Spirit of Charbonneau wants new decision-making process at country club
Spirit of Charbonneau, an ad-hoc group of dues-paying residents, has submitted a petition with a list of ambitious requests to the Charbonneau Country Club Board of Directors. And the group wants the board to enact these decisions outright or allow the community a chance to vote on whether to approve them.
Generally speaking, Spirit of Charbonneau wants the homeowners association's elected body to approve a more democratic and transparent decision-making process and collected enough signatures (98) to require the board to hold a special meeting where paramount decisions about how the club functions could be put up for a vote. The meeting is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 28.
The group's most notable demand is for dues-paying homeowners to have the authority to vote on whether to approve financial decisions that cost at least $1 million. Currently, the CCC Board of Directors makes such decisions. The petition also calls for the board to update bylaws to require more transparency, provide more financial information on a planned activity center at a building the country club annexed and a potential merger between CCC and the for-profit Charbonneau Golf Club, and to increase dues based on yearly Consumer Price Index (CPI) increases rather than a more elongated timespan.
The group formed in response to shared unhappiness with the decision-making processes related to the annex and potential merger, and members are worried that these projects will lead to dues increases.
"They (decisions) impact us," said Spirit of Charbonneau member Mike Walsh. "Each of the homeowners are impacted by the dues increases. When someone comes in to purchase the house, they are going to look at HOA (homeowners association) dues, and that could be a deterrent to buying a house in Charbonneau."
He added: "Democratically, we're saying at some level the community should have the ability to vote on it."
CCC President Kathy Harp said the board is working through the petition and didn't comment on the merits of the proposals.
"We're spending a lot of volunteer time and community dollars on legal counsel to take a look at the items proposed in the position," she said. "At this time we haven't made any decisions."
After the group exceeded the 50-signature requirement for the board to hold a special meeting to address concerns stated in the petition, the board voted to establish a rule that 20% of the community would need to be present for a quorum to be established and the meeting to take place.
CCC manager Jim Meierotto said the petition calling for a special meeting is unchartered territory in Charbonneau and that the board is establishing the quorum requirement to comply with the Planned Community Act, which created statewide standards for subdivisions that collect dues. And Harp said that a second meeting will be scheduled if a quorum isn't established.
"The board wanted to adopt those, so we're doing what is being asked (by the petitioners), which is modernizing where we can and having clear rules that are tied with the planned community act," Meierotto said.
Walsh said the group is continuing to collect signatures for the petition and also will release a mailer to residents informing them about the upcoming meeting.
"We're taking a very aggressive approach," he said. "The Charbonneau Country Club sent out a letter to all the members saying 'There's this meeting Jan. 28. Here's what we're going to be talking about.' We're going to send another mailer to as many people who have addresses elaborating on why it's important for people to be there at that meeting and talk about why it's important for people to vote on the four items on that petition."
While the petition calls for a vote on four items, Meierotto and Harp said they weren't sure yet what the special meeting would entail, while Walsh surmised that the board could dismiss the issues raised without a vote.
"There's a lot of things we have to look into," Meierotto said. "We want to make sure we're in compliance with the law and rules of governing documents."
Specifically, the petition calls for the board to provide homeowners with contractual information, market analyses and other studies related to the annex building and potential merger. It also calls for an updating of bylaws to meet industry standards related to communication, which Spirit of Charbonneau members have said has been lacking.
"This means increased transparency, increased communication with members, and increased community participation in major decisions that would alter the costs and assessments associated with homeowners and members," the petition reads.
Harp said board members are aware that the bylaws are outdated but said the work it would take to update them would be daunting.
As for homeowner dues increases, the board recently approved a $12 annual increase, whereas the petition says the annual allowed increase is $1.24 based on CCC bylaws. According to the board, the larger amount is allowed because it takes into account a timespan longer than a single year when applying the CPI. So, whereas the board didn't increase dues in previous years, it increased dues by a larger amount than the annual CPI would indicate this year. Meierotto said this approach is based on legal advice and is a common practice.
"Most people look at a CPI as a range of time," he added.
Walsh, however, said the bylaws don't indicate that due increases can be based on a longer timespan than a year.
Regardless of the petition, the board still plans to hold a public vote (though not necessarily binding) on decisions related to the recreation center. That will take place after a task force for the project finishes assessing plans. It also has held informational meetings with concerned residents.
"As we've been saying the whole time, as we get that information prepared, we will absolutely go out to the community, hosting open house and town hall type meetings. There's a process," Meierotto said.
Harp said the country club has reached out to Spirit of Charbonneau members but that they refused a meeting. And she said the current situation — which has been somewhat adversarial — is "sad."
"And now as a result our community is spending thousands of dollars on legal fees and (many hours of) volunteer time," Harp said.
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