Rockery Wall Lawsuit Update

As all should be aware, the SOA lost its Rockery Wall defect lawsuit against Somersett Development Company et al. in the District Court. The SOA subsequently appealed the decision to the Nevada Supreme Court’s Appellate Department, where it still resides as yet unsettled. Actions to date include the SOA filing its Opening Brief and the Respondents filing their Answering Briefs thereto. The SOA now has until December 14, to reply to the Respondents Answering Briefs. When available, SU will publish the SOA’s response.

The following summarizes the above referenced Court actions in more detail.

On August 13, 2020 the SOA filed its  “APPELLANT’S OPENING BRIEF” with the Nevada Appellate Court. The SOA’s Appeal Brief contained the elements listed below.. Of particular interest are the SOA’s Arguments, the details of which may be accessed via the following link:  “Appellant’s Opening Brief 20-29955“. The  Brief’s  Conclusion is quoted below in its entirety.

    • INTRODUCTION
    • JURISDICTION OF THE COURT
    • STATEMENT OF THE ISSUES PRESENTED ON REVIEW
    • STANDARD OF REVIEW
    • STATEMENT OF THE CASE
    • STATEMENT OF RELEVANT FACTS
    • ARGUMENT
      1. Material Facts Remain At Issue Regarding Whether The Project Was “Substantially Complete”.
      2. Under The Facts of This Case, The Statute of Repose Should Be Tolled During The Period of Developer Control of a Homeowners’ Association, or Respondents Should Be Equitably Estopped From Asserting Repose In This Action.
      3. NRS 11.202 Does Not Apply To NRS Chapter 116 Warranty Claims.
    • CONCLUSION

Based upon the foregoing, Appellant asks this Court to reverse the judgment of the district court, and hold either that there is a genuine dispute of material fact regarding whether the rockery walls were or are substantially complete within the meaning of NRS 11.2055; that equitable tolling or estoppel acts to delay the application of the period of repose in NRS 11.202 until the time of declarant transfer of control, or to bar Respondents from asserting the time bar in this instance; that NRS 11.202 does not apply to NRS Chapter 116 warranty claims; or some combination of these holdings permitting SOA to proceed upon its claims.”

On August 31, 2020, the Court granted the Respondents an extension until October 14 to file a response to the SOA’s Opening Brief.

On October 14, 2020 , Parsons Bros Rockeries, filed their Answering Brief to the SOA, which consisted of the following elements. The complete Brief may be accessed via the following link:   “Parsons Bros Answering Brief 20-37721

    • STATEMENT OF FACTS
    • STATEMENT OF THE CASE
    • ARGUMENT
      1. SOA Failed to Meet its Burden and Summary Judgement was proper.
      2. SOA Ignores its Own Evidence.
      3. SOA’S Failure to Produce Evidence.
      4. NRS 11.2055 and Substantial Completion
      5. SOA did not Claim Equitable Estoppel Against Parsons.
      6. SOA has no NRS 116 Statutory Warranty Claims Against Parsons

On October 14, 2020, Stantec Consulting Services, Somersett Development Company et al. and Q&D Construction filed a Joint Answering Brief to the SOA, which consisted of the following elements. The complete Brief may be accessed via the following link:   “Respondents Joint Answering Brief 20-37822“.  The Brief’s Conclusion below is quoted in its entirety.

    • STATEMENT OF THE CASE
    • STATEMENT OF FACTS
    • STANDARD OF REVIEW
    • SUMMARY OF THE ARGUMENT
    • ARGUMENT
      1. The district court correctly determined that the SOA failed to meet its burden to introduce admissible evidence that it brought its action prior to the expiration of the statute of repose.
      2. The district court correctly held that the statute of repose cannot be tolled without statutory authorization, or be subject to equitable estoppel.
      3. The district court correctly held that NRS 11.202 applies to all claims for construction defects, and the tolling provisions in NRS Chapter 116 do not take warranty claims out of the universe of claims subject to the statute of repose.
    • CONCLUSION

Substantial completion, under the common law, is achieved when the improvement is at such a stage that it can be used for its intended purpose. The rockery walls in Somersett were substantially complete by the end of 2006. The SOA, when opposing the MSJ, did not introduce admissible evidence to establish that substantial completion occurred with six years of its suit. Rather, the evidence submitted by the SOA shows the walls were finally complete, and therefore substantially complete, in December, 2006. Because statutes of repose provide developers, contractors, and design professionals with vested rights to not be sued after a period of time, statutes of repose are not subject to equitable tolling. Similarly, the effects of statutes of repose cannot be avoided through equitable estoppel, and if they can, the SOA did not provide any evidence that equitable estoppel should be applied here.”

On November 10th, 2020, the Court granted the SOA an extension until December 14, 2020, to file a reply to the Respondent’s Answering Briefs.

Who knows what the future holds for our newly elected Board? If the Appeal is granted is the Association looking at another $400-$500K to retry the case?

SOA BOD Election Results

The Somersett Owners Association (SOA) Board of Director (BOD) election ballots were counted by Association volunteers at the Annual SOA Homeowner Meeting on Monday November 16th. Association member attendance was restricted to log-in via Zoom video conferencing due to COVID-19 requirements. Election results were subsequently announced via “Somersett Happenings” email distributions to Association members, which are summarized below for those of you who may not have received them.

Five candidates were running for the three open two year BOD positions, Two incumbents (Fitzgerald and Retter) and three new candidates (Capalongan, O’Donnell and Williams). Results were as follows with vote totals indicated:

    1. Mark Capalongan (892)
    2. William O’Donnell (839)
    3. Jacob Williams (800)
    4. Terry Retter (395)
    5. Tom Fitzgerald (336)

Congratulations to new Board Members Mark Capalongan, William O’Donnell and Jacob Willians, who subsequent to the election met with incumbent Board members Simon Baker and Craig Hanson and selected the following as Board Officers:

    • President  –  Mark Capalongan
    • Secretary  –  Willian O’Donnell
    • Treasurer  –  Simon Baker
    • Vice Presidents  –  Craig Hanson and Jacob Williams

Again, voter turnout was less than desired with only about a third of eligible Association members voting (i.e., 1047 total). Also, the second year in a row wherein incumbents did not prevail. Perhaps indicating that Association members are not happy with the current state of affairs. Whatever the case, we all need to thank Mr. Fitzgerald and Mr. Retter for the efforts they have put in to serve the community.

SOA/SGCC Lawsuit Update – Installment 5

Perhaps a little history first:

    • On June 5th 2020, the Somersett Owners Association (SOA) filed a complaint against the Somersett Golf and Country Club (SGCC) regarding liabilities for Rockery Wall Failure and Water Well Pump repairs as required under the Purchase and Lease Agreements. Details of the complaint may be accessed via the following SU Post of July 22nd  –  “SOA Legal Complaint Against the SGCC
    • On July 10th, the SGCC filed an answer to the SOA claim along with their own counterclaim. Details of the SGCC response may be accessed via the following SU Post of July 23rd  –  “SGCC Response and Counterclaim to SOA Complaint
    • On July 31st, the SOA filed its legal response to the SGCC counterclaim in which they sought an order to dismiss the counterclaim and for the Court to require the SGCC to provide more definite statements regarding their stated causes of action against the SOA. Details of the SOA filing may be accessed via following SU Post of August 5th  –  “SOA Response to SGCC Counterclaim
    • On August 7th, The SGCC filed its opposition to the SOA motion to Dismiss and to the provision of more definitive statements regarding the causes of actions in their counterclaim. Details of the SGCC filing may be accessed via the following SU Post of August 16th  –  “And the Saga Continues – 4th Installment

Which brings us today. On November 11th, the Court denied the SOA’s motion to dismiss the SGCC Counterclaim but upheld the SOA’s position that the SGCC did not adequately plead their case and therefore granted the SOA motion for the SGCC to provide more definitive statements regarding their counterclaim. The SGCC has until November 20th to file an amended Answer and Counterclaim, after which the SOA has 21 days to respond.

The Court ruling in its entirety (which provides a good historical overview) may be accessed via the following link:

Order Denying Motion to Dismiss, Order Granting Motion for a More Definite Statement

So what does 2021 have in store with regard to this litigation? Obviously more legal fees, or can a negotiated settlement be reached between the parties? At last notice, the SOA proposed splitting the contested amount which would result in $264K from the SGCC. The best offer from the SGCC being $30K over time, quite a difference, unless something has transpired that we are not aware of.

Have You Voted Yet?

If you have not yet submitted your ballot for the Somersett Owners Association (SOA) Board of Director elections, you have only five days remaining to do so. All ballots must be received no later than 1:00 PM on Monday November 16th at The Club at Town Center (TCTC).  Rather than relying on US mail delivery at this time, a ballot box is located at TCTC for drop off. Be sure to follow the instructions for use of the provided yellow “Ballot” and white “Somersett Owners Association” envelopes.

Ballots will be counted and results announced at the November 16th Annual Owners Meeting at TCTC starting at 4:00 PM, which will have only two agenda items: 1) Ballot counting and election results and 2) Ratification of the 2021 Budget, which is basically automatic given it would take a vote of 75% of owners present or with proxies to reject it.

At last notice the Association was still looking for volunteers to count ballots. If interested, please contact the Association office ASAP.

The 2021 Board will consist of at least one and perhaps three new members, given that there are three open positions with two incumbents (Fitzgerald and Retter) and three new owners (Capalongan, O’Donnell and Williams) vying for the three positions.. SU sees two major challenges facing the new Board in 2021: 1) effective management of Contracting and Professional Consulting Services, and 2) litigation carryover on the Rockery Wall, Country Club and Preston Home lawsuits.

SOA Ballot Submittals and Annual Owners Meeting

SOA Board of Director Elections  –  By now, all owners should have received their Ballots for electing three of the five candidates to fill the three open  SOA Board of Director positions.  Included in the Ballot mailing package are statements from each of the candidates. SU encourages reading them carefully, and accessing other sources of information, before making up your mind.

To insure the proper submittal of Ballots, the following instructions are offered::

  1. After filling out the “Official Secret Ballot”, following the instructions printed thereon, place it in the yellow envelope marked “BALLOT” and seal it.
  2. Place the yellow BALLOT envelope inside the white “Somersett Owners Association” envelope and fill out the return address portion. Note that it is not required to fill out the “SOME Account #” line as long as the “Name”, “Address” and “Signature” lines are provided.
  3. Stamp the return envelope and mail it, or alternately, a Ballot Box is available at TCTC for drop off. Please note that no drop off Ballot Box will be available at the Aspen Lodge as in past years.
  4. All Ballots must be received no later than 1:00 PM on November 16th at TCTC. If mailing, be sure to allow a contingency for US Mail delivery times.
  5. After receipt, the yellow BALLOT envelope will extracted from the mailing envelope, which at the November 16th Annual Owners Meeting, will then be opened and the enclosed Ballot counted

Annual Owners Meeting  –  The Annual Owners Meeting Agenda and the follow-up Organizational Meeting Agenda, also included within the Ballot mailing package, are available for viewing via the following links. Note that the primary purpose of the Annual Meeting is to tally the votes for the Director positions and to ratify the 2021 SOA Budget. Budget ratification is essentially automatic because at the Annual Meeting it would take the vote of 75% of owners to reject it. The purpose of the Organizational Meeting is for the new Board to select their officer positions. That is, who will fill the President, Treasurer, Secretary and the two VP positions.

Annual Owners Meeting Agenda                   Organizational Meeting Agenda

Note that in past years there was not a formal “Organizational” meeting open to Homeowners when the new Board convened to decide who would be filling the President, Treasurer, Secretary and VP positions. Not sure what an open Organizational Meeting accomplishes as Homeowners have no say in who fills what position. SU believes that “listening in” on this session by Homeowners would be counter productive. Perhaps  someone has determined that, under Nevada Law, when the Board gets together for this purpose it constitutes an Executive Board Meeting which must be open to Homeowners.

Who to Vote For?

No, not referring to Trump or Biden, but rather for the SOA Board of Directors. All owners will soon be receiving their ballots to vote for the three open positions on the Board. Five candidates have thrown their hat into the ring, two incumbents: Tom Fitzgerald and Terril Retter, and three other owners seeking to serve:  Mark Capalongan, Bill O’Donnell and Jacob Williams. Clicking on the forgoing names will link to the individual candidate statements that will be included within the ballot mailing package.

The question is, what are you looking for in a Board Director?  Financial expertise? Prior HOA Board service? Management experience?, Diversity?, Sub Association affiliation? Active in community affairs? New blood (i.e., replace an Incumbent)? Other reasons?

Some of these aspects were addressed at the October 21st Candidate Night Meeting, which due to COVID-19 restrictions were held via a Zoom video conference session. If you were one of the Zoom participants, you certainly heard a lot to assist you in making up your mind, as each candidate was asked to respond to a series of diverse questions prepared by the SOA’s Communication Committee.

However, if you were not able to participate in the video conference  (only about 55 participated) and want to hear candidate responses to the posed questions (many being softballs for incumbents),  the session was video taped and is available for viewing via the following link (it may require backing up). The video tape is also available for viewing on the SOA website under the “Meet the 2020 Board Candidates” news article:

https://youtu.be/p-NaSFh9S-U

The prepared questions asked of each candidate were as follows, interpretation of responses is left to the listeners of the video:

  1. Did you access any social media outlets in preparing yourself for this Candidates’ Night, and are you familiar with the communications modes the Board has at its disposal to keep the community informed of and to get community input on critical issues? Do you have any ideas on how the Board can improve communication with the community?
  2. What is the top priority that you would like to undertake upon being elected to the Board?
  3. As a member of the Board, you will be expected to be a member and/or alternate member of one or more committees. On which committees would you be most interested in serving?
  4. Why are you running for the Board and what other leadership or volunteer roles in which you have served particularly qualify you for this undertaking? Have you attended Board or committee meetings to prepare for this?
  5. Do you understand the relationship of the Somersett Owners Association with the sub-associations of Sierra Canyon, The Village, and The Vue; the reasons and authority for the sub-associations; and how you would use this structure to improve the cohesiveness of Somersett as a community?
  6. Have you reviewed the SOA Budget and Reserve Study and how would you address potential budget and reserve shortfalls, including our current debt?
  7. Are you aware of the composition, duties, and function of the Aesthetic Guidelines Committee? Please describe the ways in which you would balance the aesthetic priorities of the community with the individual desires of our Association members to produce harmonious outcomes.
  8. How would you describe the connection between the Somersett Golf and Country Club and the overall Somersett community?

In addition to the canned questions, at the end of the formal session, participating owners were able to ask their own. Four were submitted which are paraphrased as follows:

  1. How would you work with the Town Square property owners to revitalize the area with activities as it has become somewhat of a “ghost town”?
  2. What new steps would you take to improve water conservation?
  3. What is your vision of the community in 2035 and how would you sell it to others?
  4. An opinion that current Board leadership is lacking and how would you use your leadership skills to: a) improve Board responses to owner questions and concerns?, b) initiate cost reductions and responsible budgets, and c) Improve community relations and communications?

In addition to the Candidate Night video, what other sources of information are available to assist owners in making up their mind? Obviously the ballot mailing candidate statements referenced above, talking to friends and neighbors to gain their perspectives, and social media publications.  For the later, candidates Retter, Capalongan, O’Donnell and Williams have posted insightful statements supporting their candidacy on this website (just scroll down through the October Postings). Also, the “Somersett Nextdoor” website contains dialogs (if you can navigate to them) between candidates and residents.

It is interesting to note that candidates Capalongan, O’Donnell and Williams have collaborated on their vision for the community and are running as a “Team”. In this regard, they have established a website wherein they summarize their qualifications, promises to the community, perceived shortfalls of the current Board, solutions to ongoing issues, and a forum for reader interaction. Their website may be accessed via the following link:

www.NewSomersett.com

It is apparent from Candidate Night responses and visiting their website, that the non-incumbent candidates Capalongan, O’Donnell and Williams have spent considerable time educating themselves on community issues in preparation for Board service. Much more so that most candidates in the past. Please note that this is just a SU observation, who has followed these Board elections for many years. and not an endorsement, we will leave that to others.

In accessing the video tape, one will observe the quality leaves somewhat to be desired, perhaps a learning curve for future such sessions. Also, SU does not understand why owner questions could not be asked directly by the owner, as has been the practice in the past, rather than being filtered and presented by the Moderator. Certainly the technology for this exists.

For for those you who want to voice your support for or endorse a particular candidate or candidates, and why, your comments are always welcome.

October 14th SOA BOD Meeting Recap

Following is a recap of topics discussed and/or approved at the October 14th Somersett Owners Association (SOA) Board of Directors (BOD) Meeting, held via a Zoom Video Conference with Association members.  For background information on the agenda items discussed below,  see SU’s previous post   “October 14th BOD Meeting Agenda

Homeowner comments on agenda items (i.e., as interpreted from the meeting audio file)

Three Document Review Committee members voiced their objection to a Board member amendment to the proposed SOA Bylaws changes. This amendment would alter the Board Director term of office from two to three years. The Committee members objection was based on having discussed the Director term of office in detail and concluded that the community would be better served with a two year term of office.

A suggestion that one Board member should be responsible for watching the $1,000,000+ we spend on landscaping and the $300K on fire suppression,  as they go hand in hand. Also, that many of the damaged curbs and gutters were caused by Reno Green snow-ploughing with inadequate equipment. Therefore, should they not be held responsible and did they have insurance to cover the damages?

An owner commented on the proposed 2021 Budget, questioning: 1) why the $564K Contingency line item in the 2020 Budget had been eliminated from the 2021 budget, and 2) noticed that the General Common reserve transfer increased from $430K in 2020 to $610K in 2021, and rather than increasing reserve transfers, could they be decreased in favor of lower assessments?

4.  Committee Reports

4.b.  Communication  –  The Board approved the Committee’s recommendation to release the homeowner acquired survey data to the community at large. This would pertain to the data only, and that Board conclusions, recommendations and/or actions related thereto would be released later.

4.d.  West Park Garden  –  The Committee reported that they have 85 applications for the 50 available garden plots. Allocation will be on a lottery basis.  Committee submitted a set of Rules and Regulations to the Board for consideration. After much discussion, it was concluded that approval at this time would be premature as more work needed to be done. Given that the West Park is open to the general public, a discussion ensued as to how would the rules. regulations, violations, appeals etc. be handled for both Somersett residents and non-residents.

4.e.  Governing Documents Committee  –  The Committee submitted their final recommendations for changes to the SOA’s Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws with a recommendation for Board approval and distribution for homeowners vote in conjunction with the 2021 Budget mailing package. See Agenda item 6.b. below for Board approval actions.

6.  Unfinished  Business Items

6.a.  Legal Updates  –  No updates or discussion on the Somersett Development Company or SGCC Rockery Wall lawsuits. However, two new issues with Preston Homes were identified: 1) Preston Homes has filed an amended complaint against the SOA on the vehicle access issue to Back Nine Trail.  The parties have met with another session scheduled for the end of October. If an agreement cannot be reached, then litigation in the courts is likely, and 2) the SOA has received a letter from Preston Homes complaining that construction of a rock wall by Ryder Homes has encroached on Preston Homes property. The SOA’s position is that this is a Preston Homes/Ryder Homes issue and does not involve the SOA.

6.b.  Revised Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws  –  The Document Review Committee’s recommended changes were approved as submitted. This after the amendment proposed by Board Member Retter to increase the BOD member term of office from two to three years was disapproved on a 3 to 2 vote. The Board also advised that the approved documents could not be included for owner vote within the 2021 Budget mailing package.

7.  New Business

7.a.  Rockery Wall Mitigation for Main Entrance  –  Two proposals for this work were received: 1) Environmental Protection Services (EPS) at $161,542, and 2) Granite Construction at $200,200. The Board voted to accept the EPS proposal. Work includes the following activities: Slope Scaling (removal of troublesome rocks), Bench Evacuation (removal of rock and sediment from the 400 ft long by 8 ft wide mid-slope bench), and Traffic Control (implementation of traffic control measures along the Parkway as repairs proceed). The authorized work was identified as “Phase 1” of the project in that it only addresses an immediate problem. A “Phase 2” of the project will subsequently be required to provide a more permanent solution. Because of this there was much discussion on slope maintenance costs and potential annual maintenance savings resulting from Phase 2.

7.b.  Community Wide Concrete Repairs – This work consists primarily of repairs to damaged curbs and gutters. Two proposals were received: 1) Cheek Construction LLC at $69,803,and 2) Supreme Concrete at $56,488.  The Board voted to accept the Supreme Concrete proposal. In response to the owner comment on Reno Green liability, the Board responded that this had been addressed with Reno Green to no avail, and that the cost of any litigation would most likely exceed repair costs.

7.c.  Fire Fuel Abatement Proposal  –  One bid for $78,000 was received and accepted. Abatement work will be centered on SOA Common Areas behind owner residences adjacent to split rail fences, and is expected to be completed this year. Note that the 2020 budget for this work was $100K. The budgeted amount for 2021 is $300K and will concentrate more on hillside slopes.

7.d.  2021 General Common, TCTC, Town Square & Gates Budgets  –  Budgets were approved as submitted with the exception of the proposed $2/month increase in the General Common assessment, which was disapproved on a 3 to 2 vote. The result being that the General Common assessment will remain at $105/month. There was much discussion on this issue, with the Board majority voting against the proposed $2/month increase over the objections of the Board Treasurer and Finance Committee. An objection was also raised over the increase in the Common Area reserve transfer fee of $610K for 2021, which is up from $430K in 2020. The Board member questioning the increase felt the monies could be better utilized within the operating budget or paying down the SOA debt. After discussion, the Board decided to leave the transfer fee at the proposed $610K figure. The TCTC budget was presented with two options for the TCTC loan debt payment, one at $250K and the other at $100K, neither having an effect on the TCTC assessment amount, which will remain at $89/month. After discussion the Board approved the $250K amount.

7.e.  2021 General Common, TCTC, & Gates Reserve Study – The SOA reserve studies prepared by the Browning Reserve Group were acknowledged. Note that HOA Reserve Studies are required by Nevada Law and are not subject to Board approvals, rather it is a document prepared by a third party to assist the HOA in budgetary and planning purposes. That is,” to forecast the Association’s ability to repair or replace major components as they ware out in future years”. The study established a reserve funding level of 63.8% for TCTC and 116.4% for Private Streets and Gates, the overfunding of which providing the basis for the $4/month decrease (i.e., from $54/month to $50/month) in the Gates assessment.  For reasons unknown, the Board meeting packet did not contain a Reserve Study on the General Common, the reserves of which had been significantly depleted as a result of the Rockery wall failures. SU suspects that the funding level for the General Common Area is still under recommended amounts.

7.f. Policy Reviews  –  Previously approved policies for: 1) Collection of Assessments, 2) Compliance with SOA Governing Documents, 3) Association Expenses, and 4) Association Investments were acknowledged and approved for owner distribution/access.

Post  Meeting Homeowner Comments

A scathing comment from a homeowner complaining about the Board’s persistent, dismissive and insincere responses, and non-responses, to owner concerns, comments and suggestions, the owner cited five examples pertaining to irrigation waste, legal fees, community outreach, SGCC lawsuit and governing document changes, wherein the Board provided no or inadequate responses. Board response was that, in the future, they will provide responses to post meeting comments at the next Board Meeting under “Unfinished Business” as well as some interim feedback either on the Somersett website or directly to the commenter.

A letter to the Sierra Canyon Board from a Sierra Canyon owner objecting to reopening of the trail access at Firefly Court was read. The owner cited several adverse impacts that unblocking the trail would have on adjacent property owners (two total ?). In the event that a decision was forthcoming to reopen the trail access, it was requested that some type of barriers be installed to isolate and protect owner property from intrusions and disturbance by trail walkers, such as a fence and stairs to discourage bikers and skaters. The Board advised that discussions between the SOA and the SCA are currently underway in an attempt to resolve this issue.

A couple owners commented on  “dog poop” problems and the need for additional stations along walkways and trails. Response was  that plans have already been made for the addition of five new poop stations and others will be considered.

A recommendation that additional lighting be installed at the West Park area to accommodate those wishing to use the dog park after work when it becomes dark, especially with the end of daylight savings time. This could become a City of Reno issue

A comment that the SOA is unnecessarily expending legal fees in pursuing their lawsuit against the SGCC rather than negotiating a settlement. An allegation that the SOA Executive Board has refused to meet with the SGCC in this regard, which, rightfully so, the Board refuted. Also requested an accounting of legal fees, past and present, for pursuing the lawsuit.

SOA Board Candidate Statement

The following post submitted by SOA Board candidate Terry Retter

Uncompleted Business

When I was elected two years ago, I had stated that I wanted to improve communications throughout the community, assure more consistency regarding community standards and update our controlling documents.  Much progress has been achieved over the last two years but there are still improvements needed.

Better Communications

The conflicts that existed two years ago are for the most part gone.  We have regular discussions with all the sub-associations where suggestions can be exchanged, and issues resolved before they become problems.  Our information distribution to the community has been improved a great deal with expansion of Somersett Living, the growth of the periodic email — Somersett Happenings and the improvement of the Somersett web site.

Community Standards

Through my “Terry Talks” I was able to identify several areas of concern and facilitated changes which were included in the revisions made to the Aesthetic Guidelines that were approved in September and go into effect at the start of the year. Not only were changes for string lighting and sheds incorporated but many other small change requests were made easier to implement and less expensive to process. In addition, changes in the notification process from the AGC were adopted, so when submittals are not approved specific reasons are provided.

Finance and Budgets

Financial strength and stability are the backbone for a strong community.  Over the last two years the problems caused but unanticipated events have been addressed such that cash and reserve issues of two years ago are resolved.  Further, plans are evolving to more rapidly address the debt concerns that developed with the acquisition of the golf course land and water rights. And this is being accomplished while keeping assessments from rising inordinately (no increase this year).

Controlling Documents

The board approved the modifications to the Article of Incorporation and ByLaws and these will now be put to the homeowners for approval.  The updates to these two documents clear up many administrative issues and set the foundation for the next 10 plus years.

Improvements anticipated

Communications

The next iteration of the web site improvement is underway, and the rollout of this upgrade is expected in January. The revision will provide more ease of use features, more robust access and search of all Somersett documents, increased functionality for event and amenity scheduling and reservations and a robust platform for feature additions such as surveys, problem reporting and others. There will also be content expansion with more articles in both Somersett Living and Happenings including input from the SGCC.

I anticipate restarting the “Terry Talks” in January starting with Zoom and moving toward physical meetings when allowed.  The continuing direct input from homeowners goes a long way in influencing the actions of the committees and the board.  The discussions are essential to my commitment to the community so I can properly represent their interests.

Community Standards

The revised Aesthetic Guidelines will be distributed along with the election ballots in October. But this is just the first step in providing information to homeowners regarding requesting and implementing changes. Many change requests in the past had to proceed through a multistep process. Now these are handled by a quick review and approval.  The redundancies between Sierra Canyon’s ARC and the AGC have been eliminated. More complex change requests still need to be reviewed for consistency however, this process is expedited as much as possible and specific information is returned when issues arise.  The intent of these changes is to make it easier to get requests processed and more expeditious to get problems resolved.

Finance and Budgets

While our finances are good today there are three things that we are anxious about: most of our core infrastructure is more than 15  years old and will need to be replaced, so we are closely watching reserve levels; our day to day operating costs continue to increase as the demand for services increase, so we are watching our income and expenses closely; and we have increasing requirements for expanded amenities, so we are trying to reduce our debt and are looking for alternative sources of capital.  There has been a lot of progress made in the last year in all three of these areas, but constant attention is still needed.

Controlling Documents

While we have two of the key documents being submitted for approval this year, a key document that needs further effort is the CC&RS. There are multiple areas of change that need evaluation and in some cases negotiation. There remain a few sections where the original developer still has rights that may conflict with the intended direction of the SOA.  Negotiation with the developer to determine what changes would be allowed and which ones would not have been started but deferred until next year. A second concern has to do with an accurate property description and associated easements.  These will require a bit of investigation to finalize the documentation needed for this document.

So, I believe I have more work to do for our community and need your vote in order to complete these tasks.

This year I have participated with the AGC Committee, the Finance and Strategy Committee and the Communications Committee. We have seen improvement in the interaction among these committees. This needs to be expanded such that a strategic plan is evolved that sets goals for amenity improvements, more effective use of existing facilities, increased events, social activities and such, and more efficient processes for managing and administering everything. Then this plan should be coordinated throughout the community to obtain resonance with its goals and to gather modifications as Somersett continues to mature.

Somersett is a thriving and diverse community with variety in demographics, interests, and expectations. Thus, it is only through continuing improved communications and planning that we will be able to discern what the more essential actions should be for now and into the future.

I believe I have demonstrated that I do communicate effectively with people and I do translate that into improved activities by our committees and the board.  I need another year or so to finish the tasks that were started over the last months.

Thus, I need your vote.

Terry Retter

 

SOA Board Treasurer Resignation

As the result of an action taken by the SOA Board at the October 14th meeting, Simon Baker resigned his position as the SOA’s Treasurer (however, not as a Board Member). Following, published with the permission of Mr. Baker, is a copy of his resignation letter:

“Dear fellow members of the SOA Board,

When I ran for a seat on the SOA Board of Directors last year, I had no agenda.  My desire, having recently retired as the Corporate Treasurer of Fox Entertainment Group, was to use my 20 years of experience in running large corporate treasuries to try to benefit the Somersett community.  I was duly elected to the Board and then elected by the Board to be Treasurer.

Last week, I presented the proposed budget for 2021 to the homeowner community.  As you know, that budget called for a modest $2 increase in the assessment for the General Common cost center.  At last night’s Board meeting, the Board voted to overturn the recommendation of its Treasurer and the recommendation of the Finance Committee and to keep the General Common assessment flat.  If you recall, the General Common assessment was raised by $13 in 2019.  The reason for this is because prior Boards had failed to set adequate assessment rates in an environment of rising costs and the SOA was consequently running dangerously short of cash.  Now that the SOA is on a better financial footing, the Board has voted to continue the mistakes of the past and risk having to have further large catch up increases or special assessments in the future.  Many areas of Somersett are now 15 years old and maintenance costs are only going to increase.  In addition, the SOA still has $5.5m in debt and hence my recommendation was to take some initial positive steps to start attacking this level of debt.  It is deeply disappointing to me that the Board ignored this recommendation.  This came on the same day that I was also troubled by the Board’s blanket approval of bonuses for First Residential staff and the Board’s apparent indifference to my request for greater transparency in the cost structure of First Residential, a vendor that accounts for a substantial portion of the SOA’s total annual expenditure. 

As a consequence of the above, it has become clear to me that the Board does not value my experience.  It is the ultimate vote of no confidence when a Board overturns the budget recommendation of its Treasurer. Therefore, effective immediately, I am resigning from my position as Treasurer and my participation on the Finance Committee. I will continue to serve on the Board and will await the outcome of the upcoming Board election, where three of the five Board seats are up for election.  Should the future Board determine that they would value my contribution as Treasurer, I will reconsider my position at that time.

Sincerely,

Simon”

SOA BOD Candidates Pledge

The following post submitted by SOA Board candidates Jacob Williams, Bill O’Donnell, and Mark Capalongan

Our combined Pledge to Somersett Residents

The three of us are motivated by positive change and if elected will invest the time and energy to make this happen.  Your association board can better represent homeowners by instilling a “New Culture” that works WITH you rather than against you.

Better Transparency and Communication.

So much is currently misunderstood or miscommunicated about the Somersett Homeowners Association.  Let us fix that with email updates, publishing in the magazine and with readily accessible information.  No action will ever be hidden or pushed through without prior homeowner notification.

A Kinder and Gentler Culture.

Our homeowners are intelligent and accomplished adults and need to be treated as such. The enforcement of the rules should take on a more cooperative approach where homeowners are treated with respect and alternate ideas are considered.  We can work together on compliance efforts and realize community standards yet at the same time foster a happier and more cooperative community. We also need a process for appeal when there are differences. We need to ensure the AGC (Aesthetic Guidelines Committee) does not overstep their charter and homeowners should have independent appeal rights.

Lawsuits

Lawsuits between our friends and neighbors can never be fruitful.  It needlessly divides the community and rarely does it benefit anyone monetarily (except the attorneys).  An over-dependency on legal action wastes precious resources and to-date the SOA major lawsuits have failed to recover a dime. We intend to re-engage directly with opposing viewpoints and sit down and put in the effort to reach a negotiated solution.

Somersett Homeowners vs.  Somersett Golf and Country Club.

Whether you golf or not, the Golf Course itself is a net benefit to homeowners as well as the Grill and Restaurant.  These amenities increase property values of the homes here and beautify the look and feel of the community.  But the Golf and Country Club needs to stand on its own and not be subsidized by the homeowners of Somersett.  With the right thinking we believe this is quickly achievable.

Both parties here have responsibilities, and both can enjoy benefits if we choose to set aside the lawsuit and re-engage directly so that creative ideas can again emerge.   We are looking for a win-win and when that happens the homeowners will get good value and the golf course will remain on a path to sustainability and success. We intend to set this right so that the issues are fully resolved and will not re-emerge with added costs every time the unexpected happens.  The differences are significant, but the rewards of a negotiated solution are far greater.

Expenditures and Budgets

Holding down costs will allow us to afford future amenities.  This requires a tightly managed budget and getting good value on every line-item.  Two contractors, First Service Residential and Brightview Landscape represent over half the budget! (1)   We want annual performance reviews of our major contractors.  Why does First Service Residential seem to be renewed without competitive bids?  We need to hold BrightView accountable for water waste which includes not just smart controllers but also a comprehensive survey of sprinklers heads that soak the street, needed pressure reduction, and water leaks which go un-repaired.

We spend $400,000 each year on water so this represents a big savings opportunity. This takes some independent analysis from someone independent of our landscape contractor.  In the last two years the SOA has spent or budgeted over $750,000 in legal expense.   What kind of amenities might we have had for that kind of waste?  There remains huge potential for savings if we stop throwing it away on principles and loose management.  We intend to get on that.

Construction and Development

Why do the construction companies have debris, cargo containers, and garbage set about long after the homes are finished?  Why are security gates left open even when residents are charged for them?   When drivers should be watching crosswalks, why are there countless signs on each roundabout pointing to homes and models that are not even there anymore?  Yes, there are developer rights in place but that doesn’t mean we can work with our builders to make this the quality community that they advertise in their brochures.  While they finish their homes, they need to respect the residents who have already purchased their homes.

Sierra Canyon

We all live in Somersett and we should plan activities that unite us.  Let us look for opportunities to cooperate, perhaps share amenities, or host friendly get-togethers.  The SOA should respect the wishes of the Sierra Canyon board and residents should not have to submit their applications and plans first to Sierra Canyon and once again to the SOA.  Let’s work together to find the solutions that benefit both communities.

Kids and Families

Expand activities for kids. Keep the pool open longer in the year. Consider Somersett sports leagues.  Temporarily allow limited basketball hoops during COVID.  Improve some of the pocket parks in our neighborhoods.  Expand and restore access to trails that are already a part of the planned development in this community.  Keep our homes and kids safe. Work closer with law enforcement when there is a theft or problem in our community.

You have our pledge.

We would like your support to make this happen.  This October, vote “JBM”:  Jacob, Bill and Mark.

We also have a website where more information can be learned, including a feedback and comment form. Visit us at www.NewSomersett.com