Trail sys­tem a hot topic at meeting

The Weekly Vista - - Front Page - LYNN ATKINS latkins@nwadg.com

The reg­u­lar meeting of the POA’s Board of Di­rec­tors was moved to Rior­dan Hall in Oc­to­ber and about 400 mem­bers at­tended. Once again, the topic that seemed to in­ter­est the mem­bers was the trail sys­tem.

At least 20 mem­bers spoke dur­ing the open fo­rum. Speak­ers in­cluded the owner of a Ben­tonville bike shop, the coach of a mountain bike team in Pea Ridge and a re­searcher from Univer­sity of Arkansas. Ac­cord­ing to POA guide­lines, only mem­bers can speak dur­ing the open fo­rum and a few speak­ers iden­ti­fied them­selves as non-res­i­dent own­ers of unim­proved lots.

Becky Neal, the owner of the bike shop, said they live in Bella Vista be­cause they love the pri­vacy af­forded by the common prop­erty, but they also love the bike trails that go through the common prop­erty.

Randy Ham said he walks on the trail four or five times a week with­out any is­sues. He pointed out that some of the beauty of Bella Vista was in­ac­ces­si­ble be­fore the Back 40 Trails were de­vel­oped through the wooded areas on the east side.

One mem­ber, Rick McIn­nis, sug­gested that the POA can profit from trails by is­su­ing stick­ers for bi­cy­cles sim­i­lar to boat stick­ers.

Staff at­tor­ney Doug McCash ex­plained that as long as the trails are a free recre­ational amenity, the POA is cov­ered by a state recre­ational use statue that lim­its li­a­bil­ity.

After lis­ten­ing to sev­eral res­i­dents praise the trails, Leslie Lampo said the real is­sue is the fact that the POA board made the de­ci­sion to al­low the pub­lic onto common prop­erty with­out a vote by the mem­ber­ship.

“They’re not a gift to us,” she said, about the trails, “They’re a gift to ev­ery­one who doesn’t live here be­cause we’re pay­ing for it.”

McCash said that the li­cens­ing agree­ment ap­proved by the POA board does not trans­fer own­er­ship so no vote was re­quired.

But the li­cens­ing agree­ment changes the use of the prop­erty, mem­ber Mary Schillaci ar­gued and that re­quires a vote.

“The board has torn the com­mu­nity apart,” Schillaci said.

Some mem­bers wanted to speak on other top­ics. Robert Stack said golf is too ex­pen­sive in Bella Vista and the board should close some cour­ses to make it prof­itable.

Theron Don­nell asked why the board bor­rowed funds from the wa­ter depart­ment re­cently.

Trea­surer Dwain Mitchell said he knew when the 2018 bud­get was ap­proved that the loan would be nec­es­sary for cash flow. Since the POA owns the wa­ter depart­ment, it’s not un­usual to bor­row from that ac­count, but it will be paid back with in­ter­est, he said.

Dur­ing the reg­u­lar meeting, the board took up an­other con­tro­ver­sial topic when they dis­cussed the 600 POA owned lots and the right to vote them.

Each lot in the POA has one vote dur­ing elec­tions as long as the lot is in good stand­ing — mean­ing the monthly as­sess­ment fee is paid. In 2016, the board used the 600 votes to sup­port an as­sess­ment pro­posal. Al­though, the POA doesn’t pay it­self an as­sess­ment fee for the lots they own, the board de­cided the lots were in good stand­ing be­cause there was no fee owed. The as­sess­ment election was very close, but the pro­posal did not pass.

Ear­lier this year an as­sess­ment election was post­poned. Some mem­bers com­plained about the board’s plan to vote the lots and in re­sponse the board con­sid­ered two al­ter­na­tives.

One al­ter­na­tive was not to vote the lots at all but that leaves the pos­si­bil­ity that an as­sess­ment election might not reach the quo­rum re­quire­ment. At least 50 per­cent of the lots must be voted to make the election valid and his­tor­i­cally that doesn’t al­ways hap­pen.

The board con­sid­ered a sec­ond al­ter­na­tive to vote the lots ac­cord­ing to the per­cent­ages of the com­mu­nity votes. Those per­cent­ages would have to be cal­cu­lated after the mem­ber­ship votes were counted, but it could be done by the com­pany that runs the election. The sec­ond al­ter­na­tive would not change the results of the election but it might solve the quo­rum is­sue.

While the board seemed to ac­cept that mem­bers don’t want the votes used, the cost of the election was a con­sid­er­a­tion. Board mem­ber Pat Laury said it might be more re­spon­si­ble to use the votes than to waste the $38,000 in costs for an election that doesn’t meet the quo­rum.

After dis­cus­sion, the board voted to not use the lots in an as­sess­ment election in 2019.

Lynn Atkins/The Weekly Vista

Speak­ing dur­ing the open fo­rum of the POA Board of Di­rec­tors meeting, mem­ber Theron Don­nell asks for a show of hands of peo­ple who sup­port the trail sys­tem. He said crit­ics of the trail sys­tem are up­set about the fact that the trails are open to the pub­lic, not the trails them­selves.

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