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Trio is challenging LRPRA establishment in homeowners association election

More transparency, curbing legal expenses, controlling costs and protecting the environment are major concerns for three Lake Ridge residents who have banded together in their quest for seats on Lake Ridge Parks and Recreation Association’s (LRPRA) board of directors.

Chris Berry, Neil Nelson and Hala Ayala are among eight candidates running for three seats on the nine-member 2014 board. Voting started Jan. 8 and will end Feb. 11 at 5 p.m. Results will be announced at the annual meeting Feb. 11.

Chris Berry
Berry explained Jan. 3 he wants to see homeowners get advanced notice of the board’s meeting agenda items and wants full disclosure in the association’s newsletter of all board approvals and disapprovals.

Berry added he believes homeowners are shut out of the architectural guidelines committee.

“No one voted for them,” Berry said of the architectural committee. “You need no qualifications to be on this committee.” He and his two running mates would like to see qualifications set up for the committee.

Berry pointed out he’s heard someone can get on the architectural committee by reporting his neighbor’s violations. “A list is kept of those who call, and if you call enough, you get called when there’s a vacancy,” he asserted.

Berry pointed out he is concerned that the proposed association covenant changes can result in a lien being placed on a homeowner’s property if he violates an architectural guideline.

“We need more homeowner involvement,” Berry advised.

When speaking of the association’s legal costs, Berry said he “is appalled.” He asserted that, “in the last three and a half years, the association has spent more than half a million dollars in legal costs.”

Most of the fees can be attributed to the first revision of the association’s governing documents in its 40-year history, he said. Despite the expense, he believes changes to the governing documents may not happen, since it takes 75 percent of homeowners’ approval.

“Let homeowners have more say in the architectural and common area guidelines. We need more transparency. Half of the (association’s) meetings are behind closed doors,” Berry contended.

The retired TRW manager contended the association needs to curtail legal expenses, since it “is paying the equivalent salaries of two full-time lawyers.”

The candidate said he also is against converting common areas into reserved common areas, which could be used by a few, but not all, residents.

“There’s potential for trouble here. People with common areas next to their homes can ask for it to be reserved common areas,” he reported.

Berry also is against selling off common area property to pay the salaries of LRPRA staff. He said the association owns “acres and acres of land,” but won’t say how many acres it owns. He added LRPRA also won’t disclose what salaries or bonuses are being paid staff members. “Most of the association assessments go to salaries,” he said.

Neil Nelson
Nelson, a civilian employee of the US Army, said an additional item of concern for him is the environment and the east end trail through Lake Ridge. A volunteer with Prince William County’s Trails and Streams Coalition, he wants to see the subdivision’s woods and wildlife areas preserved.

Nelson observed there are some good changes in the proposed covenant alterations, “but there are others property owners need to take a look at to see what they mean.” He said it would be difficult to change the association’s governing documents “because of the high number of votes needed to make the changes.”

The candidate says the board needs more transparency and should conduct closed executive sessions only to discuss the few topics mentioned in state code.

Nelson said results of board meetings should be made public, and detailed agendas put out in advance. He explained that in 2013, the results of quarterly meetings were not to be put out until the next quarterly meeting was held. He added it took until the third quarter last year to get any minutes at all.

Hala Ayala
Ayala, a county resident for more than 20 years and an IT security specialist, also would like to see the association’s financial information available online and better communication between LRPRA and residents.

Ayala said her research into the association led to her finding out about “excessive legal costs” being paid by homeowners. She explained that when asked for records, the association does not provide the whole picture.

“You can see an invoice, but the work is vague,” she noted.

Ayala said she wants to see costs controlled and yearly assessment increases reined in. She reported assessments increase each year to the five-percent maximum permitted.

The candidate also “wants to see the board stop making decisions behind closed doors. It doesn’t sit well and is hard to digest.”

Ayala also wants the board to communicate better with homeowners when it comes to architecture and parks and trails issues.

“Owners should have more input when it comes to architectural guidelines and common area guidelines,” she asserted.

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