Friday, June 29, 2012

NEW FARMINGTON WOODS MOTTO: CAVEAT EMPTOR

I've been getting a lot of email since the budget passed last month from residents concerned about the crumbling infrastructure of Farmington Woods. One writer expressed concern that though she has been fighting for driveway repairs for months with little success, the budget contains $43K for new cart paths on the course. Another put in a work order to have the disintegrating sidewalk in front of his group of units repaired. When he checked back a few weeks later, he was told that the work would be done after Memorial Day. The last reply he got was that "there was no money for the repairs."

These people are understandably furious. Money for cart paths, but none for sidewalks and driveway repair? Why is it so hard to get the boards and committees here to understand that this is a residential community 100% of the year and used as a golf course about 50% of the year, weather permitting. The golf course is a money pit draining resources from the residential community that could be used for the overall improvement of our units, roadways, sidewalks and grounds.

A living example of this disparity occurred yesterday when I got home at 4pm and decided to have a cool drink outside. As I stepped out onto my deck I noticed that the trash that is routinely left under the light pole across from my deck hadn't been picked up yet. This is a pet peeve of mine as there's been times I had to stare at junk like this for days on end. Of course having trash picked up and disposed of in a timely fashion.is something we pay for with fees and taxes. Otherwise we'd all be living in a huge junkyard. So I was less than happy with the sight:




Not that I hadn't seen it before:




But today was a beautifully warm summer day so I decided to sit in the opposite direction and try to forget about it. The opposite direction happens to look out over the second hole and I could see a golfer enjoying his solitary game on the clutter-free beauty that is the Farmington Woods Golf Course on this gorgeous day:




The contrast was striking: the lone golfer enjoying his rounds on the course that I subsidize to the tune of about $700 a year while the trash that I pay condo fees and taxes to have removed sits in full view of myself, my neighbors and even the real estate agent and her client that had to walk by it to get to the unit they were looking at. They didn't stay long. It was even visible at night when the light on the pole came on.

By the way, I called the office and was promised it would be removed before the end of the day (as the by-laws state) but it didn't get removed until this morning. I was very glad we weren't having guests over for cocktails on the deck this particular evening. But it got me thinking about the fees and taxes we pay here and where they go:

They don't go to repair this kind of stuff:


Or to dredge ponds like this:
Or to remove bee infested tree stumps from two years ago:
Or finish the repair of the sidewalk in front of my unit which was fixed "temporarily" eight months ago:
For that matter there's no money to replace the "invisible shield" that's supposed to protect us near the guardhouse, with a real sidewalk. Nope, not enough money for this. Give us our cart paths!

So, after thinking about all the things we don't have money to replace or improve I sat down with my copy of "In the Woods" and came across an article written by Richard Oatman, member of the Public Works Committee, which describes its mission as follows: "The Public Works Committee develops and administers a program to preserve, protect, and enhance the physical assets and infrastructure of Farmington Woods. They oversee the maintenance and improvements to our grounds, buildings, and facilities and provide long range plans to ensure the physical and economic well being of our community."

While reading the article it was hard to believe that it was written by a man whose mission as previously stated is to serve the entire community of Farmington Woods. Instead, what I read sounded more like an admonition from the assistant principal of my old high school: "I know what's good for you because I'm the authority here. There are no alternatives, so get over it". After admitting that the bond had been voted down by a wide margin, he tried to discount the whole process by saying that he "heard from many people" in the lead-up to the vote who were concerned about losing the golf course. Since 337 people voted for the irrigation bond it's conceivable that he heard from that many residents, but somehow I doubt it. On the other hand 684 people voted against it, but they don't count to him.

As I continued to read the article the usual propaganda started to appear, only this time with the aforementioned authoritarian tone:  "As pointed out at the May MA Board meeting, anyone purchasing a Unit in FW, by default, becomes an owner of the golf course, as well and, as such becomes responsible for the maintenance, repair and upkeep of the course the same as any other portion of the Common Element." By default? And now, as long as it's "pointed out" at an MA Board meeting it becomes the law of the land?

I'm sorry, but I'm not the only person who bought a condo in Farmington Woods who was told the golf course was self-supporting. I get those kinds of emails every day. So I'd like Mr. Oatman to show me the paperwork he received informing him of this when he purchased his unit or the agreement he signed taking responsibility for the golf course. And how is it a common element if we can't even walk on it? Isn't that what a common element is for, common use? At the May meeting Mr. Oatman even proclaimed that anyone who walked on the course was committing the crime of trespass.

So, this man who serves on a committee whose mission is to preserve the beauty and infrastructure of all of Farmington Woods is fine with taking money that should be used to fix things (see above) and pouring it into the Money Pit known as Farmington Woods Golf Club. Has a cost/benefit analysis been done to determine if using the land as a golf course (and appropriating millions from unit owners over the years to keep it going) is even a viable option? It's not just the economy that's sick. The game of golf is on a respirator and these folks want us to give it our oxygen!

We've been told over and over again that the course belongs to the residents. If that's so, then the residents should decide what to do with it. Are we going to continue to support the course, so that the few can enjoy their game while the rest of the place goes in need of repair? Or are we going to finally give residents a say in the future of the place they call home. When did the survival of a course used six months a year determine the future viability of Farmington Woods as a community? When and where is it stated that we are stuck with the course forever regardless of cost?

The answer is that it is nowhere stated that Farmington Woods must remain a golf community forever. As a matter of fact there's even a clause in the Declarations that allows other uses for the land: Article XVIII, Section 8f states: "nothing in this Declaration of Condominium shall be deemed to restrict the use of the golf course as a Golf Facility."

So if we, the residents actually own the course as the boards say, what would be wrong with having a real referendum, with legitimate alternatives for use of course/clubhouse to finally determine how residents really feel? Enough with the anecdotal responses. Let's make it democratic and if the majority still wants to keep a losing operation going at the expense of not only their wallets, but the condition of the units, grounds and infrastructure of Farmington Woods, so be it. Until then we're living like children, with the authoritarians here telling us what we need and what we're going to give up to keep it going.

And for people who were so concerned about the reputation of Farmington Woods that they wanted to hire a Public Relations firm to counter the bad press of the past few months? I can only say that articles like Mr. Oatman's will keep potential buyers away in droves. If people really want to live in a place where they have little to say about their situation and no chance of changing things, there's always Cuba. I hear they have nice golf courses there.



Comments? You're welcome to email me at 2chewman@gmail.com.

15 comments:

  1. ah, mr oatman. what about one of our "real" amenities: the pools? why are they run on a shoestring budget? why can't we dip into the well the clubhouse and golf dip into when they run in the red? i am embarrassed to bring my friends to Guilford pool; it should be one of our "gems" to realtors when trying to sell a condo.

    ReplyDelete
  2. "Shoe-string (pool) budget"...that's for sure: Try to swim or relax at the largely unsupervised Mallard pool this year! With inconsiderate 'patrons' leaping in, wrestling around and other obnoxious behavior....
    Attendants are rarely present there anymore (must be at Guilford??). Just a sign with pool rules -- that is regularly ignored. Security patrols? Little or none. Keeping a lid on pool antics is effectively (being) left to other Mallard users. (Purposely - per posted signs from 'management'.) Good luck with that!

    What a zoo...(BTW, does any current board member actually visit Mallard??) God forbid anyone gets hurt fooling around there.

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