Brookshire Cluster
brookshirecluster.org

Brookshire Cluster General Assembly Minutes

Tuesday, Feb 2nd 2010 7PM

 

12 of 26 (46%) houses present, Quorum of 40% achieved.  Cluster President Mike called the meeting to order at 7:15PM.

Miscellaneous:

·       Mulch will be delivered by Lions club on Easter Saturday, April 3rd with 2 cubic feet hardwood mulch at $3.37 per bag. Please let Mike know how many bags you would like.

·       Gutter Cleaning will occur in late May, interior units will be $79, exterior units $109.  Please let Mike know if you would like to schedule your gutters to be cleaned.

·      Brookshire Cluster Website recreated on line with cluster documents, by-laws, minutes, guidelines for paint etc online – www.brookshirecluster.org

Landscape by Cathy F

2009 In Review

o    For the April (spring cleanup), we focused on planting shrubs and trees throughout the neighborhood. As soon as spring starts this year, we will re-assess how those plants survived and what other plants are needed to restore the greenery.  In between our cluster and Chatham colony, the plants haven’t survived so well so that may need to be a focus this year.  For the November cleanup, we mostly pruned and performed maintenance on plants.

o    Unexpected Tree Work hits budget: We had Tyson’s Tree, the tree company, out twice this year to remove or trim 4 trees each time to clear up the neighborhood.  As a result of the snowfall in early December, we also had them out again to remove the fallen tree across the parking lot. As it was an emergency service, Tyson’s tree charged a whopping $9,300 to remove the tree from the cars and the parking lot. This fee was negotiated down to $4,250. Still a huge amount, the impact of this cost hit our 2009 budget and has a definite impact to 2010 budget which had to be halved to accommodate the budget hit.

 

2010 Plan by Cathy F

·         Spring Cluster Cleanup will be scheduled for one of the last weekends in April, tentatively set for April 24th.

·         Mulch will be delivered on April 3rd in time for the cluster cleanup and private events.   We need to finish outstanding jobs such as cleaning and re-painting the common area stair railings.  We also need to replace the rhododendrons along Moorings Drive, and the drought-resistant red barberry & pyracantha bushes on the steps up to 1563-69. VA shrubs:  http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/450/450-236/450-236.html

·         Common area shrub replacement: Cathy noted that the bush stumps on the stairs up to 1563-69 are most likely dead, so we’ll need to pull those out during the April clean up and replace with hardy, drought tolerant perennial bushes.  Spring will tell if the bushes survived or not.

·         Equipment:  Cathy noted that we need to inventory our cluster equipment and decide if new common purchases need to be made.  We would need to collect and consolidate all units in place. Please bring your items over to Cathy’s house for inventory.

o    Also please email Cathy about any items that are yours but which you would be willing to offer up for cluster cleanup events.

o    Depending on the budget and how many gardening tools are needed for the cluster, we intend to get a chainsaw so some brave soul can remove dead tree limbs on our next mis-adventure with fallen trees.

·         Mosquito’s:  We contracted again for the Mosquito spraying for 6 times (vs 9) this year.  Cathy will send out a note to neighbors when spraying is scheduled to occur.

·         Contract Cardinal: Lastly on the landscape information, Cardinal renewed contract for the year with no cost increase.  In general, we are quite happy with Cardinal’s service; they’ve been working with the cluster for a very long time and do a consistently nice job.

·         Insurance: Deirdre to follow up with State farm on insurance claims for the tree down on Dec 10th 2009.

 

Other landscape issues:

o    Julie brought up the condition of a lot of the common area grassy patches. The grass is sparse and anyone walking or playing on those areas tend to get very muddy very quickly. Cathy mentioned Cardinal provides seeding and fertilization in early April, but that each of us can adopt-a-spot of common area and ensure that it gets plenty seed and water for the seed to grow. Cathy also recommended cordoning off the areas that are seeded for 3 weeks to give them a chance to grow without trampling the small seedlings.  She also recommended the cluster research shade and drought tolerant grass noting that other ground cover may attract unwanted critters.  Cathy suggests that we use burlap to protect the tougher areas and allow the seedlings to grow.   This will be a community project in the April Cluster cleanup.

o    Grass seed information for Our area:

http://www.plant-care.com/1559-sowing-lawn-grass-seed.html

Shady Grass Cover:

http://www.lowes.com/pd_289572-303-118934_4294935972_4294937087?productId=1081499&pl=1&currentURL=/pl_Grass%2BSeed_4294935972_4294937087_?cm_mmc=search_google-_-Landscaping%20O2S-_-Grass%20Seeds-_-grass%20seed

 

o    Bill E asked where was the dividing line between personal homeowner property and cluster common area property. Based on the architecture maps, each property extends out about 5’ in front or side from the house wall, beyond which typically is cluster property. Back yard sizes vary.  If you need to see your house layout in more details or see architectural details, Mike H has a copy of the housing plans for the entire cluster – including the perimeter definitions.  Note here that Cardinal typically clears our individual front spaces as well as the common grounds.

 

o    Drainage Issue:  Doc brought up that the sidewalk area between 1540 and 1550 floods dangerously each rainfall, and is worse when the rain is heavy.  It was so impassable during the last heavy rain that Doc constructed a temporary bridge to cross the footpath. He noted that we have to improve the drainage along that section pronto. 

 

The cluster discussed some ideas to improve drainage:

o    Build a new drain line inside of curb. Manage new route for water to run off safely.

o    Action: Get a professional opinion to identify draining solutions for the cluster, starting with row from 1540-1550, followed by row at back 1528-1538.  Determine if a site solution will be needed for any long-term restoration work.  Prior to any work being done, we will get proposals for work and present for approval to the cluster with an outline of the budget impact.  Options to pay it off may include an adjustment to the current budget or a special assessment, all TBD.

Next Steps:

·         Mike to address Arlene and RA cluster forum group to seek solutions for like-issues with other clusters.

·         Board Members: We will create a list of issues to be addressed, options and solutions and associated costs.  We will hold another general meeting to discuss and prioritize options

·         All members to submit comments and requests to Mike. Mike to add these to list. Please note, you can submit any issues you want addressed by the board online

·         Ann D to call for assessment assurance to see if cluster insurance will cover either the site survey and/or the drainage repair assessment fees.  We need to define ‘Assessment’ in terms of the Cluster by-laws (currently not defined or available).

·         At the top of the cluster, mud runs through the opening which is the start of the drainage issues.  Cathy to ask the landscape company to propose a landscaping fix as an option to improve percolation and prevent mud-slides and run-off.

Social Update:

2009 In Review

o    Fun year was had with a lot of social events, some planned, some impromptu. 

2010 Plan

o    New schedule for upcoming events will include dates for:

o    Yard Sale (May sometime)

o    Summer Picnic

o    Halloween Festivities

o    Holiday party in December.  

·         See the online calendar of events

·         There is a general opinion to add more philanthropic activities for the cluster to engage, such as “Relay for Life” support. If you have an idea for volunteer work and would like to share it with others, please notify us to co-ordinate activities.

 

Financial:

2009 In Review

o    Capital Reserves – We planned to increase capital budget by $3,300 but due to over budget expenses such as the emergency tree service in December, new insurance coverage requirements for the directors and officers (D&O Coverage) and Corporation expenses (fees and website charges), we only increased net budget by #1,324 for 2009 leaving our reserves at $13,848.

o    Accounts receivable for 2009 is paid in full.

o    On the details for 2009,

o    We paid snow removal for 2009 at $975 which was $225 over budget.

o    Trash – was under budget by $363.58 since it’s difficult to guess what the Fairfax landfill rate increases or other increases will be each year.

o    With the damage to the sign post from the fallen tree, we received a $500 check from the cluster insurance company. No other contribution was made to offset the emergency tree removal cost since the cluster insurance and umbrella insurance treat incidents like this as personal property damage vs. cluster damages.

o    Most other Expenses came in under or on budget for a net income of $1,324.

2010 Budget Plans:

o    The budget for 2010 includes the new billable items such as D&O Insurance coverage, Web Domain and Hosting. All other categories accounted for a 3% annual increase.

o    Based on some unexpected costs in 2009, the reserve budget is currently under target for the long-term Repair/Replace/Restructure plan for the cluster.   Based on a time and cost estimate for the following services, we need to raise the reserves by at least $3,300 each year for the reserve budget to cover the long-range planned activities, any other expenses will require an assessment:

o    Repaving (Sealing) 5 years

o    Resurfacing 20 years (or sooner)

o    Sidewalk fixes

o    Retaining wall repairs

o    To recoup the shortfall from 2009 Reserve, the tree service budget was cut from $3500 to $1700 to put restore $1800 to reserves.  This decision was made since we have provided much tree work over the last few years and should we need to do more tree work than expected this year, the board agreed to re-assess on an as-needed basis.

o    Based on this re-allocation of funds, there will be no increase in dues for 2010 pending no unforeseen changes or disasters.

o    Chris wondered if there was any incentive for members to pay dues early. Ann responded that there is currently no discount for early payment although the cluster benefits from the extra interest.  

o    No surprise, Deirdre asked about the entrance sign for Brookshire Cluster, and Amanda noted that there may be a grant available to construct a monument in this historical area.  Ann noted that it is currently not any part of the long-range plan and would require separate funding or a new assessment.

 

Open Discussion:

o    Face book: Amanda wanted feedback on a general face book account for the cluster, but with privacy concerns among the members, it was decided to not create a generic cluster face book account but to utilize existing accounts into a cluster ‘group’ on existing face book profiles.

o    Social Invitations: Since evite triggers a spam catcher with some companies, it was decided that invitations and general cluster communication would follow using normal email.  [Amanda, Shari]

o    Reimbursing tree work: If you have done tree-work or need to do tree work in your property, it is at your own cost and will not be reimbursed by the cluster budget, even if it benefits the cluster as a whole.

o    Insurance:  We currently have three insurance policies (Cluster, umbrella and D&O) which we will try to consolidate into one less expensive option this year.  [Ann, Deirdre]

o    Cluster swing is broken, Mike to research replacement options for the plexi-rubber seat on the swing. This will be a repair project in the cluster cleanup in April.

o    Fire Hydrant Tests: Ann will call the fire department to get a quote on testing the fire hydrants in the cluster.  We also need a pole during the snow storms to identify their location.

o    Snow storm dump spot:  During extreme snow storms like we’ve been having, it was recommended to leave the two guests spots open at the end of the L shape for the snow plough to move the snow.  Please keep your car out of there during bad events or it will be ploughed under. Mark to email emergency snow spots for those two parking spaces.

o    Cluster appearance:  It has come to our attention from internal members as well as other cluster representatives that our once pristine cluster looks degraded and shabby. This is not just during winter; it is in this past summer too.  It was much discussed in the meeting with notes that bad appearances directly affect us all, as well as our property values.

Each house is beholden by the Reston Association to uphold the beauty and aesthetic standard of our neighborhood and Reston as a whole.  References:  

 

Keeping Reston Looking Great

Members of the Reston Association benefit from a higher aesthetic standard — our community and its neighborhoods are consistently attractive and well-kept. In fact, people who visit Reston, even briefly, often comment on the beauty of our community.

This effect is not accidental. Rather, it’s because the community has established clear guidelines and covenants, for property owners on exterior design and maintenance of their property — and thus, ensures the beauty and harmony of our community. When you decided to move into Reston and signed your Disclosure Documents, you agreed to comply with these covenants.

 

Protecting the integrity of the Reston community, and property values, is a partnership — one that begins and ends with the community members themselves. The partners include the elected and appointed community members who serve on Reston Association’s Board of Directors, Design Review Board, and various Committees. The policies and decisions of these groups, in turn, are implemented by the Reston Association staff. Last but not least, Reston property owners themselves play major roles in the process — by planning ahead for exterior changes to their property and thus contributing to Reston's widely acclaimed aesthetic qualities.

https://reston.org/PropertyOwnerResources/KeepingRestonLookingGreat/Default.aspx?qenc=HzT9ACzZbNs%3d&fqenc=MAvVXF1uN2o7lRFG9zBr8w%3d%3d

 

One of the advantages to owning a Reston home is the Design Covenants included in the Reston Deed of Dedication. When a property is purchased, buyers agreed to comply with these and other covenants thereby agreeing to maintain the design standard established for Reston. 

 

The Design Covenants along with the Design Guidelines which are established by the Reston Association Design Review Board (DRB) and approved by the Association’s Board of Directors foster and preserve an aesthetic balance among the variety of residential, public use, commercial and recreational properties in the community.

 

The objectives of the Design Covenants are:

To promote those qualities in the environment which bring value to the property.

To foster the attractiveness and functional utility of the community as a place to live, including a harmonious relationship among structures, vegetation, and topography.

https://reston.org/PropertyOwnerResources/DesignReview/GeneralInformation/Default.aspx?qenc=HzT9ACzZbNs%3d&fqenc=4ntHnFI02Ou1pu9pwi9CJQ%3d%3d

 

With that, each house and resident needs to:

o    Follow trash guidelines:  Trash goes out no earlier than sun-down night before pickup,  pull your trash can and recycle bin in asap next morning,  hide the trash can in your back yard or in an obscure place where it will not cause  consternation with neighbors.

o    Tidy front yard: Remove any item that is not in line with the neighborhood or general aesthetic appearance.  Notice most houses have greenery and shrubs and nothing else.

o    Unclutter Decks:  Decks are not extra storage units, and for those houses whose backs are exposed to walking areas – keep your deck clear of clutter.

o    Sow Grass:  We can each promote our own grassy area.   In Spring, we’ll hand out small bags of Kentucky bluegrass (bright/drought) or fine-leaf fescue (Shade) to upkeep your own area.

o    Clear Chatham area:  Apparently there are things between our cluster and Chatham that we need to clear away. (Cluster cleanup item).

o    Keep an eye on Electric Lights:   Keep the lights burning. If you notice common area or path area lights out, let us know so we open trouble tickets with Dominion.

o    Plant Replacement trees: Chris noted that we can help our cluster with buying seedlings, then coordinating our planting of the seedlings to replace the lost trees throughout the cluster. Click here for seedling form:

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/nvswcd/orderform_2010.pdf

 

Vote on board members:

o    Mike H - Unanimously re-elected as President

o    Cathy F - Unanimously re-elected as Landscape Director

o    Ann D - Unanimously re-elected as Treasurer

o    Amanda and Shari – unanimously re-elected as Social Directors.

o    Deirdre – unanimously re-elected as Secretary.

 

Meeting concluded at 9:10PM.

brookshiresign.jpgyellow_and_red.jpg

Photos of the Snowstorm.

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