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The meeting was called to order by Michael Kaney, President, at 10:00 A.M. Directors in attendance: Beneke, Faliero, Freeman, Johnson, McCaghren, McKnight, Pieper and Potts.
Staff in attendance: Brown, Gwozdo, and Wyatt.
President Kaney announced that this is the annual meeting and that pursuant to 3.9 of the Bylaws each director has waived the 30 day notice for the annual meeting.
Kaney welcomed the new Directors: John Ames, Sharon Foster, and Larry Smith.
He then reminded the Board and the new directors that RMS is a million dollar a year business, one that cannot be managed by only attending a monthly meeting. The amount of work required by the directors was the reason the board was expanded to 9 directors last year. He told them it will take a lot of work on everyone’s part, together. Each member must pull their load and the board must work together or it won’t work.
Kaney then opened the floor for the nomination of office of president. John Beneke and Larry Smith were nominated. Larry Smith was elected president.
Retiring President Kaney congratulated Smith and turned the meeting over to the new president. President Smith continued the nomination of officers, which resulted in the unanimous election of Rebecca McKnight, Vice President, and John Beneke, Secretary/Treasurer. Smith said that this is a Board with a lot of talent and that he will rely on them to get the job done.
Upon motion made by Johnson and seconded by Freeman, Minutes of September 18, 2015, were approved.
Board received September 30, 2015, financial report from Louise Wyatt.
Wyatt reported that collection of assessments continue to be better then 2014, especially the lot assessments.
The road budget will be tight by the end of December and we are keeping a close eye on expenditures.
She was asked if the Ski Slopes had paid their assessments. When she replied in the negative Beneke recommended that the Board send a demand letter to the Slopes. Pieper reminded the Board that the issue had been turned over to the attorney and a demand letter had been sent.
Beneke asked for clarification as to the reason for the creation of the Wolf Laurel LLC. Pieper and Kaney explained that it was set up on the recommendation of our attorney at the closing of the purchase of BMDC property. The LCC would insulate the WL RMS from any possible liability carried by BMDC assets.
Smith noted that on review of RMS meeting minutes only once did he see where the Board voted as members of the Wolf Laurel LLC. The vote concerned the use of the trademark. Kaney agreed and explained that the trademark was an asset purchased from BMDC and now owned by the LLC. The LLC in turn is owned by WLRMS.
Wyatt informed the Board that Yancey County foreclosed on a lot. She would be bringing it back onto the books. She also reminded the Board that signature cards for check signing needed to be up dated and a copy of the minutes is required.
Beneke moved that Smith and Beneke be added to the signature list along with McKnight, Wyatt, and Daniels insuring that someone would be available to sign with Wyatt. Motion was seconded by McKnight. Motion passed unanimously.
Beneke moved to increase the annual assessment by the 5% allowed by the Covenants.
The costs especially with roads continue to rise. Smith reminded the Board that at one time there was an emergency fund. The fund has been totally depleted by floods and other weather related events. Currently repair of a wash out on Flame Azalea has been put off till next year due to lack of funds. While we are past the season of rains and floods we are now faced with snow and ice storms as winter nears. A severe ice storm could cost $5,000 a day.
Ames voiced concern over the lack of a capital improvement fund. The Board agreed that some method of developing both funds should be found.
Smith called for a vote on Beneke motion to raise the assessments by 5% for 2016. The motion passed unanimously.
Beneke asked the Board to review the preliminary 2016 budget and prepare for discussion at the November meeting. Smith and Beneke will meet with staff and send revisions to the preliminary document.
Legal – Sharon Foster
- The litigation between the Board and Anthony Martin was tried last week to a jury resulting in a judgment for the Board. Findings: trespassing, damages in a modest amount and $3000.00 in punitive damages. The defendant has the right to appeal so the judgment is not final until the appellate period expires.
- As reported collection efforts are proceeding at pace and are productive. We continue to work with our property owners who hold $40.00 deeds in an attempt to bring them into the amended covenants.
Public Relations – Warren Johnson
Johnson presented the members with handouts.
- The contract with our web master which expires on November 1st. The website was designed at a cost of $1000.00 and the monthly maintenance fee is $85.00 for 36 hours per year.
- A cost report from a consultant for the combining of the WL POA website and the WL RMS website. Johnson reminded the Board of the frequency in which they are asked why there are so many entities on the mountain, why we can’t get together. The proposal is more expensive but would achieve the purpose of at least starting to combine something here on the mountain. The POA and the RMS are essentially the same entity, the same people. He asked the Board to appoint a couple of people who would further explore this proposal.
A lengthy discussion followed; most comments were ideas to define and improve the current RMS website. The reinstatement of an archived question and answer page, allowing only property owners access to the minutes of the Board and the financials by use of a password and constant updating of content appeared as issues to be addressed. Ames suggested that the Board not burden its efforts with information regarding the area, region or state, all information readily available, but to focus on community communication and community matters. Property owners should be well informed and have a forum. Anything else is a luxury and we may not need to spend money on.
Roads – Jason Brown
- Trees have been cleared from the road right of way on Buckeye, Buck House, Flame Azalea, Phacelia, May Apple and Painted Ridge. We will be returning to remove branches and debris.
- We have seeded everything possible, graded the roads, sealed upper El Miner and hauled all gravel for the 2015 budget.
- We accepted delivery on the new tractor and blade, a new plow and ordered studded tires for two plow trucks.
- The bed of the dump truck was removed revealing major issues with the frame and lifting mechanism. We won’t need a dump truck until spring giving us some time to decide whether to repair or replace the truck. Rental for a dump truck has run us $2000.00 a month for the past two months.
- We are servicing and mobilizing all winter equipment and demobilizing all summer equipment.
- We brought in the first of six loads of salt from Charleston and have begun mixing in preparation of winter.
- Brown presented each director a copy of his hiring contract, job description and yearly work schedule for review and comment.
Brown was asked if there was someone else cutting trees along the road. He explained that French Broad EMC was cutting their right away and between the pole and the house.
In many areas this has assisted his work in “sun lighting” the roads.
Charlie Potts suggested that a review of all equipment be prepared prior to the next board meeting. We made a major step with the purchase of the tractor and the excavator, but the dump truck is a liability. It is liability both from a safety standpoint and the inability to get the work done. We must address the truck and have a recommendation for the Board.
Brown requested that Potts, due to his expertise and understanding, be his liaison to the Board. Potts agreed.
Brown responded to a question concerning the patches on the roads.
Security – Sandy Gwozdo
- I will be letting one staff member go and have hired a replacement who will better fit the operation. The hope is to train two staff members to work either the gate or patrol, thereby creating a backup for patrol.
- We responded to Oak Ridge Lane for a second party held by Mars Hill University students. After turning away dozens of vehicles, gate staff notified me. Things turned nasty with the occupants of a vehicle that was turned away and we called the Sheriff. As I responded to the gate, vehicles were exiting from the rental house, as word had spread that the Sheriff had been called. Deputies responded and spoke to the person who had rented the house. Apparently the Deputy also notified the State Troopers, as a road block was set up outside Wolf Laurel and a number of tickets were issued. Staff continued to turn vehicles away until after midnight. I doubt that we will see the students inside Wolf Laurel again.
- We had a minor expense of $120.00 to tweak the bar code system. We purchased studded tires for the patrol vehicle at a cost of $700.00. We are looking for used rims in order to mount summer tires and lengthen the life of both sets of tires.
- As you review the 2016 security budget, I suggest that we attempt to create a fund for future replacement of the security vehicle and updating the entry system. Hopefully we won’t need the funds for many years. Also adding 16 to 24 hours of patrol especially during hunting and ski season would be beneficial as funds allow.
ARB – Chuck Freeman
- There have been 5 tree applications approved by Jason or me since the last meeting. No major applications.
- Unfortunately we have lost the services of Philip Banks.
- We are looking to expand the ARB to 7 members and are actively looking at full time residents willing to serve.
Beneke asked about tree cutting issues that had come to the attention of the ARB and that they appeared to take a long time to be addressed. Freeman stated that currently there were three possible violations under investigation and that the need to have a more rapid response was a reason for expanding the ARB.
Potts met with Bob Daffer of Trimont Realty, the third party manager for the Preserve on October 6th. There was discussion of work previously completed by Brown in the Preserve and Daffer was shown two outstanding unpaid invoices. Daffer assured Potts that the checks were in the mail. Daffer inquired about the new RMS Board and the new officers and was told the new officers had not been elected at that time.
Daffer said that since the Preserve work seemed low on Brown’s priority list they may need to seek bids from other contractors. Potts restated the existing agreement between RMS and the Preserve which is: charges for time and materials plus 20% and the understanding that work in Wolf Laurel is top priority. Naturally the Preserve should seek other alternatives. Daffer then went on to a meeting with Blue Mountain.
Kaney pointed out that in investigating our existing general liability insurance we found we are no longer covered to do work outside of Wolf Laurel RMS property. By the end of the year we will probably make changes allowing work outside Wolf Laurel but in the meantime no work should be done in the Preserve, Blue Mountain or Mountainside.
Potts added his concern of liability issues in the use of Lucky Way, the connector road recently upgraded and paved by the Preserve. He had mentioned his concern in discussion with Daffer. This is not a Wolf Laurel road and is closed during the winter.
Motel open house and auction:
Becky McKnight: Security notified the Board of the proposed open house and auction after people arrived at the gate wanting to inspect the motel property. They were turned away as Bayview Loan Service, which holds the deed had not authorized their entry. A letter was composed, reviewed by the Board and sent to Bayview Loan Service, Berkshire Real Estate and agent Bob Sinners and the auction house Hudson and Marshall. Bob Sinners responded stating that he had notified the auction house that there was to be no open house. The auction is online scheduled for October 27, 2015. Smith asked that a copy of the letter be attached to the minutes. He suggested that such letters in addition to being archived be included with the minutes as a matter of record and convenience. Foster suggested that this procedure should be moved upon. Beneke moved, Foster seconded and the motion was passed.
John Ames: This is just a suggestion but as an objective oriented guy I like to know what I’m being charged with accomplishing, perhaps we should list our objectives in regard to the community’s well being and growth. I’ll leave this up to President Smith to take under advisement. My second point: After attending the town hall meetings it became clear that some property owners feel unclear of what the Board is doing or find it difficult to communicate with the Board. I wonder if it would be possible to create nine geographical areas each with a Board Member representing an area. This would provide an official conduit for property owners to ask questions, comment and receive information.
Freeman said his gut reaction to that type a system is the mechanics and we don’t need another layer. Our staff is the conduit and funnel comments and inquiries to the Board.
Smith reminded all that Board members each would become a point of contact.
Ames said the thought is that there are some property owners who feel that information is deliberately being withheld from them and my thought is to establish better channels of communication that are somewhat official. We need to keep chopping away at this level of distrust.
Foster mentioned the suggestion at the forum about the development and implementation of a committee system, which would include property owners. The idea was well received. Maybe we should start with that.
McKnight said that prior to the election the board had discussed reinstating standing committees with Board Members and property owners.
Smith suggested that the Board should have a planning meeting and discuss objectives, committees, the next steps to be taken and as immediately as possible. Beneke concurred and stated that this should not be looked at as a secret meeting but planning meetings just as city councils hold work sessions. Ames as a new Board member welcomed the idea and McKnight said that some of the Board had met for the first time today. It would be good opportunity to learn the strengths and weaknesses of each of us.
The members agreed to meet on Tuesday at 10:00 A.M. at Ebbs Chapel.
Smith asked for any additional new Business.
Brown announced that Nathan Waldrup was leaving the Ebb Chapel Fire department to take a position with the Mars Hill Fire department. Waldo has been a great friend to Wolf Laurel and will be sorely missed. If you have an opportunity, stop at the Fire station, thank him and wish him well.
Smith mentioned that every year the Upper Laurel Community holds a Christmas party for Ebbs Chapel volunteers and their families. So if you are approached know that all the funds raised go directly to the volunteers.
Next meeting scheduled for November 20, 2015, at 10:00 A.M.
Stephen McKnight: I understand the intent of Mr. Ames to be more accessible but I have real concerns about nine people attempting to communicate in nine different things.
The Board should improve web site, it currently has fixed meeting dates, announced agenda and the minutes of meetings available so there is not a lot that nine people should be saying beyond that. Moreover I think that there is a problem in layering an individual between Staff and the full Board. There is also a problem with how this would be perceived by the community. You used the notion of a representative. Well, a representative should be an advocate and this Board should not have members serving as an advocate. In the past there were complaints that Board members acted for friends and neighbors when they should have recused themselves. So I think this is a very murky messy thing that should be thought over carefully.
Cary Monroe: Last year we put together a website called Wolflaurelcommunity.com. This year the realtors and the country club have donated so that is covered. If you google Wolf Laurel the first listed is the WLCC and we are second. We have a link to Face Book. Half of our hits are from Wolf Laurel; the other half are interested folks from outside the community. Please take a look.
• Will the LLC be appointing a Board Member as its new manager?
Smith answered that he did not have an answer but will pursue and find out.
• You talked about workshops. I think that is very important to the transparency issue. Something all the new members and a few of the old members are sensitive to. We should have a budget workshop; it should be open to the property owners. On the down side you just approved a 5% increase without any idea of what the budget is going to be. I find that disturbing. Not that it isn’t needed but let the numbers speak for themselves.
• Question to Jason and Mr. Potts: Is the new tractor equipped with an adjustable angle mold board to effectively crown the gravel roads for effective water drainage?
• Which of the Board Members were appointed and which were elected?
Beneke and Falerio are appointed Members.
• Freeman mentioned having the Board meetings available to the property members either by teleconference or the Internet. That is something I think you all should consider.
• Comment to Foster. She is correct. The jury trial was 3 days. He stated that he has three bases for appeal.
Larry Smith spoke to the issue of the 5% increase to the assessments. He also spoke to issue of transparency.
Steve Rutherford: I guess I have an opposite opinion but since the demise of the developer I have had no issues with the board. I may not always agree with decisions but I have found the Board very responsive. That goes to staff and everyone. I think the momentum is going forward and I want to see it continue. A lot of you have put a lot of time into this and I will continue to be supportive.
Martin questioned some of the expenditures over the past several years and whether funds could be reallocated.
Smith hoped that some of the costs would not be recurring. We still need a reserve fund for emergencies and for replacement of equipment.
The meeting was adjourned.