Winter/Spring Newsletter – January 15, 2015

Hello to everyone residing in Riverview Estates II (Members of the Homeowners Association), and a big welcome to anyone who is new to our community. I am using this newsletter to introduce myself, Steve Halstead - the newest member of the Board of Directors of the Association. We moved to Delaware from Westminster, Maryland in May of 2012. My wife and I are both retired and enjoy volunteering in various venues in and around Dover and Milford. Our therapy dog, Edith and my wife, Marilyn, go to visit folks at Easter Seals Dover and the Milford Veterans Home. In my working days I was a hospital pharmacist, primarily with the Indian Health Service in New Mexico. My US Public Health Service career spanned 22 years, and then I worked in a community hospital for nearly 20 more years. During my time in the USPHS (from 1980-89), I was the director of a medical supply warehouse, overseeing a staff of 18 and an annual budget of more than $5 million. In my spare time I love to fly fish and am involved in the Saltwater Fly Anglers of Delaware which meets in Lewes. We also enjoy traveling and doing things with our daughter’s family and their three children who have lived in the Dover area for more than 18 years. That is enough about me.

Some folks I have visited with in our neighborhood seem to have a negative view of a homeowners’ association. Based on what I hear, I am not sure everyone understands what the association does for this community. The corporation Declaration of Covenants states “…to provide for the preservation of values and amenities in the community…and for the maintenance of common areas…” it is desirable to create an association… (only those in quotes are exact wording)

And so, here are a few of the ways the Association accomplishes these things: a) keeping our streets snow-free, b) lighting along streets, c) pond maintenance which is part of required rain/storm management system, d) maintaining grass and forested portions of the Common Areas – around ponds, the pavilion/playground area, etc., e) establishing and maintaining communication mechanisms and processes to keep residents (Members) informed of what is happening, f) responding to emergency needs when vacant homes are involved (see example below), g) managing and financing an organization to get these things done, and h) trying to see that residents abide by the restrictions that our governing documents have spelled out. This last item is the most difficult because it makes someone out to be a “policing agent,” which is often viewed as a negative. If you have suggestions, we want to hear them.

When you purchased your home, you got notice that there was a homeowners association in Riverview Estates, and everyone signed documents agreeing to abide by the rules and restrictions (covenants and by-laws) of that association. But let’s be honest. How many of us really read all that information? It is hoped that anyone wanting to make changes to their property did learn that a proposal must be submitted to the Board of Directors of the Association for approval before proceeding. These restrictions were initially developed by the builder/developer of this sub-division for his/her purposes. They were designed to help sell more lots, and to encourage folks to build homes here. They also are meant to maintain our community such that our home values remain high and, when the time comes that we wish to sell, we can expect buyers to want to live in our community, and that it will be relatively easy to sell our homes. If we allow a homeowner’s yard to look unkempt and junky or do other things that detract from our community, the value of all our homes will decline or worse. If the neighborhood should get a bad reputation, it may be difficult to sell our homes when it is time to move. No one wants that.

The Association is supposed to have 3 to 7 members on the Board of Directors, a President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer. Fortunately we have an excellent treasurer, Joanne Sharpe, but we only have 3 Board members and no other officers. Two of the Board members have been doing this volunteer job for a long time, and I am concerned they may be getting to the burn-out stage. I believe we would all rather have the association managed locally, and we would rather have the above noted services managed for us; however, if we cannot get more people to volunteer their services, we may have to consider other options.

The first option is to hire a manager to deal with all the issues except financial affairs (including the duties of policing any restriction violations), unless Joanne Sharpe is unable to continue as treasurer. This would result in an increase in homeowner dues of at least $50 annually per household (from $160 to $210). If we had to have the financial aspects managed also, that would mean an increase of a minimum $100 per year ($160 to $260). The second option is to dissolve the association and give all common areas to the state of Delaware. All the ramifications of this option are not clear, but I sincerely believe it would lead to a decline in the quality of life in this community. It is not something I want to see happen.

Please consider helping with your homeowners’ association. The more people we get involved, the less work there will be for everyone. Let’s make this a thriving, cheerful and friendly community that is safe for our kids or our neighbor’s kids, and one that other want to live in also. We also need an email address for everyone – please help.

For your information, this past summer the Board was notified that a vacant home had a very large bee’s nest on the back deck and that the neighbor’s children were allergic to bee stings. The Board took immediate action and the nest was removed very quickly. The owner has been charged for this service but the Board did not wait to hear from the owner – We took the necessary action immediately. We really do care what happens and are here to serve everyone in this fine community.

Have a wonderful and prosperous 2015.

The Board - Steve Halstead, Steve Chantry, Tangie Ulrich