Traditions at Newton's Landing

HOA elects trustees, announces renovations
Date:  7/23/2019

                                                                                                                                                Trustee Stan Suski presenting plans for renovation of the Clubhouse

By Joseph Busler

Two incumbent trustees were reelected without opposition and the Board unveiled the first detailed plans for the upcoming expansion and renovation of the Clubhouse at Tuesday evening’s Homeowners Association Annual Meeting and election.

Trustees Ken Harris, vice president of the outgoing Board, and Gwen Gay Williams, its residents relations officer, were reelected to two-year terms with 126 votes each. Each of the community’s 258 households is eligible to cast a ballot, so the total indicates that slightly over half the households did not cast a ballot. If fewer than a third of the households cast ballots, the election is not valid.

When Board President Mario Napolitano called for two volunteer resident election judges to retire with Community Manager Chris Popoli to open and count the ballots, Popoli said they were not necessary as he had already opened and counted the ballots, all but a handful of which had been mailed in. That appeared to preempt the election procedure set forth in the HOA bylaws, Section 312, “The Board shall appoint an election committee to tabulate the ballot.”

According to the procedure of previous elections, the management company collects the unopened ballots, then opens and counts them on election night in the presence of the two homeowner judges. Napolitano told the two judges, Alma Peterson and Michelle Lopez, to go back with Popoli and to “take your time.”

A number of the 60 or so residents at the meeting said that they either had not received a ballot or that the ballots were improperly addressed. Napolitano said that the Board would see that Corner Property Management, our management company, would fix all the problems with its mail program.

When ballots and other election materials were originally mailed to residents, the package included two bios of Ken Harris and none of Gwen Williams. That was corrected with a second mailing that contained Williams’ bio.

Although it has the same trustees as before, the HOA now has a new Board, which will meet shortly to choose its officers.

Napolitano also said that the two Board members at large, or trustees in training, Beth Anastasi and Henry Lopez, who were appointed several months ago, will continue to serve in that capacity this year and will run for the Board next July.

The Board also unveiled the plans, long in development, for a major renovation and expansion of the Clubhouse.

The plans, presented last night with artist’s renderings, call for:

• Extending the activity (multipurpose) room out towards the pool to the roof line, enclosing the open roofed area that is now between the doors and the wrought iron fence.
• Completely refurbishing the activity room from floor to ceiling.
• A new flat-screen television and cabinetry, including quartz countertops.
• A new sound system.
• Refurbishing the kitchen with new cabinets, quartz countertops and flooring. The unused dishwasher and ice maker will be removed to make room for more cabinets.
• Replacing the side-by-side refrigerator with one with shelves wide enough to accommodate food trays.
• Replacing the current toilets with Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant “comfort height” toilets that are two to four inches higher.

The expanded activity room will open directly onto the pool pad with sliding doors, which will be locked when the pool is closed to prevent unauthorized access. Also, the wall separating the activity room from the front hall will be modified to have three large sliding doors to eliminate the bottleneck experienced now when people try to enter or leave the activity room en mass.

When the activity renovations are completed, it will “look like a country club setting,” said Trustee Stan Suski, who gave the presentation.

Napolitano said that the Board would like for work to begin “The day after the pool closes” on Sunday, Sept. 8.

He said that the plans still need to be sent out for bids and that how long the work will take will depend on many things, including how long it takes to get materials delivered and how long it takes to get the necessary permits.

“We hope it will be done by the end of the year, but we can’t promise it,” he said.

The renovation project will be paid for out of reserves and will not result in a special assessment, he said. The HOA has maintained large reserve accounts, both for snow removal and for major and minor maintenance projects, to avoid having to assess residents anything beyond our regular $145 a month assessment.

While the construction takes place, the activity room will be cordoned off but the rest of the Clubhouse will remain open for residents (except, presumably, the kitchen during the time it is being renovated).

Treasurer Suski, giving the mid-year budget report, said that income for the HOA’s quarter-million-dollar budget is right on track, a trivial $2,401 ahead of the budgeted $249,480.

But spending is way behind, by $84,933.

“There was no snow,” he said. “We budgeted a whole lot for snow removal because we didn’t know what we would get, but there was no snow.”

The Replacement Reserve Account is at a healthy $991,450.

In old business, Napolitano said that the sale of the Farmhouse is awaiting only a few details, its three-year lease-purchase agreement having concluded and the tenants intending to complete the purchase.

He also said that the HOA went ahead and repaired, at our cost, the sidewalk connecting the Russ Farm Circle to the Clubhouse, even though it is on county-owned land.

“The county wanted nothing to do with it,” he said. “Our lawyers said we could fight it, but it would take a long time, it wasn’t that much, so we just went ahead.”

Water runoff had undermined several sidewalk slabs, which have been replaced.

In other old business, Napolitano said that the Board, responding to the strong desire of some residents to save the century-old London plane (a type of sycamore or buttonwood tree) on the lot at 23 Wolverton Place, retained several licensed arborists, who said the tree could be saved.

“We hired licensed tree surgeons to carry out what the arborists instructed, which included pruning and chemical treatments as well as increasing the size of the mulched area so the tree doesn’t have to compete with the grass for water,” he said.

Not on board with saving the tree was Rosemarie Serlenga of 21 Wolverton, over whose home the tree appears to be looming, at least from her vantage point.

“If it falls, you will all be paying for the damage it does to my house or to me,” she said. She also asked for copies of the arborists’ reports the Board used to make its decisions. Napolitano promised her copies of all of them.

Other trees also figured in the question-and-answer segment of the meeting. Residents said branches of the street trees, the ones in the sidewalk strips, are hanging over the sidewalks and are a hazard.

Napolitano said that the trees belong to Delanco, not the HOA.

The meeting adjourned 50 minutes after it began, at 7:50 p.m.

An Partner.
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