September 9, 2010
Initially, please accept our apologies for the delay in getting this post homeowners’ meeting report out to you. We have all been involved with our “day jobs,” although we admit that sometimes it seems SNHA business takes as much time as the day jobs do. For those of you that were in attendance at our July meeting, some of this will be repetitive, although new information is contained as well.
We began the meeting on time at 8:00 AM on July 3rd at the Stowe Flake Convention Center. The meeting was well attended and feedback we have received from those in attendance was all positive. We suggest that those homeowners who were unable to attend the meeting speak to their friends and neighbors who were.
Introductory remarks advised our membership that, unlike prior years, this year’s meeting would not be dominated by discussions of litigation and settlement. While discussions with the resort continued at the time, the theme of the meeting was to be focused on life at the resort “post settlement discussions,” controlling our own enjoyment at the resort, challenging the resort’s unsupported imposition of fees, resort security and taking responsibility ourselves for protecting our investment, and the value of an independent homeowners’ association that protects the homeowners’ interest first.
Negotiations and Litigation
The first report came from Craig Greene on the status of settlement discussions with the resort. Craig reported that negotiating with the resort had become unproductive, and that as a result of the constant “chipping away” of rights and terms originally agreed to by Bob Mulcahy, the easement we had spent so much time working on had become a fraction of its original self. As a result we were no longer optimistic that an agreement would be reached. Discussions were still ongoing at the time, but have since virtually ceased. Accordingly we advised our membership we were moving beyond settlement negotiations and reported the SNHA was in the final stages of discussions with a Vermont law firm to take the Comp Day lawsuit on a contingency fee basis with no out of pocket costs to the homeowners. As such, each homeowner will be given the opportunity to be a part of the lawsuit if they so desire. Further details of that representation will follow. The property rights case will also be pursued once it is confirmed settlement discussions have formally ended; and since the meeting we have filed our appeal of the federal court anti-trust case.
Our second report came from Steve Hoey who addressed the issue of allocation of charges made by the resort to homeowners for road and common area maintenance. Steve reported that the SNHA had two primary problems with the utility and maintenance fees being assessed by the resort. First, and most significantly, the resort was, and still is, allocating 70% of the cost of road and common area maintenance to homeowners. This allocation is completely disproportionate to each party’s percentage of use of the roads and common areas as provided by Vermont law. Homeowners use the roads and common areas a fraction of the time as compared to the resort which runs its business on the roads and on those common areas. The resort has failed to provide any basis for allocating 70% of the expenses to the homeowners. Cumulatively this amounts to tens of thousands of dollars per year. In addition, during the SNHA’s review of some of the documents provided by the resort relating to expenses, it was discovered the resort is charging homeowners for expenses such as credit card fee charges and resort debt service (interest) as part of a general category of “overhead” expenses. This is completely unacceptable, and we so advised the resort. No changes were made. In order to address the situation, the SNHA has recommended that homeowners pay a TOTAL of $250.00 per quarter ($1,000 per year) for all utility charges that appear on our quarterly statements, This includes charges for water, sewer, shuttle, cable, fire sprinkler, and telephone charges as well as the completely ambiguous Utility and Services Fee. This does NOT include any property management fee which the resort charges to your regime for property management services, or individual charges you have charged to your homeowner account.
Non-renters, self and third party renters can exercise their right to object to these charges by simply not paying anything more than the recommended amount above. Homeowners renting through the resort have a more difficult time, however, because the resort takes all the fees it charges you, whether you agree with them or not. One way to express our frustration at being charged a completely disproportionate share of costs is to engage in a rental strike of sorts where homeowners indicate personal usage of their homes during peak holiday time periods. Before recommending that step, however, we thought it best to take a more direct, yet less aggressive position to let the resort know our concern. Specifically, at the meeting, renting homeowners signed letters to the resort directing that the resort not withdraw any funds from the homeowner’s gross rental income other than the resort’s 40% commission. Those letters have been delivered to the resort.
For members that were not present at the meeting but who wish to advise the resort not to withhold charges that have not been agreed to or substantiated, we are circulating the letter to be executed and returned to the SNHA. The document can be fouind on the link “Renter Do Not Withdraw” form. Many of our non-renter constituents have also asked for a similar form, so we are attaching it as well. It is called “Non-Renter” form. Please print and fill out the form that applies to you and return to the SNHA office by mail or e-mail to Joe@snha.net. To do this simply fill in the appropriate information on the printed form and put “/s/ Your Name” on the signature line. We hope the resort will respond by allocating common area and road expenses charges more equitably based upon respective usage and by keeping its business charges separate from charges made to homeowners.
After the fee report, one of the most important reports came from Security Committee Chairman Eric Kotch. Eric advised the assembled membership that there had been a rash of burglaries resulting in theft of numerous flat screen televisions. Eric gave examples of the Resort refusing to give the SNHA necessary information on security operations and excluding us from real policy input. It was made clear that the resort does not have the same security needs or goals as do the homeowners. The resort uses security guards to focus on resort guests, deliver towels, change light bulbs and provide a myriad of renter related functions. While this is fine for the resort, from the homeowner’s perspective, security should and must be focused on keeping our homes safe by providing regular and constant patrols.
We learned that while the resort had installed surveillance cameras at various locations, the film in the cameras was not being replaced and the cameras flashed “FULL” to anyone looking. In addition, only days after one of the burglaries occurred and homeowners were assured that resort security had the situation under control, we learned that the resort engaged in the “after hours” practice of leaving keys to our homes in open unsupervised baskets in the reception area. The keys came complete with a map providing directions to the corresponding unit. In other words, anyone could simply take a key to gain access to our vulnerable unoccupied homes! (Copies of photos taken by homeowners of both the open basket of keys and the “FULL” cameras are attached as a pdf file called “Security Pictures“)
At Mr. Stritzler’s meeting the day after our meeting, he was asked about the pictures presented at SNHA meeting showing the unprotected basket of keys and the “FULL” camera. Bill had no explanation regarding the cameras as he was not even aware there were any cameras. As to leaving unattended keys in an open basket, while Bill admitted it might be time to re-assess the resort’s security procedures and processes, the SNHA has not been advised of any new procedures or any new security measures undertaken by the resort since July. The result … since the meeting there have been additional break-ins where more flat screen televisions were stolen. The resort has refused to reimburse homeowners for this lack of security and has advised the homeowners whose televisions were stolen to look to their insurance coverage, which of course, leads to increased premiums for all homeowners.
At our meeting, Eric expressed hope that the Resort would eventually recognize that if we are to be expected to continue to pay a portion of the security expenses, the resort must include homeowners, through the SNHA, in the decision making process and do a better job of meeting our security needs. While the resort has included the SNHA in a superficial security dialogue, it still refuses to provide core information or any meaningful decision input. At some point soon it may become necessary for us to stop paying for security geared to the resort’s needs at our expense and retain our own security personnel, especially during the slow seasons when our homes are particularly vulnerable.
Quality Homes/Property Management
Jay Kahn provided a brief update on the quality home program. The quality home program (star ratings) was reviewed in detail for the past year by a committee of 5 homeowners and 5 resort staff members. The major issue is the rental contract defines star rating compliance with criteria established/approved in 1995. The resort proposed new standards last summer and after significant review the new standards were presented to renting homeowners to approve. To date not enough votes have been received to approve or decline these new standards. Lisa Howe will reach out to renting homeowners that have not voted to get their vote yea or nay. Jay also reviewed the highlights of the property management agreement as all regimes re-engaged SNMC as the provider for these services. Concerns regarding regime property management should be discussed with your regime directors to review with Lisa Howe.
SNHA Board of Director Elections
Craig Greene, Steve Hoey, Tom Gangi, and Barbara McGee were each elected/re-elected to new three year terms while Herb Lewis was re-elected to a one year term. For a complete list of Directors, Officers and Associate Directors, click 2010 Board.
Time to Party
After the meeting the SNHA sponsored and hosted a Saturday evening social event under the tent on the green. We again boasted a large turnout as SNHA board members worked the grill to serve our constituents hot dogs and hamburgers. Homeowners brought a covered dish, desserts and drinks. It was much like the afternoon events that had stopped several years ago, and was a step in the direction of taking responsibility for our own enjoyment at our Smuggs home.
The SNHA has expressed to the resort the need for better communication with homeowners about issues that affect our ownership. As an example, the SNHA was advised only 2 weeks prior to the July 4th meeting that the resort was partnering with a third party vendor to construct an adventure ride, a “Canopy Tour” in the woods along some of the cross country trails. This series of zip lines is planned to run year round. Following expressions of concern from members who own in Riverside, where the zip line would be visible from their back windows, decks and patios, and Poolside, which would be impacted by increased traffic from shuttle busses transporting tour participants, and given a July 6 deadline to request an environmental hearing under Vermont Act 250, the SNHA requested such a hearing to give homeowners an opportunity to hear more about this attraction and to ask questions. The SNHA neither endorsed nor objected to the Canopy Tour, but rather looked to represent the interests of homeowners who might be impacted. After some constructive dialogue with Mark Delaney, the resort’s VP and designated spokesman on this issue, the resort agreed to move the zip line farther away from one side of the Riverside regime and to not pick up guests in the area of Poolside during peak season time periods. Had the SNHA been advised of the resort’s intention to build this structure as early as the resort knew about it, and included us in planning, we would have been able to have meaningful input into these issues that would have likely avoided the need to file the hearing request.
As a side issue, considering the snowmobile, dog sledding and Segway concessions, we are also questioning why no portion of revenue generated by these for-profit activities, which are run on common area land, that homeowners pay to maintain, is not set aside to partially pay for that maintenance. This is a separate issue we hope to explore with the resort in the future.
You should all please be wary of a resort sponsored splinter group of homeowners whose apparent only function is to criticize the SNHA and support anything and everything the resort does and says. This group, calling themselves OACS, is already on record as doing the resort’s bidding in trying to separate you from the SNHA and the independent representation it provides. When members of this group invade your privacy by calling or mailing you at home, if you agree, just tell them you are already well represented by an INDEPENDENT association of homeowners, the SNHA, and have no desire to subrogate your rights and interests to those of resort management.
For those of you that are up to date on your dues, thank you. For those that are behind, please make certain your dues are brought up to date in the next ten days. While your board is pleased to work for all of us on a voluntary basis, Joe and his staff do need to get paid. So please bring your dues and regime payments current. For those of you that prefer to pay by credit card, we expect to have an online link from our website for you to make payments very shortly.
As always if you have any questions or comments about any of the above, or need any explanation about the Rental and Non-rental forms, feel free to call or e-mail Joe@SNHA.net.
Your SNHA Board of Directors