Some Interesting Things You Hear as a POA Board Member

(And Why It’s Worth It to Serve)

By Ron Stratton, Chairman of the Board of Directors

As I near the end of my term, I thought I’d pass along a few thoughts for our new and continuing board members.  Be ready to answer these often-repeated comments.  And please remember that for every person with a complaint, there are thousands of property owners who love Bella Vista and appreciate your efforts to keep it great.

I’m also sending this out to the property owners we serve.  Perhaps it will provide some perspective as you review your ballots, ask questions of the candidates, and choose the next group to best represent our interests.

We’re no longer a retirement community.  We have a lot of younger people who work and have families.

Yep.  And that diversity enhances our community.  I know young families enjoy living in a place with beautiful lakes, golf courses, trails, playgrounds, clubhouses, and exercise facilities.  Clean air, safe, no gangs (well, a few of our retiree golf groups may qualify!).  Most cookie-cutter housing developments have higher POA dues than ours for little more than an entry sign and maybe a playground.  In Bella Vista we pay a modest fee when, and if, we use our favorite amenities.  We’re not a traditional, expensive country club where it costs the same whether you swim once a year or play a hundred rounds of golf.  I only wish I’d had the opportunity to live here when my family was young.

No amenity should lose money.  We should be run like a business.

The general sentiment of fiscal accountability is spot on.  Your current board members, and our new management under Tom Judson, have made this a priority, and we’ve seen substantial improvement in operational results.  A few things to keep in mind:  Unlike a business, our purpose is not to make money.  Our purpose is to provide appealing amenities for the benefit and enjoyment of our property owners and guests.  To accomplish this, all amenities have a base of financial support from assessments.  Many also have user fees to balance the costs.  The board and management must constantly consider the needs and wishes of property owners with the economic feasibility of all amenities, and the appropriate balance between assessments, user fees, and food/merchandise charges to support each amenity.

Assessments and user fees are too high.

Spend a little time with an internet search. Travel some.  Show me a community that’s even remotely similar, with costs that are even remotely as inexpensive.  One rule – comparisons must be with costs from this century!  (yes, many of us remember when candy bars cost a nickel!)

We play fewer golf rounds than we did in the past, so we should close golf courses.

We’ve spent a lot of time grappling with this challenge, and we welcome all constructive thoughts.  Which course(s) do you recommend we close?  Is it feasible for the land to be used for something that’s both more cost-effective, and equally or more attractive than a golf course?  What would be the capital investment and ongoing cost and income structure?  What would be the consequences to the look of our community and our overall property values, especially those that previously fronted a golf course?  Before taking dramatic actions, we could focus on strategies to bring in new golfers.  If successful, the additional green fees could help defray all our costs.  But if you have an appealing, well-developed alternative plan, with a feasible economic structure, please let us know.

We should close the valley golf courses and use the land for commercial development.

Good.  Let’s form a line of everyone who wants to invest in buildings and businesses in a flood plain!

I don’t play tennis, so I don’t want my monthly assessment supporting tennis.

Substitute “tennis” for golf, boating, fishing, hiking, biking, swimming, or any other activity someone doesn’t do.  Aren’t we getting a little selfish here?  The idea has always been to have a variety of nice amenities to meet many interests and assure an attractive, valuable community for all of us.

We should eliminate the POA and turn over the amenities to a City Parks and Recreation Department that wouldn’t cost us anything.

Sure.  Unlike our POA, the city could get employees, fuel, materials, insurance, vehicles, electricity, etc., for free!

Our costs are too high, AND we shouldn’t allow guests because that devalues the benefit of my property ownership.

OK, a little logic please.  First, all clubs welcome guests, even the most exclusive.  It’s the primary recruitment tool for new property owners, and without continuously attracting new people to replace those who leave, any community will deteriorate.  Second, the revenue from guests reduces the costs for property owners.  If we don’t allow guests, higher fees for members will be needed to make up the difference.  To argue for both the restriction of guests AND lower costs for property owners is contradictory.  And to argue that property owners have no advantages over guests is simply not true.

I hate the POA.  I don’t trust the POA.  The POA stinks.  (The all-inclusive rant!)

A brief definition:  POA stands for Property Owners Association.  All of us who own property are the POA.  We elect a rotating board of 9 members, each with a 3-year term, so that 3 of the 9 terms end each year.  Any property owner may put his or her name forward for this volunteer work of best representing the varied wishes and interests of the owners of our 38,000 properties.  If you’re not a property owner, you have no standing to complain.  If you are a property owner, enough with hating yourself!  If you have a constructive, well-formed suggestion or question, please express it to your board members and management who are doing the best they can to represent all our interests.

To the new and continuing board members, a sincere Thanks for your willingness to put in the time and effort to assure Bella Vista remains a wonderful, vibrant place to enjoy life.  Our future is bright if our amenities, common areas, and private properties remain appealing and well-maintained.  What a different impression we now make with the remodel and reopening of Lakepoint and our iconic Faye Jones-designed Country Club showplace and gathering spot!  Scotsdale has been transformed, and Highlands, Country Club, and Dogwood enhanced.  Branchwood, Metfield, Tanyard Creek, and other facilities have received much-needed facelifts.  A new beach recreation area is opening.  Aging playground equipment is being replaced with some very cool new stuff.  And thanks to our partnership with the City, and the generosity of the Walton Family Foundation, we have the very popular and ever-expanding trail system.  I’m confident our reputation, our property values, and our enjoyment in property ownership will only grow.

Our great challenge, with no clear solution yet, is our flooding valley.  I’ll keep thinking … and will help if I can.  To me, the question is not “Golfers vs non-golfers”.  The question is “What is the most appealing and economically feasible use of that highly-visible and quite beautiful 200 acres that runs through Bella Vista?”.

All of this is a never-ending effort, but it’s well worth it for all of us.  Everything will always be either in a state of active rejuvenation (which costs money) or a state of passive deterioration (which, in the long run, costs us even more).

We’ve had, and continue to have, such great people on the board.  Smart, engaged, hard-working, selfless…  It’s been a privilege.

– Ron