August 2015 Board Member Newsletter

The Sharper Source - News for Board Members
If you've been with Sharper Management for a while, you've received our board member newsletters in the past. We've recently moved this process online and updated the newsletter format. We hope you enjoy this letter's content and the new format.
Board Tips: Overcoming Decision Making Paralysis
There is nothing more frustrating for members, managers, and even homeowners than a Board that is collectively stuck in the mud, endlessly spinning their wheels deeper in the rut of indecision. Rest assured, it is a common condition.

Perhaps it is a large construction project, a delicate homeowner situation needing resolution, a complicated budget crisis, or maybe a vendor change. Many things are thrown at Boards - and often times it is difficult to get to the point where you are ready for the all-important motion to vote.

There are three things that may help you as an individual Board member, and as a collective group.

1.)    Accept that you will never have 100% satisfaction from stakeholders. Often times being on the Board means making tough decisions that are best for the Association as a whole. Don't let chronically complaining Cathy dictated construction projects. A needed special assessment can't be derailed because it will break broke Bob's bank account. Accept that designer Debbie doesn't do blue and won't like those new shutters.  The sooner you can accept unanimous acceptance is rare, if not impossible, the sooner you can move on to make the necessary decisions.

2.)    Realize that Board consensus can be difficult to achieve and accept that it is OK.  The more complicated the topic, the more likely you are to have varying opinions. Naturally. It is good to hash it out. Consider all angles. But at some point you've got to call the vote. Which brings us to our final point.

3.)    Have a good facilitator among the group. There is nothing more important to group dynamics than for someone to take on the role of task master. Perhaps it is the President acting as the Chairman. Sometimes it is the Community Manager being the neutral party helping facilitate the meeting along. Whomever it may be, a group needs this person! Their primary skill should be recognizing when a debate is over or just plain unproductive, and calling the subject to a vote for resolution. All too often decisions get "tabled" for the next meeting. If it gets "tabled" once - you may as well just move on entirely.  You're probably stuck on the two points mentioned above and will always be there. 

Consider these remedies for decision making paralysis and hopefully you can be a more productive Board - making decisions and moving forward with your Association's projects and initiatives!
Governing Documents, Part II: Amending vs Re-stating
In the last issue we covered the components and hierarchy of Association Governing Documents. Now that you understand their general purpose, contents and order - in this issue we want to give a brief description on how changes can be made. Otherwise known as "Amendments."

Each document will have a different amendment requirement. Articles of Incorporation and Plats/Recorded Maps are seldom amended. Rules & Regulations are typically controlled by the Board. So let's focus on the Bylaws and Declarations. These are the two documents that an Association, somewhere along the way, may wish to amend. Amendment requirements are typically found in one of the last articles or sections of the document.
Declarations: Often times the Declarations will require a fairly stringent amendment requirement. This document, after all, is the document that lays out the rights of homeowners or "members;" and the rights of the Association as an organization.   Therefore and rightfully so, it is not easily changed. The norm is typically 67% or 75% of members needing to "approve" or consent to a proposed amendment. Also, be aware, most Declarations will also require a percentage of first mortgage holders to sign off. It is for these reasons that Declarations can be difficult to amend.  Additionally, Declarations carry added costs because they must be filed and recorded with the County.

Common amendments to a Declarations document include changing leasing/renting rights, homeowner vs Association maintenance responsibilities, or the process and requirements for annual assessments or special assessments.

Bylaws: The Bylaws are typically easier to amend. As a refresher, the Bylaws normally outline the Board of Director's role and responsibilities, as well as the framework for the governance of the Association.  The norm is to require a majority of members, or a majority of members at a meeting called for the purpose, to amend a section of the document. Bylaws are typically not recorded and seldom require mortgage holder approval.

Common amendments include changing the required number of Board members, changing meeting quorum requirements, or changing voting or meeting procedures.

The primary point of this article is to leave you with one very important tip if considering any amendment to your Bylaws or Declarations.  Consider "Re-stating" the entire document, instead of amending a specific section.  If you are considering some changes, more likely than not you have an older or original document or you have accumulated other various amendments or superseding documents and they have become too cumbersome to keep straight, and/or have dated language that is not clear or too vague. If you find yourself referencing the documents only to be left with the thought - "we better get a legal opinion on this" - you are ripe for a new set of docs!

Restating the entire document often requires the same process as a single amendment. If you are going to put a document in front of the membership for approval on a particular change, why not go through the rest of the document as a Board and consider other changes to keep up with your evolving Association, bring the language up to date and ensure there are no irrelevant sections due to statutory changes. Also, if you're not already under it, consider taking advantage of the statutory weight afforded by opting into the Minnesota Common Interest Ownership Act (MCIOA).

Rather than a single vote for a single change, get a whole new document with a single vote!  It will save you time and money in the long run.

In the next Sharper Source Newsletter, the third part in this three-part series on Governing Document we will address the best practices and procedures for getting an amendment or restated document passed by the membership.
Construction Chat: To Seal or Not to Seal?
One of the great construction debates is to sealcoat or not to sealcoat asphalt pavement. Let's review the primary purpose of sealcoating and then the common complaint. Sealcoating asphalt (usually driveways or streets) provides a thin layer of fine aggregate, oil and minerals to help protect and "seal" the aggregate asphalt materials that make up the pavement. It protects it from environmental factors that breakdown asphalt such as water/moisture, UV rays, and temperature change.  Sealcoating is similar to painting. It protects the surface, while at the same time giving it an aesthetically pleasing uniform appearance.

However, sealcoating in not permanent. This is primary criticism of sealcoating. Everybody loves a freshly sealcoated driveway. But after one plow season, you're left with skid marks. After a year or so, light spots start appearing from areas that hold water or are exposed to heavy traffic. What a waste of money that sealcoating was!  After a couple of years the asphalt blends back to that uniform gray look.  Did it really matter or make a difference spending the money to sealcoat?

Yes, it did! Unprotected asphalt will undoubtedly break down sooner than asphalt that has been sealed. Just as exterior wood surface fibers will break down and rot if not painted or sealed. The secret is having realistic expectations on how long that shiny new looking driveway will last.
Sharper News & Notes
New Office: we are excited at Sharper to have a new, spacious and beautiful space joining all 23 of our full-time office staff members. Had you visited us previous to spring, we were split in two sections of our office complex. Now our Community Managers, administration personnel, accounting staff, owners, and maintenance team and shop all share a large 8,000 sq foot office space. Please stop in and see us for a tour.  And remember, you are always welcome to attend our Thursday afternoon BBQs!

Online Feedback: as Board members, we truly value your feedback. If you appreciate the work we do for you and your Association, we want to encourage you to take a few moments and write some positive feedback and comments via an online "review."  Among others, Google, Yelp and BBB are common sources of reviews that pop up on search engines.  Please help us establish a review log that is reflective of the excellent service we feel we provide!

Sharper Staffers: we welcome two great members to the Sharper Maintenance Team - Roye Arie and Robert Theis. Roye has been with us for over a year and has been a wonderful addition to our team. Also a firefighter in Minnetonka, he is diversely skilled in many areas of maintenance; and standing nearly 7' tall, he proves to be an asset in unique ways. No ladder needed on his truck!  Robert started with our maintenance crew this summer after working as a condominium caretaker for decades. He has a wealth of building knowledge and general handyman skills.  We are so very pleased about the maintenance staff we have in place to serve our all of our homeowner and Association repair needs!
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