Reserved parking is nice. Help us keep it.

Parking problems?

Good evening, Huntley Meadows. Our efforts to amend the governing documents and our current parking dilemma are both important topics and any reiteration of the situation will be lengthy, but here’s an attempt at a summary, followed by more details.

<tl;dr>

  1. The board would like to be able to reserve the two parking spots that were originally intended by the builder for each homeowner, but …
  2. Due to a legal technicality, the Association doesn’t have the authority to reserve and distribute common area parking spots for exclusive use by specific homeowners.
  3. Complaints about parking continue to come in, so a policy is being considered that falls within the Association’s authority and that should allow all owners to at least park on the property, but that cannot include assigned spaces.
  4. Area realtors report that a lack of assigned parking will probably impact home values negatively.
  5. Further, the only way that violations of Association rules and policies can be addressed are civil lawsuits, leaving the Association with limited means of encouraging compliance.
  6. Lawsuits can be expensive. The association’s annual funding would not be able to support significantly increased legal fees, making Special Assessments likely.
  7. There is a solution to these issues; amending the governing documents to provide the Association with the authority to reserve portions of the common area for assigned parking and using fines, fees, and other methods as a way to encourage compliance with rules and policies.
  8. 58 homeowners must agree to amend the governing documents. The Association is still short.
  9. Please review the proposed amendments and sign and submit the associated consent form if you haven’t already done so. Please ask questions and provide feedback if you aren’t comfortable with the proposed language.

<tl;dr>

That’s the gist. Here’s a more detailed explanation:

During the most recent board meeting, some owners raised concerns about what they perceived to be a change to parking policy being considered by the board. There seems to be a widespread misunderstanding about the community’s parking situation, so the board felt it would be wise to reiterate the facts and make another appeal for homeowners to review the proposed amendment to the governing documents and sign and return the associated consent form. This is a little lengthy, but please take the time to read it in its entirety.

The board has been discussing the implementation of a new community parking policy, but only because Virginia Supreme Court cases have essentially nullified our existing parking policy. Here’s why:

  1. The governing documents (Covenants and By-Laws) do not explicitly allow the Association to reserve portions of the common area for unequal use.
  2. The parking areas for non-garage units within our community are located on Association common area.
  3. The Association designating two spaces for exclusive use by the homeowner of a specific unit is, in effect, reserving portions of the common area unequally.
  4. It is considered unequal because two spaces would not be reserved for the owners of units with garages, since those units have space for two vehicles within their private property boundaries.
  5. Because garage unit owners are equal members of the Association, the Association would also have to reserve two spaces for the exclusive use of those owners in order for the policy to be equitable.
  6. There are not enough spaces available to reserve two for every unit.
  7. Therefore, the traditionally recognized parking policy has been essentially nullified.

The association basically has no parking policy at this moment in time and that has been the situation since at least 2009.

Please note: Fire lanes and other no parking zones are regulated by County and State law and will continue to be enforced.

Further, the Covenants do allow the Association to suspend the voting rights and common area usage of owners who fail to pay assessments and violate other Association rules, but none of the recorded governing documents provide for any specific enforcement authority. Recent court cases have found that HOAs only have authorities that are delegated by the Virginia General Assembly or that are explicitly stated in the recorded governing documents. That means that currently:

  1. If a homeowner or their tenant, or their guest, parks in a space that’s traditionally been reserved for a specific unit, there is no simple recourse.
  2. If a homeowner, their tenant, or their guest, abuses guest parking, there is no simple recourse.
  3. If a homeowner decides to paint their exterior shutters and door a bright pink, there is no simple recourse.
  4. If a homeowner decides to display a variety of political campaign signs, there is no simple recourse.
  5. If a homeowner decides to park several vehicles in common area spaces, there is no simple recourse.

The only action the Association can currently and legally take is to ask a judge to intervene and provide relief. That basically means the Association would have to take a homeowner to court for most violations of Association policy and rules. That would be an expensive proposition and isn’t financially feasible for anything but the most severe violations due to current Association budget limitations. A significant increase in attorney fees would likely result in Special Assessments, above and beyond Annual Assessments.

Because of this situation, the board has been contemplating implementing an equitable parking policy that will at least ensure that all owners have a place to park on the property and that will allow the Association to identify trespassing vehicles and have those vehicles towed. The basic idea is that all units, including garage units, would be issued three hangtags or stickers to be displayed on vehicles; two for resident vehicles and one for temporary guest vehicles. Any vehicle found on the property without a hangtag or sticker would be removed.

This is obviously not ideal, but there is a solution to this problem; amending the governing documents. This is why the board has been reminding owners of the situation and asking for owners to consent to amending the governing documents for almost two years. The proposed amendments are relatively limited in scope. They give the Association the authority to use fines and other punitive methods to encourage compliance with rules and policy and they give the Association the authority to designate portions of the common area for exclusive use in an unequal way. This would allow the Association to actually establish and enforce the parking policy that many owners have taken for granted.

The board has received feedback from area realtors and has been told in no uncertain terms that unless this situation is resolved, it will negatively effect property values in our community. Prospective buyers are normally not even interested in being shown properties in communities that don’t have designated parking. Owners of garage units aren’t immune to this negative impact, due to the methods used when establishing comparative pricing. If this situation isn’t resolved, we will all feel it in our pocketbooks.

If you haven’t already done so, the board encourages you to review the proposed amendments and at least provide feedback on the reasons you are not comfortable signing the consent form. A town hall was organized in 2016 and the proposed amendments were adjusted based on the feedback provided during that event. The Association is required to have the consent of 2/3rds of the membership before amendments can be ratified. 58 owners must consent, otherwise the governing documents can’t be changed, and we’ve been just short of this number for quite some time. After reviewing the proposed amendments please sign the associated consent form and give it to a board member or to the community manager. You can even take a picture of the signed form and email it to board@huntleymeadowshoa.com and/or manager@huntleymeadowshoa.com.

If you’d like to volunteer to participate in one of our organized community canvassing events and help explain the situation to others, please let the board know.

This is important. Help us help you. Help us make Huntley Meadows a better place to live. Help us preserve the property values of all of our units.

The Board

p.s. As a related aside, the board has listened to the feedback provided by various homeowners about the new, covered trash containers and are now considering a policy that would allow heavy-duty garbage bags to be placed curbside, in addition to the covered containers. More to come on that front.

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