Kensington Grove Residents Speak Out at Covenants Town Hall

Last week, a town hall was held Thursday, November 16, 2023, to discuss the proposed amendments to the covenants and to hear feedback from HOA members. Approximately 30 homeowners attended. Nicole McGaughy, an attorney representing Eads Murray & Pugh PC, also attended the meeting.

The meeting lasted nearly two hours. It was cordial and homeowner comments were constructive, with viewpoints shared from both sides of the argument.  With the feedback it received, the HOA Board plans to review each of the proposals and consider where changes might be needed. If the Board does make changes, another vote will be necessary.

Covenants vs ByLaws

HOA president, Terry Cleveland, began the meeting by explaining the difference between covenants and bylaws, since there were some misunderstandings expressed in feedback received earlier. Covenants (also known as Declaration of Covenants, Conditions, and Restrictions, or CC&Rs) are considered a legal contract or agreement that both the homeowner and the association agree to honor and are one of the HOA’s governing documents. The covenants set out the rules of the community and describe the requirements and limitations of what can be done with HOA members’ property, with the goal being to protect, preserve and enhance property values.

Bylaws, on the other hand, govern how the HOA will be structured and operate and those are spelled out with a set of rules which should not conflict with the terms of the covenants.

The only way to amend either document is through an election process by members of the association.

Amendments to the Current Covenants

After the introductory remarks, Cleveland proceeded to go through each of the key proposed amendments, opening the floor to discussion after each one. The HOA Board was very pleased with the exchange of ideas and feedback it received.

Must Do Changes

Two of the amendments are considered “must do”. These include removing references to the developers (the declarant) and deleting developer Class B voting rights since those expired in 2017.

Board of Directors Elections

A majority of HOA members in attendance favored changing Board of Director member representation to At-Large instead of members representing one of the four sections in Kensington Grove. Since the beginning of the HOA in 2018, no Board has had representation from all sections of the community.

Rentals

Regarding leasing and rentals, everyone supported making it more difficult for corporations to purchase and lease property, however there were mixed opinions about individuals renting their property. Several arguments were raised, both for and against.

Some homeowners were concerned because they were planning to rent their home after retiring and moving to Florida. Others wanted the flexibility to rent in case their home did not sell soon enough. One homeowner raised the point of renting when they moved into assisted living.

Arguments against individuals renting included the lack of accountability by renters who are not HOA members, and reduced home values in neighborhoods with a significant number of rentals. It was also argued that the HOA Board would have limited ability to resolve violations when the homeowner is in another state.

Finally, it was stated that inclusion of a hardship exemption for rentals would put an undue burden on the HOA Board to decide what is hardship and what is not.

Easing Property Improvement

Easing the restrictions pertaining to some property improvement projects was well-received, though several homeowners felt the guidelines needed to be clearer.

Basketball Goals

There was considerable discussion about permanent and temporary basketball goals. In general, most of the HOA members favored the proposal concerning permanent basketball goals and their placement but they did not support banning temporary goals. Putting temporary basketball goals away when not in use was a suggested compromise and some are already doing that. In addition, a few homeowners favored having lights for their basketball goals, particularly for the winter season when darkness falls early, and suggested as a compromise that there could be a limitation on the hours of operation.

Flags and Flagpoles

There was consensus regarding the amendment pertaining to the display of flags, and the installation and use of flagpoles.

Outdoor Lighting

Discussion pertaining to the amendment regarding recreational outdoor lighting was lively, with some homeowners complaining their neighbor’s bright lights are an annoyance. Yet, there was no consensus as to how to regulate them. Some suggested restricting the hours of operation. Others were concerned about too much restriction that would result in requiring Board approval to simply add lights to a pergola or landscape lights. The Board indicated that such restrictions were not intended.

It was generally agreed that this amendment requires more consideration and possible redrafting.

Energy Conservation Equipment

There was not much discussion regarding the energy conservation equipment except it was noted that the amendment could be better worded.

Reducing the Threshold for Passing Future Amendments to the Covenants

The proposed amendment to reduce the threshold for future changes to the covenants resulted in a lot of discussion with different opinions. Several members supported leaving the threshold at 75% while others supported lowering the threshold to 60%, possibly as low as 55%. The HOA Board reported that for the annual election, only 18% of the community voted, while for the covenants amendments, participation was somewhat better at 30%.

The Board pointed out that it is a misconception that the threshold percentage represents the total number of voters. Rather, the threshold represents the percentage of owners who have to approve an amendment in order for it to pass. Thus, the total number of voters would have to be significantly higher than the threshold number, particularly if an amendment is controversial.

It was generally agreed that voter apathy presents a problem for any threshold and that door-to-door solicitation for votes may be the only solution. Board members indicated that the task of soliciting votes would require the assistance of additional volunteers given the number of households in the community. A few homeowners indicated a willingness to help.

Composting

Finally, the subject of restricting composting was raised. There was discussion about different methods of composting and it was pointed out that KG not a rural community where there are a lot of gardens and fields where composting may be more common.

The Board mentioned it was their intent to restrict outdoor, open-air composting or outdoor structures erected on the property for composting.

It became clear that this amendment should be rewritten to better define exactly what will be restricted and require Board approval.

Closing Remarks

Cleveland announced that the Board will reconvene to revise the proposed amendments following feedback received from the meeting. The revised covenants will be posted online with more detailed information so lot owners can more easily compare the changes to the original and the reasoning behind the proposed change.

An announcement will be made asking property owners to review the document again. Another vote will likely be necessary. The schedule for the next election is currently unknown. Given the number of revisions and the upcoming holiday season, it is likely that voting will not take place until early next year.