Issue 1: Sep 2019
Letter from Helen McCrone, President of the HOA
Welcome to our first community newsletter. It’s the first of a regular publication aimed to keep you up to date with all the happenings in Arbor Mill at Mill Creek. I’m sure the format will develop over time, so if you have any comments or suggestions for future issues, please let the HOA know.
Well, a lot has happened in the seven weeks since the developer turned over control of the HOA to the homeowners. It started with the exasperating pool closure during the hottest time of the year and ended with preparations for Hurricane Dorian. St Augustine was extremely fortunate to escape the worst of the storm. Many thanks to all who volunteered to stow the furniture at the amenity center and then put it all back again afterwards. It was a great team effort on both occasions.
In between those two crises, the officers of the new HOA have been adapting to their roles with the help of Associa, our management company. Amanda Johannes and her team have been fantastic in guiding us through our decision-making processes while ensuring all our legal obligations are met.
In addition, addressing the day-to-day issues that crop up in the community, the HOA is busy drawing up a list of outstanding issues that need to be negotiated with the developer. To help us in those negotiations, a lawyer who specializes in HOA turnovers has been engaged. We will, of course, keep you posted about our progress.
Speaking of Associa, some of you are already using their online portal TownSq. It really is a great tool, so if you haven’t already signed up, please do so. It lets you to do a variety of things, such as send in questions to the HOA, submit architectural approval requests and pay your association dues. You can read more about TownSq and how to sign up elsewhere in this newsletter.
Grateful to Our Volunteers
I’ll sign off by saying how grateful I am to all those who willingly give their valuable time to serve our community, whether it’s on the board, a committee or an ad hoc basis. They really are a group of unsung heroes. Much of what they do is carried out behind the scenes, so their hard work goes unnoticed by many. But they are committed and deserve our support, so please thank them whenever you get the chance.
And remember, if you notice something that requires the attention of the HOA, please report it through TownSq, our official communication channel. Your question(s) will be not only responded to promptly but also logged and tracked.
Arbor Mill at Mill Creek’s Homeowners Association
Food Truck Night
When: Sat, Sep 28th
Time: 4:00-8:00 pm
Where: Amenity Center
Trick or Treat
When: Thu, Oct 31st
Time: 6:00-8:00 pm
When: Sat, Nov 2nd
Time: 8:00 am-2:00 pm
Where: Your Garage/Yard
Did You Know...? Violation Inspections
Bi-weekly violation inspections have begun by Associa. This is something new for the community, but it is a normal and necessary part of a management company’s services. Every two weeks, Associa will drive around the neighborhood and make a note of any violations. Things that may get reported include:
- Unkempt yards (overgrown flower beds, dying lawns)
- Incorrectly stored trash cans
- Improperly parked vehicles
- Unapproved fencing or exterior storage structures
- Unapproved changes to house appearance or structure
- Flags not protected by Florida statute
The previous HOA didn’t have a formal process for inspecting violations, so it may come as a surprise if you get a letter informing you to correct something about your home, especially if it’s something you’ve been doing (or not doing) for a long time. The new HOA understands that, so initially friendly reminders will be sent rather than warning letters.
Many violations arise from a lack of understanding about the Declaration of Covenants and Restrictions (CC&Rs), so it’s important that all homeowners fully understand the rules and regulations that govern our community. When you closed on your house, your builder would have provided you with the CC&Rs, so please make sure you’re familiar with all the rules.
Can’t find your copy of the CC&Rs? Our governing documents are available for download on our community website and our online portal TownSq. You can also request a copy by sending an email to the ARB committee at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Remember, the goal of HOA violations inspections is not to be hurtful or authoritative but to help protect the community’s property values for all of its owner members. That is why we have all chosen to live in a planned development. If you have a question about any of the rules contained within the CC&Rs, you can always submit a request via TownSq.
A Board of Director's Meeting was held on September 23rd, 2019 at 2:00 pm to appoint Bobby Pickle and Justine Larson to the Board of Directors. As a consequence of the appointments, the Board now has five members, three of which are home owners.
Bobby and Justine are Chairs of the Landscaping and Amenity Center Committees respectively. Therefore, they have considerable knowledge of HOA matters and have worked closely with our contractors over many months.
The genuine commitment to the community demonstrated by both Bobby and Justine is greatly appreciated.
Update on... the Amenity Center
It was a bad start for the new HOA. Just a week before the developer turnover took place, the pool pump broke down.
The timing couldn’t have been worse; it was the hottest time of the year and our kids were on their school vacation. It took another three weeks to get the pumping station back up and running, leaving all of us extremely frustrated.
So, what went wrong?
Flooding of the pumping station was the cause of the main pump breaking down. The damage was such that a new pump had to be purchased and installed. Once that was up and running, the technicians discovered problems with the drive. And so it went on. After numerous diagnostic visits, repairs to the secondary and sump pump, and the installation of replacements parts, the pool was finally reopened.
This exasperating episode, along with previous pool closures, raises many questions about the suitability of our pumping station (in particular its design) and our current pool maintenance company. It’s a problem the new HOA has inherited, but we’re going to do everything we can to prevent this sort of thing happening again. That includes:
- Getting a consultation from an independent electrician (the breakers are constantly tripping)
- Getting an independent professional to assess the design of the entire pumping station
- Engaging a different pool maintenance contractor
- Determining the cause of the flooding (we’ve been given different opinions)
We can’t resolve all these issues overnight. To change contractors, for example, we have to first find a suitable replacement, and then we have to submit the contract notice period. Fortunately, our management company Associa has a shortlist of recommended suppliers and contractors, so that will help speed things up. In the meantime, be assured that all issues related to the pool are high on the board’s agenda.
What about other issues with the Amenity Center?
Something we’re often asked is: how often is the amenity center cleaned? The company engaged to clean the pavilion area and restrooms comes twice a week during the summer and once a week during the winter. Their performance is under constant review by the Amenity Center Committee, but if you have any specific complaints, you can always submit them to the HOA via the TownSq portal.
Keeping the amenity center clean and tidy is a shared responsibility, of course. Unfortunately, some of our residents don’t always leave the pavilion as they would like to find it. Therefore, the HOA will now levy a cleaning charge if the pavilion is not left in a suitably clean state, especially after private events. We’re now also asking the hosts of private events to take their trash home with them to prevent the trash cans from overflowing.
First there were three brown umbrellas around the pool. Now there are two. The third umbrella is currently in the utility room because it’s been damaged. We’re going to see if it can be repaired (or the part replaced). If not, we’ll see about replacing it. Trouble is, these umbrellas are very expensive. Unfortunately, people do not take care of them. They leave them up overnight, along comes the wind, knocks them over, and they get damaged.
To remind people to close the umbrellas before they go home, the HOA is going to order a sign to be placed on the back of the pool gate. Hopefully, that will help. And if you see an open umbrella and no one using it? Please close it!
About three weeks ago, many of the broken loungers were fixed and put back around the pool. We had a stack of them piling up in the utility room. Those that couldn’t be fixed were scrapped. A special thanks to Josh Murphy for being our repair man on this occasion!
We do ask parents to make sure that children don’t jump off the ends of our loungers into the pool as this breaks the legs. Please take care of amenity center furniture as if it were your own. We all end up paying for repairs and replacements through our HOA dues.
The Amenity Center Committee has been looking at replacements for the plastic ‘wicker’ chairs that were around the tables near the firepit (and which were scrapped last week because they were disintegrating before our very eyes).
Justine, the Chair Amenity Center Committee, and her team did a reorganization after the hurricane by placing the wooden tables (which used to be next to the playground) next to the fire pit. In addition, they’ve proposed ordering more wooden chairs so that both tables have four chairs each as well as three of four different chairs so that people can sit around the firepit.
Associa is currently looking for suitable suppliers, and the board will then review and approve the order. This will be done as soon as possible, so we thank you for your patience in the meantime.
The landscaping at the amenity center is currently under review by the HOA. Part of that includes looking at other landscaping contractors to maintain all the common areas of the sub-division. We’re also considering regrading and replacing the bark mulch that’s inside the pool area with hard mulch (stones). Regrading the flower beds will improve drainage patterns and help reroute the flow of rainwater. The reason for replacing the mulch is that the bark we have now gets quite messy and is frequently blown into the pool. Quotes so far for regrading and new mulch range from $5,000 to $11,000.
In the meantime, Bobby, the Chair of the Landscaping Committee, arranged to remove the dead palm near the playground and grind the stump, to move the downed palm at the back of the pool and replant where the dead one is, and to straighten a couple of leaning palms and stake them. That work cost around $1,500.
As you can see from the above, maintaining and improving the Amenity Center demands a lot of time and effort from our volunteers. Some of the solutions, such as the chairs, are relatively quick and easy to implement. Others, however, will take a bit more time and money.
Plans in the Pipeline
The HOA is developing a formal community hurricane preparedness plan so that—when the next major storm comes along—we’ll be as ready as can be. One of our steps is to ask Serve-Pro, a premier restoration company that specializes in water and fire damage remediation, to prepare a comprehensive plan for the community. They provide this excellent service free of charge.
A request by some residents to install a couple of bicycle racks at the entrances to the sub-division is being considered by the HOA. Some of our older children would like to cycle to the school bus stop in the mornings. and would like a place to park their bikes. Suitable racks in terms of aesthetics, price, security, and durability are currently being sourced. A decision will be made at the next board meeting.
Repair to Dog Park and RV Park
Work to furnish and install new uprights on the double drive gate at the dog park, repair and stabilize the entry gate post at the club house, and straighten the fence around the RV Park has just been authorized by the Board. The work, proposed by the Amenity Center Committee, will be carried out by Sterling Specialties, Inc on Oct 8th.
On the agenda for the next board meeting is whether to submit an application to the County Engineer to turn our sub-division's county roads into Designated County Roads. This would allow people aged 14 and over to drive regular golf carts around the neighborhood legally. A feasibility study will have to be conducted first, and this has already been started.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: How do I get a security key fob to the Amenity Center?
A: Fobs need to be collected in person. To arrange, please send an email to Associa at email@example.com. If you’re a tenant, you need to contact your landlord. Only one fob per household is allowed.
Q: What hours are the Amenity Center Open?
A: Then he pool and tennis court are open from 7:00 am/ dawn to 8:00 pm/dusk (the pool is a daytime-only pool). The pavilion closes at 10:00 pm. Please respect the quiet enjoyment of nearby residents. Unreasonable and excessive noise levels are covered by county ordinance no. 2015-19. The pavilion’s closing time remains under review and can be re-evaluated at an AGM.
Q: Can I park my car on the street overnight?
A: No cars are allowed to be parked on the street between 1 am and 6 am. Overnight street parking falls under the nuisance section of our covenants, which are determined by the board.