By: Sharon Aron Baron
Is it necessary for our residents to pay two corporations to live here?
In the Woodlands Country Club, 792 homes have their own sections and by-laws, and six out of eight sections are part of the master WHOA.
Years ago, when the Woodlands was responsible for all common areas including canals, having a master association was necessary. Since 2011, when common areas, including the front entrance fountain, were turned over to the city due to a 20 year contract expiring, the WHOA still met monthly but hasn’t made any significant difference in the lives of our residents. In fact, they really do not have authority over anything in the Woodlands, including your section.
Does our WHOA give residents a voice?
The only voice that’s heard is the sound of themselves at each meeting. Residents aren’t allowed to speak because we are not an association under FS 720, instead, set up as a nonprofit. Now our board and president could have done what was in the best interest of our homeowners and allowed residents to have a voice like they do at WNID meetings, but they choose not to. Residents with issues are not allowed to make their case, however, some audience members can speak. It all depends if our president allows you to speak, but this is never guaranteed.
Unlimited legal fees with no oversight
The WHOA president can contact their attorney with no board approval costing homeowners an unlimited amount of money. This was done back in 2013, when they sent a cease and desist letter to me and this website costing homeowners over $3,000. This was done at the direction of the president. When homeowners wanted to speak about it at the meeting, they were silenced.
The WHOA has no real authority to do anything
In fact, the last significant vote was in 2010 when the WNID was formed. The city and country club are in charge of maintaining most of the areas, including our canals. The WHOA has input as to which plants goes in at the front entrances, amending their own documents which has been ongoing for two years, and producing a phone book. The most important thing that they oversee is the massive annual budget each section contributes for the BSO roving patrol.
Reading the Master Documents
Last spring, after board members wanted to charge our section a penalty for paying our dues late, which was an accident on the part of our new treasurer, I decided to dig deeper and find out if this could be imposed on us. I contacted our former treasurer who said Section 4 was a voluntary section, therefore they could not enforce a late fee.
What exactly was voluntary? He wouldn’t elaborate, so I decided to read the master documents of the WHOA where I discovered Sections 3 and 4 were not included in them. This means that these two sections have been voluntarily paying the WHOA for over 30 years and no one has told informed us of this.
When members of our section asked WHOA President Patti Fox to produce documents that showed our section were part of the WHOA, she couldn’t. The WHOA then contacted their law firm Becker and Poliakoff to review the documents, just as I had done, and confirmed in May that Sections 3 and 4 are NOT part of the WHOA.
After being a voting member for over 30 years, the WHOA board made a motion that evening to stop allowing our sections to vote until we agreed to join.
Our section met over the summer and decided to ask the WHOA what the benefits of joining would be, and get a list of exact expenditures on their part. We needed to know if being part of the WHOA was fiscally the right decision for us. Several of our residents did not see a benefit from the roving patrol, and the board insurance that the WHOA pays for could be purchased by our own Board of Directors. Two of our residents did see a benefit in staying for a sense of community.
What are the benefits of your section paying to be part of the WHOA?
According to a document sent to our section in September 2014, these are the benefits of being part of the WHOA:
1. Coordination and expediting city services for all areas including Woodlands Blvd
2. Upgrading plantings on Woodlands Blvd, Sago Palm and White Oak Entrances.
3. Coordination with Country Club on matters of upkeep on the courses and common areas that abut property owners home.
4. Provides information to all homeowners via special mailings and internet.
As a section in our own right, we can contact the city for services along our main boulevard. We have as much authority as our WHOA president to do so, and we’ve been making our own calls for years.
As far as the plantings at the entrances, this is something we can contribute to the city on our own.
Coordination with the Country Club: Each section has the power to do this themselves by contacting the country club manager. We do it here. In fact, just today I heard back from the country club after asking them to please order new “No Fishing” signs for the main Woodlands Boulevard entrance area, as there is only one and it has deteriorated. They have ordered them and will be installed soon. Every section president can contact the country club on their own if they have a question.
Unfortunately, the WHOA could not give us an exact breakdown of expenditures. Our section asked how much was spent on stationary, printing and postage costs and received this:
Itemizing the costs is way too costly, we are not a publicly traded corporation that requires this.”
One of the costliest things are the communications that are mailed out to 792 homes. Many times, letters are not bundled with newsletters costing homeowners not only postage but administrative costs to Ambassador. The news is old and I have found Sections can do their own mailings, which many do already. Several have email lists of their residents and communicate this way, which is the quickest and most cost-effective. The WHOA does have their own website, but very few people outside the board reads it.
Our section’s board of directors will vote if they choose to belong to the WHOA in October. I cannot speak on behalf of our board, so I will keep you posted on whether they agree that being a part of the WHOA is in our financial best interest.
Section 3 will be meeting soon as well, and I cannot speak on their behalf, so I’m not certain what their intentions are.
Remember, all sections and residents are part of the Woodlands Country Club
We are all neighbors and that has never stopped. Less than 20 people attend WHOA meetings, and our relationships with our neighbors do not comprise of just them, but the community as a whole.
Each section should do their due diligence and find out if being part of the WHOA is in their financial best interest. Abdicating would require legal costs to change the documents.
- Sharon Aron Baron created the Woodlands Tamarac in 2010 for original News for the community. In 2011 she went on to create Tamarac Talk, in 2012, Coral Springs Talk and 2017, Parkland Talk.
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