should pay for these new goodies and cost increases because we knew it was an equestrian community when we moved in. I've written about this before so I'll leave it at that. For the record I will oppose any budget that doesn't make the Equestrian Center pay for itself the way the Tennis and Swim centers do and the way the HOA pays it's own costs. That is only basic fairness.

Consent Calendar - We approved the minutes and the financial reports for February and March. Maggie was left with a disaster on her hands in trying to get the financial situation worked out. She has done an amazing job as has Maureen and with the new contract approved last night for Merit hopefully we will be in a position to do an accurate budget for the year.

Swim, Tennis and Equestrian Reports - Lots of great programs and in the Tennis and Swim programs we have residents who won competitions and scholarships to college. We're going to see if we can get some pics and details for the official web site. Also, Mickey said for the record that he is against a stall board fee increase but is working to try to come up with ways to address the budget and the increasing costs to try to make an increase unnecessary. He also noted that the stall waiting list issue seems to be resolved and "There will be no more games" and the list is posted so everyone can see who is next. Also, the full rules book is outside the office at the EC for everyone to review because there will be no more exceptions made for people for not knowing the rules.

Cell Phone Tower - We rejected a proposal (again) from the company who leases the land from us for the cell phone tower on HOA property. The revenue from the interest on an annuity from a sale of a permanent easement for the cell phone tower would not make up for the current stream if income we get now so the deal doesn't make sense for the HOA since currently that revenue is used to subsidize the EC. Approved 4-0

July 4th Celebration - The Board approved expenditure of $250 to have a July 4th celebration headlined by the World War II Radio Band with a tribute to veterans and current military members in our community. We are under budget in the activities fund so we were able to fund this special event. It will be from Noon-2 so you can still do your evening fireworks parties later. Look for details from the office. Passed 4-0

July 5th Open House - A local realtor asked permission to have the In and Out Burger truck at the HOA office on July 5th with free burgers for residents. It was decided to use this time to hold an open house for the Swim, Tennis and Equestrian centers as well. So come on down and see what's going on. We will be contacting the city for parking permission. Again, the office should release details on that. Passed 4-0

Inspector of Elections - To keep our elections fair and to comply with the law we voted to appoint an official from the Merit Company to be the inspector of elections to oversee the election and annual meeting. So far there are only five candidates officially on the ballot, but anyone can run from the floor. So hopefully the election will be simple and amicable. Passed 4-0

Emergency Preparedness Committee Report - Charles Steinmetz has done an incredible job getting our community a plan to organize in the event of an emergency. He proposed a letter to be sent to everyone and posted in the Pony Express to get people to provide emergency information contact information to be accessed by a very limited number of people and ONLY in an emergency. Please respond to this because if we have a major earthquake and you are injured and we don't have you on the list to check on or contact you or a loved one could die. If you do NOT sign up and provide information we will presume you wish to be on your own in an emergency and not be told what to do or where to go to protect yourself or receive aid. Passed 4-0

Web Site - We brainstormed some ideas for the web site that will be part of a Request for Proposal (RFP) to get us a new web site. Once this is prepared we will get it out to professional web design firms, individual web designers, and neighbors like the Crouls who will try to help us find volunteers, community college programs or other options to get a great looking web site for little to no cost. If you have ideas, resources or suggestions for the web site, please post them here, send them to Maggie or any board member. Thx!

Budget Hearing - We will be holding a budget meeting to discuss how to pay for all the wonderful amenities and programs we have. We are looking for a date that will work for all of the Board. Once we have that I will post it on the blog and the web site.

And we adjourned at 8:50 happy, content and in good spirits. That's the way Nellie Gail Ranch should be and hopefully we are on a path to make this the usual way of things. We'll see you around the Ranch.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Web Site Improvements

One of my tasks I pledged to do when I ran was to improve the web site. The current one was hopelessly out of date (still is in many areas) but I have taken a stab at putting on some band aids, culling out the dead wood so it is not completely embarrassing. Please take a look at It lists the new features I created. If you have pictures I can add to the site please send them to me.

We want to dump it and completely redo it but we need to get an idea of what that will cost. To do that, we need an idea of what features it will need. This is the most basic list. Please tell me what to add:

1) Be updated regularly with announcements and info

2) Ability to pay dues and center fees online

3) Contain prominently a link to the agenda and then the minutes of each meeting

4) Ability to send those out directly to residents via e-mail as well as draft policies and other features

5) Ability to file applications online for simple ARC items, apply for a stall at the EC, running for the board, reporting problems etc. Perhaps ability to reserve tennis courts or other things. Basically anything that you need to do in the offline world, you should be able to do online.

6) A blog or other interactive forum for residents to be able to communicate back and forth to share their ideas. (not this one. To be fair to residents we should start from scratch so everyone feels it is their blog)

7) Your ideas or must haves for the site redesign? Post them here.

Board Meeting April 16, 2008

Another long night so let's get right to it. And as always, if there are corrections or deletions please tell me ASAP. I want this to be as accurate as possible..

UPDATE: Our attorney's conceeded they were in error in when they stated the requirement for a bylaw amendment was 50% of ALL of Nellie Gail and not just 50% of quorum. We need to stay on top of things like this because errors happen.

Executive Session
We discussed the questions and process for interviewing and selecting candidates for the ARC. There are six candidates. Three current members (of the five on the committee. Although the CC&Rs say there should only be 3) and three new applicants.

We then discussed the status on one of the ongoing lawsuits. Per usual, I can't discuss the details, but look at our budget and financials to see how much we spend in legal fees each year...

Open Session began at 7:10pm with all directors present

1. Cindy introduced Maggie Merante, our new general manager and provided some background on her. Welcome Maggie!

2. Minutes: Approved with a couple of minor edits. Motion by James Second by Bob passed 5-0

3. Consent Calendar - Rather than receive and file, Cindy opted to have the managers give their reports verbally for Maggie's sake.

a) Tennis Report - Bob shared information on all the various types of leagues and programs offered at the Tennis center. Lots of programs for a variety of people day and night. I asked him to post all of that program information on the blog.

b) Swim Report - Louis shared information on all the swim programs and noted they are trying to bring back a master's program for adults. He noted that we're approaching the summer season when we get 500-600 kids. I asked him to post all of the information on all the programs on the web site. Cindy asked him to be sure to have CPR training for all staff.

c) Equestrian Report - Mickey gave a comprehensive overview of what's he's done in the month since he took over. Way too much great stuff to list here so he (knowing what was coming) said he'd post it all on the web site, but here are a few highlights that jumped out at me.

-- There will be some upcoming events such as a Kentucky Derby party, a movie night, a horse nutrition seminar and a chiropractor for horses will do a demonstration.

-- The subleasing and stall waiting list issues are being resolved. Bill had contacted Mickey suggesting that a deposit be required to get on the stall waiting list. That is to be brought back to the Board as an official policy.

-- Mickey noted that our board fees are too low and need raised to match those of other facilities (this being the issue I raised at the candidate's forum when I ran and was roundly ripped apart and mocked for by the same group who pushed for Mickey to be the manager...)

-- Noted that we pay $50,000 a year to dispose of horse manure. He's exploring options such as finding a "green" company to haul it for free or buying a truck so we can haul it away ourselves. The city won't let us do anything else because of the exclusive contract they have with CR&R.

-- Cindy asked that the Equestrian Center staff receive CPR training as well.

-- Time to replace/replenish the footing in the upper arena

-- Middle arena needs redone

-- Wants to buy some storage sheds and power wash and repaint the barns to make the center look better.

-- A couple of (non-licensed?) Dressage trainers are coming in teaching lessons that "don't seem to bother people" but there have been complaints of foul language. I pointed out that trainers not licensed/credentialed what have you by the Association shouldn't be there at all since it is the policy and unfair to residents who want to train or bring in their own trainers for other disciplines. That policy has been used to drive away some families, but that was ignored and Jan only noted that we needed their insurance on file. I guess we have policies to keep out people we don't like rather than policies that apply fairly to everyone... (Is that negative to point out...)

d) February 2008 Financial Reporting - Our financial reports are a disaster. Once Liza left that aspect of things fell apart. Bill has been really on top of this driving it. It was noted that the February report we got was incomplete and made no sense. Expenditures have not been categorized properly and so many bills went unpaid that we can't even use the current reports to develop an accurate budget. Maggie and Maureen ( our new assistant general manager) are tasked with fixing that first and foremost so we have an accurate financial picture. Every month the Board has hammered on this and Bill especially because he takes his duties as Treasurer very seriously. It was agreed that rather than approve the February Financials that we note they are a draft and are received and filed for now until they are made accurate.

4) General Manager's Report - It is her third day on the job so she simply noted that getting the financial reporting and budget in order are her first tasks. And she is getting to know the staff and how they work.

5) Presentations -

a) Nancy Michael- We were to approve a final ballot for the bylaws (which she noted had all been approved for the ballot at the last meeting...) but it was not an actual representation of what the ballot would actually look like. This was to be our last chance to approve the materials before the election but the Board was not comfortable approving documents that required so many changes.

The change that the attorneys said needed made was this: Rather than approve the bylaw changes by 50% of the quorum of voters (that is those who vote in the election so long as more than 50% of them vote), they are saying that 50% of EVERYONE in Nellie Gail has to approve the bylaw changes. That would be like saying that a ballot proposition is only valid if 50% of everyone in California votes. Here's what our bylaws actually say:

" The bylaws, and every part thereof, may from time to time be amended, altered, repealed, ... by the vote of a majority of a quorum of each voting class of members present in person or by proxy."

Majority of a quorum, not majority of everyone in Nellie Gail.

Next we discussed the election process. It was noted we needed an independent elections officer. Several people who actively campaigned against Bill and I were proposed and people seemed shocked that Bill and I didn't feel comfortable with them them... Ultimately we decided to ask Lt. Doan of the Sheriff's office to do it and if not him then one idea was to do an exchange with another HOA. They'd be the election officer for us and we'd be the officer for them. The election officer's job is to collect the candidate application and statements, make sure they are received by the deadline and that the statements are not read by others like incumbent board members running for re-election. And the officer also collects, secures and counts the ballots.


May 16 5pm - Deadline for submitting your application and candidate statement - pick up your form from the office. I will try to post it on the website in a prominent place as well.

June 16 - Ballots mailed to all homes

June 25 - Candidate Forum and Forum to discuss bylaw amendment changes

July 23 - Annual Meeting and election (if we get 50% quorum requirement, if not then the election is postponed to some date in future.)

It was requested that the election rules be reviewed at the next board meeting.

Public Forum

Marlene Sandler - The horse traffic mirror is in the office. Where should it go? Cindy suggested she post it where she thinks best. She then noted the conditions of the trail behind a neighbor's home and wanted to know what we were going to do about it. Sandie noted that she was aware of it and working on it. Marlene also noted a trailer is often parked there. Cindy asked if we have a time limit on that. If the question was ever answered I didn't catch the response.

Mr. and Mrs. Meidell - Noted that an easement for a horse trail runs in their front yard that hasn't been maintained by the HOA. They want to plant artificial grass and cut down some trees. In subsequent discussions it was noted that the HOA should have done it's job in trimming their trees. This item was agendized for next month.

Lorie Blough - Noted that there are trees that back up to her property that need trimmed. In fact a limb fell and damaged her neighbors yard. She was told the tree was HER responsibility despite the fact that the association had maintained those trees for years. She noted that no one told her there was a change and if there was, please officially notify her. A heated debate amongst the Board ensued. Bill noted that the CC&Rs are clear that if the tree is in the easement it is her responsibility to trim and if not it is ours. No further discussion needed. Cindy wanted staff to look into the overall situation and see if anything needed done to determine which trees in Nellie Gail's were ours or neighbors and formally tell them so. Bill said it was not a priority and didn't want staff to spend time on it. It is the neighbors' responsibility to determine if the trees are in the easement or not. So if you have any questions, Sandie noted she has pretty good maps of easements. Contact her and find out if the trees are yours or the Associations to maintain. And remember that anything growing in your yard that grows out into the easement must be cut by you or the Association will trim it for you and bill you for it.

Cheree Behringer - Any update on horse trailer parking? (Yes, part of the report you'll see below).

Bryant Rossiter - Gave an update on emergency preparedness efforts in Nellie Gail


Conditional Use Permit (CUP) Update - Presented the options for getting into compliance with our (CUP). Recommended we not only get approval for the additional stalls but ask for more going from the current 96 to 104. Also, while getting approval we should get approval for other projects we MIGHT do if approved by Board and potentially residents if the cost is more than the amount required by the CC&Rs. These include:

-- Create horse trailer parking for 15 spaces in the area below the dressage arena
-- Create 15 foot wide exercise path around the upper arena
-- Add an exit driveway below the dressage arena
-- Change the sand volley ball court into a sports court
-- Change the abandoned bathrooms in the clubhouse into a fitness center, day care, offices, storage or other service use.
-- Turn part of the open space slope area into a viewing stand.

I jumped on that last one. I asked if the Association really was going to exempt itself from the rules about open space when we deny residents the same right. That got through because Jan and Bob and others pointed out other non-open space areas in the EC that could be put.

It was suggested that the hillside behind the barns be used as a turnout area. Bill suggested we explore getting a water tower and expanded feed storage space so that in an emergency the horses (and potentially residents) could access that in an emergency.

Motion made by Bill and seconded by Jan to pursue the option to expand the number of stalls and all the other projects mentioned above. Passed 5-0.

Architectural Review Committee Applications - Three of the six applicants were present, but one had to leave before we got to this point due to the lateness of the hour. The other three were not present including two of the current members.

William Frey (new applicant) - made a great presentation noting the complexity and costs of the new projects and how we needed people with more professional experience. He is a developer himself who does renovations of homes. He noted he's been through the ARC process. He had some excellent ideas for improving the process and reducing the costs such as having a set of all blueprints of all the different models that could then be purchased by residents saving them the at least $5000 costs of getting new blueprints drawn up.

Bonnie Adams (current member) - stated she wanted to keep the open spaces and things the way they are now. When I asked her about all the complaints about rude treatment, keeping people out of the room when their plans are reviewed, and all the other complaints -- she denied them all. Bill noted that twice in the last four years he went through the process and had to sit outside in the lounge with other residents while his fate was decided. She still denied that was possible. So in essence she called Bill and all the others who reported these problems liars. Never offered up an apology or a desire to ensure that it doesn't happen. Simply flat out denied it actually happened. "It never happened in the time I've been on the ARC" she said. When I was campaigning door to door, this was a common theme that people offered up to me on their own - the problems with ARC and they way they treat residents. And this included many people who had their plans approved so no sour grapes issues. So who are we to believe?

Bill noted that if the others didn't show up they shouldn't be considered for the ARC. I noted these are volunteers and they had about 24 hours notice to be there which wasn't fair. We are scheduling another special meeting for next Wednesday and hopefully the other applicants can be present then. It's still not too late to apply for the ARC so get your application in ASAP. I'd rather have a vacancy and fill it later with someone who has respect for their neighbors and supports property rights than what we've heard or experienced from the current ARC.

Budget Preparation Planning Schedule - After debate and discussion we determined the following:
-- The budget must be adopted by 60 days before the start of the fiscal year. Our fiscal year is by practice starts October 1, but the bylaws say it is supposed to be July 1. But like many other previsions (having 5 members on the ARC instead of the three called for in the CC&Rs for example), it is ignored. I am willing to be flexible to get things done, but it seems there are some who want us to abide by the letter of the law of the bylaws and CC&Rs when it suits their personal agenda. If we're going to demand people follow policies, we have to do it consistently and apply them to everyone. That's just basic fairness and it is because that doesn't happen that we have the negative situation happening.

So, we are going to adopt a budget by Aug 1 at the July 16th Board Meeting just before the Annual meeting and elections. Our first budget workshop, open to the public will be held Thursday June 19th. We are hoping by then that Maggie and Maureen have been able to restore our financial reporting so we can accurately gauge expenses to do a proper budget.

Web Site Update - By this point it was nearly 11:30 and so I simply told everyone to look at the website and see the changes I have made thus far. I noted I was going to work with staff to get an RFP prepared to put the web redesign and maintenance out for bidding so we can get an idea of the costs for budget purposes. I'll do a special post about the web site later today or tomorrow.

If you're still reading, you are a dedicated resident and I applaud you. Most will never read this, but my hope is that this will give people a resource to go back and research what happened and use it to decide how they will vote in the next election. I'm hoping that just knowing this record is being kept will make people feel better about the Board and the HOA.