Looking back on a year of ‘Discussions with Terry’
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By Terry Retter, Board Secretary
I thank all the residents who participated in my discussion sessions this year. I am not going to hold any sessions in November (SOA election month) or December (holidays) and would like some indication from the community if they would like me to restart them in January.
I have found the discussions both informing and enlightening as you have some terrific ideas for Somersett and some very different perspectives on the topics of interest to Somersett.
Our discussions mostly were around key topics:
- History of the rockery walls and the associated legal activities
- Financial issues, including budgets, assessments and where and how we spend our money
- The general well-being of the community and concerns about development such as The Cliffs and how activities of the developers may impact us all.
- Compliance issues regarding consistency in the application of the rules along with some specific topics such as landscaping, string lights, signs, holiday lights, and so on.
- Improving relationships among the community and reducing the apparent friction among various interests.
And there was a wide range of detail topics discussed as well that might affect individual residents.
I used the information I received to inform the Board and committees of the concerns and ideas that were communicated to me in these discussions and in some instances, changes were made to reflect the attitudes of the community, the most visible probably being the proposed new lighting policy.
I sincerely hope that my intent for holding the sessions, which is to improve communication among us all, was understood. There remains some divisive commentary published in social media and some feel that the Board does not do a good job of communicating its objectives to the community. While legal restrictions inhibit what the Board can do, it is my aim to find ways to generate better dialogue among us. I recognize that there will be a wide range of opinions and that we will not all agree on decisions, but with better communications, there should be a better understanding of what was decided and why.
I hope to continue finding ways to improve communication among us all. I also welcome your suggestions on things which could be implemented early next year.
Recap of discussions in August
I am a little disappointed in the attendance in August at The Club at Town Center but our announcements were a bit late and summer activity probably took precedence. The sessions at the Somersett Golf & Country Club Grill were well attended and the discussions were interesting.
Two primary threads of conversation seem to be evolving. The first has to do with continuing issues such as landscaping, rockery walls, water management (more as a part of landscaping rather than the SGCC stuff) and such. Second, has to do with how things get done in Somersett which includes processes with the AGC (and to a lesser extent the ARC), processes about standards and violations, and newer residents are interested in how things work in general.
I would like to get more interest in a few topics that need resident input:
- Amenities that should be considered in the strategic plan
- Activities that may be needed to assure that Somersett remains the best place to live in Northern Nevada
- Where and how we spend the association’s money
But the essence of these sessions is that I will discuss almost anything and will attempt to answer any questions or issues that residents bring up. Much of the dialogue on places such as Nextdoor Somersett would be appropriate for these discussions.
Other areas for conversation would include:
- The upcoming budget and the implications for us going forward.
- Changes to the controlling documents that may be needed including the By-Laws, Aesthetic Guidelines, C&Rs and other.
- For anyone who may have any inkling of serving on the SOA Board, what this entails, time involved and so on since there are two openings this year and the election is coming soon.
Recap of discussions in July
I continue to try to find a time that is convenient for people to drop by and talk about things that are relevant to Somersett. However, there are only a few occasions where more than 1 to 3 people come to share their thoughts.
Most people who do come are interested in general things such as the ongoing status of the rockery walls and the associated lawsuit or the issues around lighting or landscaping. There are those who are interested in specific issues such as crosswalk signs and some just want to get clarification on Somersett policies and practices. But there seem to be no essential concerns that bother a majority of residents.
At the last Board meeting, the Facilities Committee presented a list of projects as being the priority for consideration, including:
- Adding solar (this is interesting as solar is mentioned for heating the pool in the CC&Rs)
- Investigating adding geothermal capabilities
- Installing car charging stations at Town Center
- Gym expansion options
- Stage enclosure for fitness classes and such
- Adding a tennis ball return feature
- Adding a lip pool cover
The Facilities Committee identified about 50 other potential projects that could be considered in the future. These priorities and how the projects could be funded would be interesting topics of discussion. Read more about the Facilities Committee’s list of capital projects
While the finances of the SOA are in pretty good condition, it is not clear if everyone knows that we have a very large loan for which we pay nearly $50,000 a month. This a lot of debt for our community and we need to think of alternatives for paying this off. Money used to pay off debt limits what projects we could undertake even if priorities were established.
Without your participation in the discussion, then the only ideas we will have are those that the Board can come up with.
I know there are some insightful people in our community and would like to hear your thoughts on these and other subjects.
Recap of discussions in June
For the four sessions in June, there were a wide range of participants and a wide range of topics discussed. Generally, participation is quite a bit lower than I expected when I started these discussion sessions. Often there are only 2 to 4 people in attendance and we talk about how the SOA works. Then there are some sessions where a hot topic is front and center such as the fiesta lights last month and teenage motorcyclists this month. I am hoping for both more participants for future sessions and topics that deal with improving Somersett for the whole community.
Another topic that seems to draw a lot of attention is the landscaping. While many of the comments are positive, I do hear quite a bit about specific issues. Broken sprinklers, ineffective drip placement, too much watering of the streets, replace much of the grass and so on. I can state the Brightview is working on most of the items that are broken or not working properly. In addition, they are developing an inventory of things that need attention such as replacing grass with xeriscape, replacing trees and shrubs with those better suited to the landscape, improving drainage facilities and so on. These projects are targeted for several years to implement to keep our costs in line.
Of course, there are almost always a few questions regarding the rockery walls and the associated costs but for the most part, I think this topic has been pretty well covered.
And there are questions on how certain things work with the Board and associated committees. It appears as if there some confusion or perhaps even some misinformation on what the committees have authority to do and not do and what responsibilities the SOA Board has and does not have.
There have been a few inquiries about speeding, traffic control and so on that many in the community look to the board to remedy. But the major streets in Somersett – all streets that aren’t behind a gate – are city-controlled and complaints need to go to the appropriate department in the city – Reno Direct, Reno Police, Reno Fire.
These are all good topics for further discussion. Also, it would be good to get some feedback on the Somersett website – what works and what doesn’t, communications throughout the community, other items that create friction or concerns. Again, these sessions have no fixed agenda but are to be an exchange of ideas, opinions and suggestions. So, join me.
Recap of discussion on May 9, 2019
We had a terrific discussion last Thursday with about 12 or 13 participants who were interested in a wide range of subjects.
The easy ones were about the speed bump proposal for the Back Nine Trail neighborhood. Both pro and con representatives were present. We were not able to reach a conclusion of course. More study is needed without any influence on the direction of the results. In this case, a survey is being circulated to everyone in the neighborhood to determine if there is a consensus or at least a majority leaning one way or the other.
Another similar discussion was around the use of fiesta or string lights. These are still not allowed within the SOA guidelines and violations will be processed. Variations or allowances can be submitted to the AGC for review on a case-by-case basis. This will be the situation until a more general approach can be developed.
There was quite a bit of discussion regarding rockery walls and the financial issues associated with them. From my perspective, there are no significant near-term issues to be addressed. However, there was a general agreement that it would be beneficial if a regular report were published that defines what has occurred, what we anticipate will occur in the near- and longer-term. I will bring this before the board so that we can assign resources to get this accomplished on a recurring basis.
There was some discussion surrounding the SOA website and what could be done to make it more useful and effective. I will provide many of the suggestions to the Communications Committee which is currently reviewing the website and determining what changes are to be recommended and prioritized.
The last item I will include here was around the activities of the board and what could be done to make these activities better understood throughout the entire Somersett community. While there were no specific solutions derived, there was a general consensus that we should find a way to publish the actions of the board better. While the minutes of the board meetings are published on the website perhaps a summary of significant actions and notifications could be included in a specific part of the bi-weekly newsletter. [Note: It was reported to me that highlights of the board meeting are being produced and published in the Somersett Happenings the week after the meeting.]
Hopefully, these recaps of the discussion sessions are helpful. And I welcome your comments and suggestions on how to make our community better and more effective from your perspective. Send them to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a comment in the Reply portion of this post.
P.S.: My application to hold these discussion sessions at the Sierra Canyon Lodge was denied. I invite all Sierra Canyon residents to join me for these discussions that I will continue to schedule at the Town Center and at the Somersett Golf and Country Club. Look for the schedule in the weekly Somersett Happenings enewsletter and on Facebook.
Recap of discussion on May 7, 2019
Tuesday morning was my scheduled discussion session which I had thought had been well-publicized. However, no one showed up.
Is this because most people have the opinion that things are progressing well? If so, that is terrific. Or would it be the case that people feel we are not being responsive enough? If so, that needs to be addressed. Or is it simply that the weather has improved and people are outside doing things that are much more interesting. If so, then maybe I need to modify my schedule for these meetings.
Of course, I am interested in hearing about those things that you would like to see Somersett move toward or undertake. We have talked about some issues such as the dispute between the AGC and Sierra Canyon’s ARC, the issue surrounding the use of fiesta or string lights outdoors and so on and have seen some progress. I think there may be some other issues that need to be disused as well, but I would like input from the community.
- What new features should we be considering over the next 3 to 5 years? Additional pool facilities are often mentioned, expanded athletic facilities as well. What else should be considered, such as kid playgrounds, hiking and biking trail expansion, etc.?
- What considerations for the use of the vacant lot at the Town Center that is owned but undeveloped? Meeting and event space, perhaps? Mixed-use for retail, commercial or residential? Other?
- What problem areas are not getting enough attention?
If these discussion sessions are not addressing how you would like to communicate your ideas or concerns, let me know what would work better and I will endeavor to do that. In the meantime, I will continue these discussion sessions for another month or so until it is clearly evident that they are not working.
The next session is on Thursday afternoon at 5:30 at TCTC. This session will be competing with the discussion on wildlife being held in the Canyon View Room.