Homeowners no longer welcome at meetings

Summerlin association springs restriction on those it represents


Courtesy of the Las Vegas Sun
By Stephen Curran
Published June 29, 2004 

In an effort to keep "zealots" from dominating monthly meetings, one of the largest homeowners associations in the Las Vegas Valley last week voted to restrict attendance at the group's monthly meetings, the association's president said Friday.

The move by the Summerlin North Community Association, while legal because the private associations are not bound by state open-meeting laws, is being criticized by the state ombudsman whose job it is to regulate the boards.


On June 23 the association's executive board voted to limit attendance at monthly meetings that cover the whole master-planned community to the 81 elected delegates, one for each neighborhood, said Hal Bloch, president of the Summerlin North Community Center.


Eldon Hardy, an ombudsman whose job it is to watch Nevada's 3,000 homeowners associations, said he was "shocked" by the restriction because it contradicts the supposed mission of the groups as advocates for homeowners.


Lawyers who have studied the issue "have found the open-meeting law doesn't apply to (homeowners) associations and I disagree wholeheartedly," Hardy said.


Bloch said homeowners have the opportunity to voice concerns at the association's executive board meetings held every month separate from the delegate gatherings. Limiting attendance at the delegate meetings was necessary to streamline the association's governance of the neighborhoods, he said.


The new rule limits those who can attend some of the meetings to delegates, board members, paid staff for the association and those invited to make a statement, including local police and government agencies, Bloch said.


Board members voted to adopt the closed meetings as a last resort to keep what Block described as "zealots" from interrupting the gatherings, he said.


Kevin Peltier, a sound engineer who lives in Summerlin, began attending the meetings in January. From what he's seen, he's one of only a handful of homeowners who regularly attend the delegate meetings, he said.


"I've never seen any hostility from homeowners," Peltier said. "I was rather shocked and appalled to see they think the homeowners threaten the sanctity of their meetings."


Peltier has been at odds with the association over his use of synthetic grass in his yard. He was ordered to remove it, and the use of synthetic turf became a controversy in the association, with some calling it an eyesore. Board members in May voted against its use in Summerlin yards.


Peltier's ordeal and other topics -- such as the recent debate about requiring residents on smaller lots to put away basketball hoops when not in use and another concerning a $410,000 change from grass to water-saving landscaping on a key roundabout -- are the kind of emotionally and economically significant matters that can turn out a cadre of regular attendees, Bloch said.


"There are some regulars but it varies from a handful to 30 or more depending on the issue," he said.


Allowing them to attend the higher-level meetings would only allow them to "annoy the delegates," Bloch said.


Norman Rosensteel, president of Associated Management Inc., which oversees 35 homeowners associations in Nevada, said overzealous homeowners are rarely a problem.


In his company, meetings are only closed if they pertain to delinquent association dues or other matters dealing with specific residents, he said.

"I had one occasion where a homeowner kept talking," Rosensteel said. "It does happen but not often."


While he didn't believe the Summerlin board had any ulterior motives, Rosensteel said closing the meetings would give homeowners the wrong impression.


"Any time you're going to exclude homeowners from a meeting it's not a good thing," he said. "I'm sure they're doing it to streamline the process, but if I were a homeowner in that association I would like to attend to see what's going on."