Aesthetic Guidelines Committee Membership

A controversy appears to be brewing over SOA Board member O’Donnell’s suggestions on revamping the Aesthetic Guidelines Committee (AGC) process and responsibilities, which were tabled at the December Board meeting to allow time for other Board members to digest his recommendations (See SU Post of December 21st “December 17th BOD Meeting Recap, item 7.m).  This brings us to the January 13th Board meeting, wherein the only Agenda item related to the AGC is Item 8.d. entitled “Appointments to the AGC”.  Therefore, one could properly assume, that under this Agenda item, the Board will only be taking action on who will be serving on the AGC and not any other AGC issues as, per NRS statutes, the Board cannot take action on items not identified on the meeting Agenda.

Regarding AGC membership, perhaps some background information is in order:

The AGC is the only SOA standing committee established by the CC&R’s, whose requirements must therefore be adhered to. Pertaining to membership, the CC&R’s, under Article VI, Section 1, state the following:

“The Committee shall be composed of not less than three (3) nor more than seven (7) members, to be appointed by the Board, at least one of whom shall be a qualified member of one of the allied physical design professions (i.e., civil engineer, architect, land planner, etc.). Committee members shall be subject to removal by the Board, and any vacancies from time to time existing shall be filled by appointment of the Board, except that the Committee need have no more than three (3) members. A quorum of the Committee shall consist of the lesser of a majority of committee members or three (3) persons. A decision may be rendered by a majority of committee members at a meeting at which a quorum is present. Committee members need not be Lot Owners or officers, directors or employees of the Association.”

As one can see, the CC&R’s grant the Board considerable leeway on make-up of the Committee. However, the AGC also has a Charter, approved by the Board (the latest in January 2020), that supplements the CC&R’s, under which the Committee’s purpose, responsibilities and organization are defined. The current Charter is available for viewing via the following link:

Aesthetic Guidelines Committee Charter

Note that the AGC Charter states “The Committee shall be composed of seven Board appointed members: two Board member and five qualified members of allied physical design professionals (civil engineer, architect, landscape architect) who are independent professional service providers. A quorum of the AGC shall consist of a majority of members. A decision may be rendered by a majority of members at a meeting at which a quorum is present.”

So what is the point here?  The current AGC only has five members (i.e., the two board members and three design professionals listed below), so they are currently in violation of their own Charter (but not the CC&R’s). Therefore, the Board needs to either appoint two more design professionals to the Committee or once again, revise its Charter. In this regard, SU questions the need for five design professionals on the AGC and would encourage re-instatement of unit owner membership, whose participation was eliminated by the previous Board.

AGC Members as of January 2021

Mark Capalongan – Board Representative
Bill O’Donnell – Board Representative
Mike McNamara – Landscaping, paid professional – Chair
Seth Padovan – Engineer, paid professional – Co-Chair
Mike McGonagle – Architect, paid professional

Perhaps, when published, the January 13th Board Meeting Packet, will address Agenda Item 8.d in more detail.

21 thoughts on “Aesthetic Guidelines Committee Membership

  1. I wholeheartedly support the addition of Somersett owners to the AGC Committee. They are the ones who are directly impacted by the actions of the Committee. We can decrease the number of designers positions and replace them with owners.

    1. Ivonne, You have labelled licensed professionals as “designer positions” . The fact is we need these professionals to ensure improvements to property are not failures waiting to happen. Civil and structural engineers are essential to the physical integrity of our community.
      The AGC is short two members per the charter and filling those roles should be made from the homeowner population. We cannot afford to be without strong guidance and leadership from professional engineers. I for one don’t want a shade trellis to land in my pool with the first strong zephyr because non-professionals said it was okay to bolt it to a paver patio.

      1. Patricia, you make a good point here, why did the Board not seek applicants as they have done for other committee vacancies. I an sure there are many qualified women in Somersett capable of serving on the Aesthetic Guidelines Committee.

  2. i believe Steve Hendricks is an apporved member of the AGC and he is a licensed architect and thus qualified as well.

    1. Terry – Thanks for the correction. No intended disrespect for Mr. Hendricks. The AGC members listed in the Post were taken directly from the SOA Website, which had been recently updated to include Board members O’Donnell and Capalongan. One would think if Mr. Hendricks had been added last summer, the SOA website would reflect this. Perhaps all Committee memberships on the SOA website should be reviewed for current status.

  3. In the December 17th meeting Mr. O’Donnell stated that SOA membership “lives in fear of the AGC”. I find this quite disingenuous considering he never has cited a source to support that statement. In 5 weeks time I find myself deep in buyers remorse with the new board. We need the other board members to reign in these terrible ideas that were presented in December and focus on reducing frivolous spending and process improvement that aligns with NRS code.

    1. Dear Vince,

      I don’t suppose I am going to change your mind, BUT. There are a few “facts” that need to be re-calculated for clarity.

      First of all we do need homeowner participation in the art of Aesthetics. And Ivonne has a good point. In actuality, there is no professional license for Aesthetics. You stated, “…we need these professionals to ensure improvements to property are not failures waiting to happen.” You continued, “I for one don’t want a shade trellis to land in my pool with the first strong zephyr because non-professionals said it was okay to bolt it to a paver patio.” Engineering is not the responsibility of the Aesthetics committee. The first time we approve any engineering on a project, we own it. Meaning, if it does fail, we are on the hook for all liability and subsequent lawsuits. This is not in our charter and we avoid all judgements on engineering.

      Secondly, every project that has anything to do with engineering and structure already has an engineer’s stamp of approval or it doesn’t get to the AGC. The City of Reno has to issue a permit on anything that has to do with structure and engineering. Thus, they assume the responsibility of liability.

      Third, It is not the AGC that residents are in fear of. It is the letters of violation, metered out by the staff, because of the violations of the guidelines of the AGC and the CCR’s. If you have ever received your first letter of violation, then you would know what hundreds of others fear. If you haven’t received a letter then you are not part of the source I was referring to.

      Fourth, the NRS is one of my long suits. I actually have written some of the content, so when you refer to the NRS, I pretty much already know what it says. You are correct on one thing. We are reigning in the frivolous spending.

      Finally, Terry Retter is correct. Steve is a wonderful designer and has all of the qualification necessary for the committee.

      If you can wait for another 6 months and see if the value of your home keeps going up, the neighborhood keeps looking better, the residents are happier, and there are no shade trellises in your pool, maybe the remorse will turn into appreciation. Give us a chance.

      All the best,

      Bill O’Donnell
      SOA Board Member

      1. I do not feel comfortable about not having a licensed Residential Architect on the committee.. With all the development going on in Somersett, and in Reno, this might come back to bite us.. Also, the Board has no women representatives, and now, the AGC doesn’t either.

        1. I thought it was interesting that the analogy was made, while discussing 8d, when you hire an architect to provide a plan that you don’t hire four(4) to do the job. By the time a plan is ready to revert to a client it has been reviewed by all disciplines, including civil engineering and structural engineering. Soil studies are part of the plan even when the build site is flat.
          It was just over a year ago we had numerous complaints related to “The Cliffs” and the erosion issues it was creating. Those same home sites now have structures in place, hanging on the side of the mountain.
          We are getting ready for these homes, and the Ryder homes that sit adjacent to a creek bed, to submit their landscape plans to the AGC. Common sense would suggest that every one of these projects will need to be reviewed by a civil engineer at the very least. We as an association may end up regretting the decision to eliminate professionals, sooner than later.

          1. I also thought it was interesting that the analogy was made, “you don’t have 4 architects designing your custom home”. And yes you have several disciplines reviewing plans to make sure they are covering all the trades and future inspections planned. May I remind you that the Cliffs were approved by the AGC committee that had 4 professionals on it. WHAT HAPPENED? Are these the same people that approved the same home one after another on the top of the grade. I thought you were in favor of these four disciplines on the committee so that they could keep the items like the Cliffs lack of architectural variety from happening? I guess that didn’t work? And now your unhappy that some of them have been removed. I don’t understand why you wouldn’t support changes to make way for a more in depth and diverse committee? Are you upset that we are trying to make some changes for the better, so we don’t repeat the past? I am lost…..

            1. Mr O’Donnell – You may be missing the concern here, Yes the Board has the right to appoint whom they wish to serve on the AGC, but you did not just eliminate people (I assume because you believe they were not acting in the best interests of the community), but just eliminated their positions (i.e., Architect and Civil Engineer). It is difficult for many to understand how this constitutes a “more in depth and diverse committee”. Also, I do not believe anyone gets upset over someone wanting to “make changes for the better”, keeping in mind that not all would agree that all changes are for the better.

              1. SU,

                Thank you SU for your concern. But one of the suppositions, here, is that the committee can never ask an Civil Engineer or an Architect to assist with their areas of expertise if needed. This is not the case. At anytime, necessary, the committee can employ an expert to advise the committee if needed. We spent somewhere near $40,000 on four professionals last year for advice on the committee to determine the size of crushed rock for landscaping etc. Since we are charged with protecting SOA expenditures, this seemed to be excessive. And yes, some of the application fees are used to pay for these professionals. But wouldn’t it be better if we reduced the fees for our residents.

                If you look at it another way, why don’t we increase the committee to 8 professionals and charge twice as much for application fees so that 8 professionals can pour over plans a homeowner has submitted and critique every aspect of someone’s 40X60 backyard. Wouldn’t that be even better? I don’t think so. I don’t think the residents think so, either. There is a point of diminishing returns. Furthermore, after the final inspection, the homeowner can change out the whole thing and redo their landscaping and there are no more inspections. If you think this hasn’t been done, well…..

                We have new complaints, now, regarding the new development near the TCTC. I believe it was the same four professionals that approved the CMU wall on the side of the mountain without any homeowner input on the committee. Aesthetics?

                Why don’t we do this. Why don’t we quantify the complaints that come in for projects that have been approved by the new committee for the next year, and measure performance. If there are more complaints about the AGC not doing a good job, property values are going down because of their actions, and applicants are upset with the decisions of the committee, then I, and I presume the rest of the board, will join you in changing the makeup of the committee to include those professionals that have been changed. And if things are going well and the change is for the better, then we can toast, with a glass of wine, our success. I’ll buy. In the meantime, give us a chance. The board has a lot of experience.

                Bill O’Donnell
                SOA board member

                1. Mr. O’Donnell,
                  The point, that most would see as valid, is that we have only a few years until the community is completely built-out with backyards completed. Now is not the time to cut the most critical expertise from the committee, all for the sake of saving a few dollars. The fact is, if we utilize the desk review as a triage module, things that are simple will be passed quickly, and without need for an in-depth review. If the project requires more than desk review an engineer or architect will pick-up on issues that are going to cause concern down the road. A great example is a project that expands a driveway with poured concrete, and defines ¼” rebar for substructure, can be caught by an engineer and kicked back to the homeowner to modify the plan for ½” rebar.
                  In every response from you, it seems you are enamored with rock grading/size, yet most landscape supplies in the area are well versed in our AGC guidelines and will recommend the correct grade rock for Somersett. Perhaps you have been personally in a position where you proposed one product and substituted another purely for cost…rules be damned. Is that what happened? Were you caught up in such a scenario?
                  Last I checked our values are not declining, and certainly values are not being affected by tight restrictions of the AGC of a master planned community, nor will they go up in six months exclusively due to removing the restrictions. If you speak with any number of landscape construction companies in the area, they will tell you we have the tightest restrictions in the area and will work up suitable plans knowing how stringent out guidelines really are. So, really your promise of eliminating oversight and rules to see a value increase across 3300 homes in six months seems more of a political promise than reality.
                  Your suggestion that “once a project has final approval the homeowner can tear out everything and do what they want” is not even slightly rational. As you are one of the newest residents of our community, certainly you have not seen this done, nor heard of it happening. The sheer cost of landscaping alone, makes this pure fantasy, and argument for the sake of argument. In another correspondence, you made the statement that you would like to due away with final inspections, so at what point is a project complete and closed out? Perhaps you should read through The Project Management Institute’s PMBOK and learn how projects progress from cradle to grave. PMI is a best practices organization; best practices make the best communities.
                  It seems that the agenda at hand is more important to you than anything, including the community. From other comments you have shared, custom homes are more worthy, than others, of latitude in the guidelines. Does that mean that a “tract home” as you referenced previously, at $1M is less important than the custom home at $1M? Perhaps that assumption is incorrect, perhaps your obvious vendetta for the SOA AGC is more important.
                  The simple fact is, that during your campaign, the question that was asked of you Mark and Jacob “What are you planning to change?” and all three of you stated “Nothing, we just want it to be kinder”. Hopefully, the entire community can now see that was a complete misrepresentation for political gain.

                  1. Mr. Loving,

                    You must have missed my comment regarding the fact that we can employ any number of engineers or other professionals as needed. I keep advising you regarding this issue but you continue to misrepresent the facts. Engineers are not necessary at meetings for small things such as backyards. They will be contracted when needed.

                    You may not know this, but 1/4 inch rebar in concrete can be as strong or stronger than 1/2 inch rebar depending on how many inches on center the rebar is and how it is tied. Your example proves you do not understand the need for engineering because you don’t know what an engineers can do, even with rebar.

                    You said, “Perhaps you(Bill) have been personally in a position where you proposed one product and substituted another purely for cost…rules be damned. Is that what happened? Were you caught up in such a scenario? ” This is a backhanded way of accusing me of obfuscating the rules for my own benefit. As you can see, I don’t have any landscaping, because I just received my COO, and every landscaper in Reno is busy. This is a false and backhanded slap at my character. With these comments, you created a hostile environment.

                    You said, “Perhaps that assumption is incorrect, perhaps your obvious vendetta for the SOA AGC is more important.” Did you just accuse me of having a vendetta for the AGC? Again, created a hostile environment.

                    You said, “Hopefully, the entire community can now see that was a complete misrepresentation for political gain.” Hostile? I think so.

                    I have donated over 40 hours a week for the past 2 months going to meetings, surveying the streets, climbing slopes to understand more about drainage, visiting dog parks, meeting with residents, and walking around in the dark with a flashlight in the mud to meet with a resident to address a complaint from a staff employee. And what is my pay? Zero… Political Gain??????? I am 70 years old, and I am pouring a lot of my energy to protect the assets of this community for the next two years.

                    We have to balance the overweight AGC board with the cost to the association. Each professional charges $120 per hour, And if 2 professionals can do the job of 4 professionals, we need to make a change. I have a charge to be fiscally responsible for the SOA and I take it seriously. We had an AGC meeting on Thursday with 2 professionals, and it went very well.
                     
                    There are 5 board members and there were 5 votes to change the makeup of the AGC committee. But everyone, now, can see that for some reason you have made this about me. Why, I don’t know. But you don’t know me. If you knew me, you would know that I:

                    Served my country during Vietnam.
                    Served as a police officer in Las Vegas.
                    Built 4 homes and 5 office building during my lifetime.
                    Saved my diving buddy’s life during Navy training.
                    Been married for 45 years.
                    Served 16 years in the Nevada State Senate.
                    Served as President of an HOA in Vegas.
                    Exposed one of the past Treasurers of Clark County for embezzlement.
                    Flew 3 people from Baton Rouge LA to Las Vegas for an Angel Flight mission, after Katrina, to be united with their families. (Angel Flight missions are paid for by the pilot, me)
                    Am the father of 4 children, 3 of them are doctors, and the forth is on her way to Kathmandu Nepal for assignment with the State Department. 
                    Am the grandfather of 9 grandchildren, 5 who live right here in Somersett.

                    Please read the following: 
                    This statute is for board members and homeowners, as well. I believe you crossed the line with your comments and innuendos. Please do not let it continue.

                    NRS 116.31184  Threats, harassment and other conduct prohibited; penalty.     
                    1.  A community manager, an agent or employee of the community manager, a member of the executive board, an officer, employee or agent of an association, a unit’s owner or a guest or tenant of a unit’s owner shall not willfully and without legal authority threaten, harass or otherwise engage in a course of conduct against any other person who is the community manager of his or her common-interest community or an agent or employee of that community manager, a member of the executive board of his or her association, an officer, employee or agent of his or her association, another unit’s owner in his or her common-interest community or a guest or tenant of a unit’s owner in his or her common-interest community which:     
                    (a) Causes harm or serious emotional distress, or the reasonable apprehension thereof, to that person; or     
                    (b) Creates a hostile environment for that person.     
                    2.  A person who violates the provisions of subsection 1 is guilty of a misdemeanor.      (Added to NRS by 2013, 2529)

                    You have distorted the reasons why we ran for the SOA. May I remind you that this is a non partisan office. If we look at the good things that we have accomplished in the first 60 days, it is impressive. We settled the lawsuit with the Golf Club, we caught several cases where work has been contracted for that was not necessary, we exposed an unethical and illegal problem with opening bids prior to the board seeing them and then re-sealing them for the boards purpose, cut legal fees for the SOA, our staff worked with the garden committee to get it off the ground, deployed the new website, cut waste out of the AGC committee and streamlined the process, directed staff to send out letters of appreciation of aesthetics for homeowners that had great plans and more.

                    I am proud to work with every board member to change the SOA for the better, protect all homeowner’s values, create a beautiful community with the least amount of coercion, and be frugal with spending the SOA assessments. Look on the bright side, it is happier over here. 

                    Bill O’Donnell
                    SOA Board Member

            2. It should be noted the AGC did not approve the design for the cliffs or any of those houses. That was all done by Toll Brothers with approval from the city over a complaint from the AGC. The only approval from the SOA was acknowledgement that the development fit the PUD. Toll has shown that they will do what they want regardless of the CC&Rs. They ignored them so The Boulders as well as The Cliffs. You can not lay that debacle up there on the AGC.

              1. Mr. O’Donnell,
                I find it interesting that you have chosen to threaten me with codified NRS. These statutes are designed to protect board members and community members alike.
                Please note, for the record, my objection has always been the board deciding removal of crucial expertise in engineering is prudent, as we have hundreds of new homes (over the next two years) requiring backyard plans to be approved for some of the most tenuous terrain in the community, specifically, slope, drainage and other erosion factors.
                The communication between us has gone back and forth for nearly two months. Sadly, it has gotten us nowhere…you push an issue, I push back and then I receive a diatribe of epic proportion that twists and turns solely for the purpose of obfuscating the issues and their eventual impact on the community. The impact of your agenda will not be immediate by any means and will be felt years after you have left your current role on the board.
                You can choose to cry harassment but the reality, despite what you may have read into my comments, is non-existent. Had you ever been able to stay on topic, you might have been able to understand and comprehend the points that I have been making.
                Last I checked, you work for the community, so if you do not comprehend the point at hand, I will rephrase until you understand what I am trying to share with you. I have tried on multiple occasions to meet with you hoping this is all lost in the medium and can be easily resolved. I can only surmise that you started into all of this with no desire to comprehend dissenting opinions.
                You have dismissed my wife, and her concerns, and your cries of harassment seem nothing more than a demand for me to “sit down and shut up”, which I find typical behavior of most any long-term politician, because “you know best, after all”.
                I am unsure what you were attempting to communicate in the last 30% of your most recent post, perhaps you were trying to drive home some semblance of altruism, none of which has any bearing on the topic.
                I will go forward knowing that any communication must be addressed to the entire board. You seem to have your mind set on the changes you proposed.

        2. Patricia,

          There is still a seat open on the AGC and a call for applicants. It’s not possible to put a woman on the committee when none have applied. Same with the Board. No women ran in the election. We can’t have a woman on the board when there are no women candidates.

          If you want more female representation on SOA boards and committees, then put out the call for qualified women to step forward and submit their application or announce their candidacy in the next election.

          1. The last call for volunteers as published in the Somersett Happenings email did not mention the AGC has an opening.

  4. Yogiwan,

    If what you are saying is true, then having and Engineer or an additional Architect on the committee would not have made any difference in the Cliffs case. Thanks for the correction.

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