When residents at the Broadlands Homeowners Association annual meeting, Tuesday, May 8, began to get angry, it was not because of the elections of three resident members to the homeowners association (HOA) board earlier that evening. It was because of the continued control of the HOA by Broadlands developer Van Metre.
"We just want to take control of a board whose managing body does not have the residents' best interests at heart," Charles Salas, a four-year resident in the Southern Walk section of Broadlands, said.
Van Metre representatives hold the majority of seats on the boards of both the Southern Walk HOA and the overreaching Broadlands HOA, holding five seats on the Broadlands HOA and three seats on the Southern Walk HOA.
"We have certain points of time that we turn the board over," Pat Leader, a Van Metre representative who sits on both boards, said.
IN EACH NEW community, the declarent's, or developer's, control period over the homeowner's association allows the developer to maintain control over the bonds that they have on all roads and infrastructure in that community.
"The road bonds cannot be released until the county or VDOT agrees to take them over," Van Metre's Densie Harrover said. "And it is not just roads. We have bonds on pools, parks, water and sewer has a bond."
Harrover said that it is important for the declarent to have control of the HOA for negotiation purposes with the county and VDOT, but added that a resident HOA representative is present at any walk through of the community before the releasing of the bonds.
When the Broadlands community and HOA was established there was no plan for a separate Southern Walk HOA, Broadlands HOA board president and resident Cliff Keirce said.
When the opportunity arose to enter into a telecommunications contract with OpenBand, providing high-speed Internet, cable and phone services to the residents of Broadlands South, Van Metre created a second HOA in Southern Walk.
"It was set up specifically and only to deal with the administrating task of collecting the fees and passing them through," Harrover said.
Harrover added that Broadlands North and the new Southern Walk Town Center do not have high-speed Internet or wireless.
"The Broadlands community was already being built and the bylaws written," Keirce said. "The concept makes sense. Because they were adding the telecommunications to Broadlands after the fact, they set up the entity in the guise of an HOA."
Now some residents in Southern Walk pay approximately $149 in dues to cover their telecommunication services and around $108 for their Broadlands HOA dues, which covers other community services, including use of the pool and landscaping.
Harrover said the Southern Walk HOA may go to quarterly meetings because all community issues outside of telecommunications are addressed during Broadlands HOA meetings.
THE PROBLEM MANY residents have is that neither HOA is set to be turned over to the residents as they were originally scheduled.
When a new community's HOA is set up, the developer, or declarent, gets double the number of units in the community as a vote in the HOA.
Van Metre started out with more than 2,200 votes in Southern Walk HOA and approximately 900 of those are now homeowners with a vote.
"Eventually they will equal out," Leader said. "Once we reach 1,100 homeowners, that's what will trigger their voting rights."
In Broadlands, Van Metre originally held 5,825 votes on the HOA, for 3,882 units. Keirce said the HOA should be turned over to residents when the community is 75 percent built out and the vote majority turns to the residents.
"The actual build out is closer to 3,432 units," Keirce said. "So, 451 votes stay under their control because those 451 units will never be built. This community could be 100 percent built out, every unit occupied and the residents would still not have control."
In Southern Walk, the HOA is turned over to residents when there is 100 percent build out of the planned 1,100 units. However, Keirce said he has a copy of the community's plan that only shows 1,099 units, which would make it impossible to meet the 100 percent build out requirement.
"Is their intention to hold these HOAs forever? I would hope not," Keirce said.
According the HOA's attorney, Van Metre's actions are legal, Keirce added.
ANOTHER ISSUE POSSIBLY blocking transfer of the HOAs is the votes allotted to residents in both Broadlands and Southern Walk's apartment complexes.
Under the original declarent, Terrabrook's bylaws, apartment residents were given one vote on the HOA. Now it takes 10 inhabited apartments to equal one vote on the HOA.
"That change took place when Terrabrook was the developer," Leader said. "We, as Van Metre, inherited those documents. Our intent is not to try and maintain control of the community."
At the May 8 meeting, however, residents wondered why Van Metre simply did not change the votes of apartment residents back to a one-to-one ratio.
"It's like there is someone sitting in the corner cranking out the numbers on a calculator to ensure that this [transfer] never happens," resident Bruce Biggs said at the meeting.
While Van Metre representatives at the annual meeting said that they were looking into the "ghost" lots and votes and possibly changing them, residents were not convinced.
"I don't see them relinquishing the board anytime in the next 10 years because they are moving their operations over to our area," Salas said. "Just because of the move of corporate strategies I don't see them going anywhere anytime soon."
Keirce acknowledged that the Van Metre members of the Broadlands HOA did not try to control votes on issues during HOA meetings.
"They defer to resident members in decisions," he said. "But we should have seven residents making those decisions, not four."