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Leewood Homeowners  Association

December 2001 Newsletter

Assessments are due 1 January!

Community Insurance
President's Message
Christmas Tree PickUp
Letter to the Editor/Tot Lot

Community Insurance   by Leona Taylor

A few questions have some up this year regarding insurance coverage for the association.  The association currently has two policies with State Farm, insuring the interests of the association.  The first policy provides coverage for the common property of the association (for example, the mail boxes and signs) for about $50,000 and business liability for $1 million. The business liability insurance protects the association against claims resulting from injury to persons or damage to their property while on the common grounds. The second policy is a fidelity bond which covers financial loss due to fraudulent or dishonest acts committed by any officer, director, trustee, employee or management agent.  Each individual is responsible for insuring their own townhouse unit, automobile(s) and the contents of their home.               

A question came up during the year as to whether the business liability coverage should be increased in response to an article in the real estate section of the Washington Post.  In that article, Bob, the real estate expert, indicated that $3 million was the minimum coverage for a condominium association with a clubhouse.  Our insurance agent was contacted on this question.  His opinion was that our coverage was adequate. 

The amount of liability insurance needed by an association will depend upon its recreational facilities, the types of association-sanctioned activities, and the extent of the common properties.  As the agent put it, the fact that Leewood has nothing but curbs, sidewalks, parking and green grass puts the association in the low risk category.  If Leewood were in a state such as California where there is a history of high jury awards, then $5 million of coverage might not be enough.  However, Virginia has not experienced high jury awards for association acts.

As part of the fact-finding for the tot lot committee, the agent was also asked about necessary coverage for a tot lot.  Coverage for damage to any new equipment would be about $20 each year, assuming approximately $20,000 of equipment.  The agent did not recommend any other coverage increases (such as the business liability insurance) as having a tot lot is normal exposure for any homeowners association.  The rates charged by State Farm already factor in such activities.

If the association wants to increase its liability coverage, the association can obtain umbrella coverage in increments of $1 million for about $350 per year for each $1 million of coverage.  This coverage provides supplementary insurance to cover awards above the amount of the association=s regular insurance.  The budget for 2002 does include funds to increase the insurance coverage by $1 million.  The association will be getting a second review of its insurance coverages to determine whether the additional coverage should be purchased

Remember that if the association is required to pay out more than $1 million in damages, any excess above that covered by insurance would be assessed to each homeowner.  Therefore, under our current policy, if the association lost a suit and had to pay $2 million in damages, our insurance would cover the first $1 million.  The second million would be paid through special assessments to each homeowner (which would equate to an assessment of approximately $5,000 per owner). 

Our agent also indicated coverage that each individual homeowner may currently have or can obtain if he or she feels that the association coverage is not adequate. The individual homeowner can obtain loss assessment coverage.  Our agent says that any policies he issues for individuals living in areas with homeowner associations automatically include $10,000 of this coverage for a cost of about $4 annually.  You may want to review your own insurance policy to see if you have such coverage.

President’s Message   by Leona Taylor

I missed the deadline for last month’s newsletter, but I had already written all my articles, so bear with me. Since I spent the time and effort, you are going to have the opportunity to read (or not read) them.  Therefore, you have two months of the President’s Message and an article on insurance.  I see the contents of each newsletter at the same time as all you, the general readers, so it is interesting that my articles may seem to repeat and touch on the hot topics of the last newsletter.  So here goes. . .

The Board approved the 2002 budget at the October meeting.  There will be no increase in assessments for the coming year.  You will be receiving your official notice at the end of November as required by our documents.  Please remember to use that notice as a reminder for paying your January assessment, as we will not be sending the usual post card notice.

For 2001, we made the scheduled $20,000 contribution to the reserve and replacement fund.  Those funds have now been invested in certificates of deposit of varying maturities.  We were able to beat some, but not all, of the downward trend in rates over the past month by moving before some of the recent federal reserve interest rate cuts. 

The article in last month’s newsletter regarding the tot lot has stirred up quite a few responses by owners and residents.  Your comments (positive and negative) are appreciated.  A tot lot committee representative will be providing a more formal update to the board at the November board meeting.  With all of the information collected so far, the board should be able to determine what open questions still need to be answered in order to make a decision.  For instance, we may want to do a final and more comprehensive survey of the community now that more information has been gathered.  The goal in the whole process has been to make sure that the decision is made on facts and not on anecdotal evidence or first impressions.  We want to make sure that we take into consideration the whole community.  This is a very serious issue with opinions at both extremes, so we need to take a careful and thoughtful approach to the decision-making. 

Lastly, a big thank you goes to Barbara Rolling for putting together the group gutter and window cleaning service for the fall.  We had about 15-20 people participate.  We are now looking again into group discounts for fence repairs, as we are currently getting bids on replacing a large portion of the common area fencing.  More information will follow as it is available.

Much of the November board meeting was focused on the tot lot.  There were a few residents that came for the open session to voice their opposition to the tot lot.  These residents made various good points as to why they believe that there should be not be a tot lot in Leewood.  Later during the meeting, the tot lot committee presented the information gathered to date regarding a potential tot lot.  This included both the positive and negative aspects of tot lots. 

The board then considered what next steps should be taken.  As was stated in previous communications, the attorney has indicated that this is a board decision, as there are no restrictions in the Leewood documents on capital improvements.  The attorney also indicated (and this has been communicated to the board a number of times) that because it is a board decision, it comes down to what the community wants.  Therefore, to bring closure to the work that has occurred during the year, we will be doing one last survey on the tot lot issue.  Yes, you were surveyed once in the June issue on the preliminary question of interest in a tot lot (with a reprint of the same survey in the July issue for those who subsequently decided to respond).  As indicated in the July newsletter, the responses were running 7 in favor and 7 opposed, with 1 neutral.  The results posted in the August newsletter indicated 13 in favor and 16 opposed, with 3 neutral.  Because the initial results were close, it was decided to continue researching the issues associated with a tot lot.

After receiving an update from the committee, the board requested additional information.  One question was how many children might benefit if a tot lot were installed.  If the tot lot committee members were not sure of the number of children in your household, you may have been surveyed.  We apologize for the second survey, but it was necessary to gather information.  The initial survey in May and July newsletter and the children count survey were the only surveys sanctioned by the board.

With all this information collected and presented, the board deliberated at the November meeting on next steps.  Taking the attorney’s advice to heart (and although you may groan at another survey), we want to present the information (pro and con) on the tot lot that has been accumulated so far.  We then want the community to let us know if they want a tot lot.  Therefore, we have included an information sheet and survey with the annual dues notice.  WE ASK THAT YOU COMPLETE THE SURVEY AND RETURN IT AS REQUESTED.  The board will use your responses to make the final decision on whether a tot lot should be added to the Leewood community.  If we do not receive enough responses, we may need to appoint a few individuals to perform telephone surveys.  In other words, your response to this survey is very important!  PLEASE RESPOND!  We want only one response per unit by the owner(s).

Although there has been a lot of unofficial discussion about what the tot lot committee is doing and what the board is doing, the goal has been for the board and community to make an informed decision.  Another very important goal (in line with the same considerations we have with architectural review) is that we want to have due process.  When important issues are raised, a decision-making process should be followed similar to the ARC process for notice, second notice, and hearing.  We need to provide notice that the idea has been raised and that a process has begun.  We then need to provide additional notice on information learned and the ongoing process, both of which we have tried to do through communications in the newsletter.  Finally, we need to have a hearing, in essence, where evidence is presented.  Therefore, we will be providing an information sheet along with the survey.  We are having the homeowners vote on the tot lot question through the survey.  The board will then review the survey results, confirm the decision of the owners and, as required, ratify the decision.

In other Leewood actions, the fall walk-though for architectural reviews has been completed. Second notices for continuing violations and first notices for new violations should be mailed by the time this newsletter is published.  Please complete any necessary work.  If you need an extension (for weather or contractor issues), please contact Pam Stover. 

In addition, delinquent notices have gone out to the fourteen homeowners who owe assessments, and one case was scheduled for court proceedings in November.  In addition, two ARC cases turned over to the attorney should be through their court process by the end of November.  We do take our collections and architectural review seriously, so please try to cooperate to avoid these situations.  The board is willing to work with owners on work schedules and, if necessary, payment schedules.

Christmas Tree Pick-Up

Christmas trees will be removed on Wednesday, January 2nd and 9th and will be recycled.  This service is free of charge, and our trash service company sets the dates.  All tinsel and ornaments must be removed from the trees.  Any trees that are not collected on these dates may be placed at the curb on a regular trash collection day after January 9th.

Letter to the Editor

Subject:    Tot Lot/Playground Memo
TO:         Leewood HOA Board of Directors
FROM:     Bob Flynn

I am told by longtime residents that when Leewoods was planned, a tot lot was sited for the park area at the intersection of Leestone Street and. Leestone Court.
I have also been told that the tot lot idea was quickly replaced with the present park because of the following:

1. Fairfax County residents are very fortunate to be able to enjoy one of the finest FREE (tax supported) public park systems in the entire area. Facilities are provided for all ages and many are a short walk or drive from Leewoods.
2. Construction of a tot lot is very expensive initially and to maintain.
(We have always had problems to seek resident cooperation to cease even occasional dumping, etc. in our common wooded areas.)
3. There are many negative liability issues concerning such a facility ... including increased liability insurance rates.
4. Tot lots require constant maintenance and updating of facilities to meet new safety standards and requirements.
5. Children become bored with the same equipment and are not of the age to enjoy such a facility for very long.
6. Tot lots typically draw undesirable elements after hours and often become congregating points for underage drinking, public urination, refuse and debris deposit, unruly noise, and animal defecation. (We have several stray, perhaps feral, cats in the neighborhood whose numbers are increasing as they reproduce in neglected back yards and wooded areas. All of these cats defecate in our mulched areas.)
7. Why should Leewood residents who have no interest in or plans to use a tot lot be required to pay for one through increased quarterly dues and/or special assessments? (One of the attractions of our community is that our dues are low because we do not have to pay for a host of amenities that not everyone would use ... but would pay for.)

Additionally, I have talked with several of my neighbors who have small children of the ages who typically use a tot lot and they are opposed to one based on the reasons outlined above.       

Finally, my wife and I have raised two children from birth here in Leewoods and have never missed a tot lot.

By now, you must have figured our that my family and I vote NO to a tot lot or playground of any sort.               

Happy Holidays Leewood!

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