Changing SOA governing documents
A homeowner information meeting was held on Monday evening to explore the process of revising SOA governing documents. Tiffany Roland, a Somersett homeowner and a representative of Somersett Development, presented an explanation of the governing documents and what can and cannot be changed. Melissa Ramsey, FirstService Residential Vice President and former Community Manager at Somersett, offered her perspective as well.
Here are highlights from the talk:
What is Somersett Development?
Somersett Development is the master developer in the community who hired contractors to build:
- All of the streets and utilities
- The Club at Town Center
- The Canyon 9 and championship golf course
- The commercial buildings in Town Center
- Mass grading of most of the lots in Somersett which were then sold to builders and individual homeowners (custom lots).
Somersett Development is the Declarant or Master Declarant in all of the governing documents and has rights spelled in the CC&Rs until 2035 (30 years after the CC&Rs were recorded in 2005). Some rights were also assigned to builders who are currently building homes. Somersett Development will continue to be an active entity in the community until the final new home closes.
The main set of Governing Documents
This legally-recorded document created Somersett Owners Association as a non-profit corporation under Nevada state law.
This document describes the procedures and mechanics of the Board of Directors, committees, meetings and violations. A majority of homeowners must approve any changes to this document.
Master Association CC&Rs and CC&Rs amendment (2015)
This is the main document that binds owners to the association, establishes association responsibilities and defines owners’ rights and obligations. It also defines the amenities and the common areas of the community.
Revisions to most sections of the CC&Rs require the approval of a majority of homeowners. Some sections require the Declarant to approve changes.
Homes in the Village, the Vue, and Sierra Canyon must comply with the master association’s CC&Rs as well as the more restrictive rules of their sub-associations.
Town Square CC&Rs
For the properties at Town Square.
Spells out the standards the City of Reno required Somersett Development to follow when developing the community. There are three sets of PUDs in Somersett depending on where you live. They are similar and if changes are made to one, it makes sense to change them all.
The City states in the PUD that the SOA will enforce PUD rules and that the Aesthetic Guidelines Committee will approve all plans to ensure that they conform to the PUD prior to sending them to the City for any permit. For this reason, most of the PUD requirements are also included in the AGC Guidelines.
Examples of standards in the PUDs:
- Exterior color of home (stucco needs to be a “desert’’ color).
- What type of fencing is permitted. (Two-rail split rail for some, three-rail for others, privacy fencing for others. No front-yard fencing allowed.)
- Plant material allowed for landscaping.
- Lighting must be “dark skies compliant.’’
Making a change to the PUD is complicated. The Board can take proposed minor changes to City staff who may or may not sign off on the changes but it could take going to City Council to make more significant alterations.
Most of these are clarifications to existing CC&R rules. Examples:
- When holiday decorations may be put up and taken down.
- Garage sale dates.
- How many inches snow must accumulate behind private gates before it must be removed by the SOA.
- Sign guidelines.
These regulations may be changed by the Board.
Includes fitness center rules, guest privileges, pool usage rules and like the rules and regulations can be amended by the Board.
These guidelines “are intended to provide guidance to property owners, Builders, Architects and Designers for all development, site improvements and construction – new buildings, building additions, site work and landscaping – as well as any subsequent changes or alterations to previously approved plans or existing homes in Somersett.” They were created by the Aesthetic Guidelines Committee with the goal of maintaining a consistent and aesthetically pleasing look for the community as a whole and generally follow the PUD. The guidelines dictate that architecture in Somersett will have natural finishes and earth-tone color palettes that blend in with the natural desert environment.
The committee can make recommendations to the Board for any changes to the guidelines.
Nevada Revised Statute Chapter 116 – Common Interest Ownership
The Uniform Common Ownership Interest Act in Nevada. Enacted by the state legislature, NRS166 sets the regulations for common-interest communities. More then one-third of all housing in the state is directly affected by these regulations. It takes state legislative action to change these laws, which take precedence over any of the SOA governing documents.
The main governing documents are just a small fraction of all of the documents that exist in the SOA. Other documents include maintenance agreements, parks agreements, SOA agreement with the country club, easements, collection policies, compliance policies, and investment policies.
Which rules should we look at changing?
When homeowners want changes to SOA rules they are usually referring to the regulations in the CC&Rs, the PUD or the AGC Guidelines.
- The PUD regulations are set by the City and any significant changes would likely have to go before the City Council.
- The AGC Guidelines generally follow the PUD and changes must be recommended by the Aesthetic Guidelines Committee and approved by the Board.
- That leaves changes to the CC&Rs, which for the most part require the approval of a majority of the community. (A few of these – such as some advertising rights – are reserved for the Declarant – Somersett Development). To clarify, that doesn’t mean that 51% of the community needs to vote for or against the changes, it means that 51% must say yes to the changes. To get that many homeowners to vote would take a monumental effort. When the CC&Rs were changed a few years ago, numerous people went door to door in Somersett explaining to homeowners what the changes were, why it was important to change the laws and then persuading them to vote.
What do you think?
A discussion is currently occurring on Somersett.net on this Homeowner’s Forum and will continue at a future meeting if it is decided to go ahead with revisions to the documents. The Board of Directors welcomes your thoughts as they decide whether or not to proceed with this process.