FAIR OAKS RANCH — A bylaws review committee is updating the Fair Oaks Ranch Homeowners Association’s 44-year-old rules to align with today’s state HOA laws, but some members say they’re not being heard.
Last November, residents requested the creation of the committee after the FORHA board raised annual dues by $50, from $75 to $125.
Since then, three individuals have stepped down from the original committee after disagreeing with the board’s power to have final say over the review group’s changes. New volunteers have been appointed.
“At the end of the day, the bylaws need to be updated to current laws and make them clearer for homeowners to understand,” said committee member and Councilman Roy Elizondo, who noted the board has authority over members’ assessments and the committee “serves at the pleasure of the board.”
He added, “The HOA’s bylaws set the governance framework for how the association should work and how elections should be held.”
However, several residents feel their voices are being silenced.
Past HOA president and board member John Weir circulated a petition with the signatures of 658 members and a letter signed by other ex-FORHA heads at the November meeting pushing for more inclusion.
Members of the new committee include FORHA board members Jonathan Lisenby, Biff Chesworth and Carolyn Knopf, while Elizondo, Buddy Preuss and Rich Nichols represent the general membership.
After filling the empty spots with fresh volunteers, the group’s main goals are modernizing the bylaws to match the Texas Property Code and inform residents through better lines of communication.
On April 20, the committee hosted its first public outreach at Spotted Deer Coffee Co.
“(We want to) ensure the bylaws are compliant with Texas Property Code, which is the law that governs HOAs,” said Knopf, who also is the association president. “We’ve grown substantially since 1975 when these bylaws were created, and so what was applicable over 40 years ago may not necessarily align with the needs of our members today,” she said in an email to LOCAL Community News.
The bylaws govern FORHA the way the town follows its city charter, the president said, specifying the association has only made slight changes four times in about 40 years. According to Knopf, experts suggest a review every five years or so to stay current with state legislation is appropriate.
She added in the correspondence, “We want (homeowners) to know that we are truly listening to them and we heard the message loud and clear at the annual meeting that they want to be engaged at more points along the way.” Because not all residents can attend board meetings, Knopf said FORHA would seek other ways to share information, whether it’s in the parks run by the association, at coffee shops or on Facebook.
Preuss said he’s excited about diving into the process.
“If you’re not reviewing your bylaws, you’re not doing you what should be doing,” Preuss said. “The thing we want to do is create something that meets the desire of members and something everyone can have a voice in.”
Other neighbors, however, argue a small, handpicked few are now in a position to control the entire community.
Homeowner Dana Krone posted a critical analysis of a fall membership survey undertaken by the HOA submitted through social media.
“There’s been a secrecy to the board since last summer that has raised concerns about the integrity of the board and nothing has been done to fix it,” Krone said. “It’s polarized the organization. Ideally, I’d like to see the board decide they want to be there for all the members and not their little group.”
He added, “They need to be more ‘member-centric’ and be more transparent. These folks have a loyalty and duty to their homeowners.”