Don’t Throw in the Towel! Tips for Regaining Control at HOA and CDD Board Meetings Gone Wild
If you have ever attended a homeowners’ association (“HOA”) or community development district (“CDD”) meeting and found yourself listening to an hour long debate about the type of annuals being used at the community entrance, debated the pros and cons of proposed location of holiday light displays, or you have face palmed as a single person sitting in the audience took over the meeting with a litany of complaints and opinions, you may believe that governance by your neighbors serving on HOA and CDD boards is a dysfunctional art form.
The reality is however that HOAs and CDDs both serve important functions in communities, and if certain procedures and tools are utilized, the governance process (and the meetings) do not have to be painful to the elected Board or audience members.
The best chance of holding pain free meetings happens when the chair and fellow board members adhere to the following:
- Publish an agenda and stick to it.
- Use parliamentary procedure like a sword to control the flow of the meeting. Require motions and seconds before discussion; call off-topic comments out of order unless recognized by the chair. Require any speaker to be recognized by the chair.
- Limit public/audience (non Board) participation to a single time on the agenda either at the end or beginning of the meeting. Limit audience comments to 3 minutes or less absent approval by the chair.
- For disputed issues, establish committees to complete work outside of the main meeting and charge the committee with reporting back findings and a recommendation for board consideration. Committee chairmanships are great positions for audience members that tend to participate so much that other audience members show visible signs of annoyance.
- Establish procedures for responding to email, facebook, twitter, linked in web and other social media posts. HOAs can appoint a volunteer or paid communication manager to whom emails can be forwarded and by whom social media channels can be monitored. Communications to and from CDD Board members are public records and should be maintained as such. Creating a policy that all communications to HOA board members are brought to meetings and filed in the record prior to response can reduce the number of “anonymous complaints” raised by Board members. Threatening communications or communications suggesting legal violations should be delivered to attorneys and/or law enforcement for response.
- Survey the community electronically periodically to identify issues of concern. This can be done using online survey tools available for nominal fees or free.
- Finally, use your paid manager, board attorney and other consultants to help resolve challenging issues and provide guidance.
Implementing these recommendations cannot guarantee stress free meetings, but it will greatly improve the chance that the necessary work will get done as painlessly as possible.
Leigh Kellett Fletcher has been practicing land use, environmental and real estate law since 1997 and regularly represents clients acquiring, developing and selling real estate in Florida and the U. S. Virgin Islands. She has been involved in the purchase, sale and redevelopment of multi-family residential projects, office, commercial and mixed use properties and has worked with clients to obtain land use entitlements and environmental permits to develop and expand commercial development. She frequently works with clients acquiring environmentally contaminated properties and assists them with obtaining brownfield designations and completing remediation and development of those properties. Read Leigh’s full biography.