As part of the governing documents campaign, Reston Association board members again reached out to cluster officials Tuesday evening to explain the most recent update of the proposed governing documents.
During the two-hour meeting that attracted about 30 people, RA President Jennifer Blackwell and RA CEO Milton Matthews responded to questions.
In late August, RA held a similar meeting to discuss the documents, which resulted in nearly three hours of questions and comments.
For two years, the RA board has struggled through a process of revising the governing documents, which were last updated in 1984. A year ago, the Association hired Bob Diamond, an attorney with Reed Smith LLC, to help the board make revisions.
AT TUESDAY’S MEETING several people said these complexities were caused by Diamond’s involvement. From what was once a fairly simple document, the proposed documents have swelled to 70-plus pages.
While RA has argued the legal language is necessary to make the documents less subject to unintended re-interpretation, many people have argued that it has the effect of making documents harder to read.
“I think there’s a whole lot of merit to the resistance from the community because of the way these documents were handed down from an attorney,” said Chris St. John of Baldwin Grove Cluster.
Michael Kogan also thinks the main problem with the documents stem from their author. “The board got led by the nose by the attorney and it hasn’t helped,” Kogan said. “It’s probably too late, but if you’d taken the original documents, scratched them up and made changes, you’d probably have better documents.”
ANOTHER MAJOR CONCERN brought up at the meeting was the case RA has made for making the changes.
“What can RA not do in the old documents that they can do in the new documents,” asked Stuart Rakoff of Chadds Ford Cluster, suggesting that the existing documents allow the same powers but add unnecessary complexities. When Blackwell responded, listing the fiscal constraints set by the current documents and other reasons, Rakoff interjected. “In other words, there is no good reason to change the documents,” he said.
Blackwell, an attorney, then responded that the powers, most of which exist in the current documents, need to be made “transparent,” which she said would be better for members and would hold up better in court.
Even when others agreed that the documents needed to be changed, they didn’t always agree with RA’s reasoning. “My opinion [on the documents] continues to change,” said St. John. “I think I’m finally convinced of the need to change the current documents, but I don’t necessarily agree with the main reasons put forth by the board for making them.” St. John urged the board to better justify the rationale for making the changes.
AT THE FIRST MEETING with cluster representatives, several people had questions about provisions in the proposed documents that require clusters to have a certain level of liability insurance, which was also an issue at Tuesday’s meeting. But this time most of the concerns related to question of why RA needs to mandate it.
“Have clusters associations been deficient in the insurance they’ve been carrying?” said Dick Rogers of Golf Course Island Cluster. Blackwell and Matthews explained that the provision on requiring cluster liability insurance and mutual indemnification was forward-thinking and protected members from potential legal problems.
Rakoff questioned why the proposed documents list a specific dollar amount of $1 million for insurance, which he said would become obsolete. Matthews said that RA would look into that concern.