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Commission on Common Ownership Communities

Minutes of the Monthly Meeting

January 8, 2014

(Approved)

The monthly meeting of the Commission on Common Ownership Communities was called to order at 7:07 pm by Chairperson Elizabeth Molloy.

Present: Commissioners Molloy, Dubin, Kabakoff, Zajic, Fonoroff, Winegar, Coyle, Brandes, Ethier, Fishbein (10).

Absent: Commissioners Alkon, Cromwell, Whelan, Stone, Weinstein (5).

Also attending: Associate County Attorney Walter Wilson, CCOC Staff Ralph Vines and Peter Drymalski; Larry Dorney.

            1. MINUTES.  The minutes of the December meeting were approved as corrected.

            2. COMMUNITY FORUM:

            None.

            3. NEW CASES PRESENTED FOR REVIEW:

            The Commission voted unanimously to accept jurisdiction, pending receipt of a properly-signed complaint, of #65-12, Longmead Crossing CA v. Tran.  The Commission also voted unanimously to accept jurisdiction of #14-13, Sherman v. Plymouth Woods.  Both cases were referred to hearing panels for further consideration.

            The Commission, by a vote of 6 (Molloy, Zajic, Fishbein, Cromwell, Fonoroff, Ethier) to 5 (Dubin, Kabakoff, Winegar, Coyle, Brandes) voted to accept jurisdiction of #30-13, Lopez v. Spring Lake Condominium.  The Commission considered whether it had any jurisdiction over a new rule that did not affect the complainant directly.  Some members pointed out that complainant had the right to complain about any improperly-adopted rule, and that she also claimed that the respondent had no right to make loans to members to pay for necessary repairs.  The majority felt that these were issues that the complainant had the right to raise and have decided.  The matter was referred to a hearing panel for further consideration with the request that the panel consider ordering the parties to attend mediation.

            4. REQUESTS TO THE COMMISSION:

            None.

            5. DECISIONS AND ORDERS ISSUED; OTHER LITIGATION:

            None.

            6. COUNTY ATTORNEY'S REPORT:

            None.

            7. STAFF REPORTS:

The staff reported that 16 people attended the panel chair roundtable on December 12 and that its next project was the revision of the CCOC Manual & Resource Guide to include a new chapter on insurance written by Robin Manougian.

            8. COMMITTEE REPORTS:

Ms. Molloy reported for the Education Committee.  She noted that 44 people attended the CAI seminar on December 7, and that it went very well.  She especially wanted to thank Ms. Ethier, Mr. Dubin, and Mr. and Mrs. Fishbein for all their help during the day.  [Ms. Molloy also deserves much credit for her assistance.]  She suggested that the CCOC might want to investigate whether it would be more economic to hold the seminar in a hotel that can cater it.  In addition to the time commitment required for Commissioners to pick up the food, the Commission spent $1000 for food, which might be better used for a caterer to provide the food. In any event, as there was a large amount of leftover food (as this was the first such event and there was previously no baseline to work from), the Education committee will review the spreadsheet prepared by Commissioner Fishbein to determine the appropriate amount of food items to be ordered.  The Committee needs to pick a date for the second seminar, which will be in either May or June so as not to conflict with the Annual Forum.

Ms. Ethier reported for the Annual Forum Committee.  It has contacted speakers and has received confirmations from most.  It has also selected vendors to be present in person and to remain after all the presentations in order to answer questions from the public.  Another group of vendors will be invited to supply handouts for their firms.  All commissioners must attend.  The committee’s next step will be a publicity plan, including an ad in the CAI newsletter which Ms. Winegar will draft.

            9. OLD BUSINESS:

            None.

            10. NEW BUSINESS:

            Ms. Molloy announced that the CCOC’s annual election of officers will be held at the February meeting, and that all members were encouraged to nominate themselves or someone else.  Mr. Zajic, seconded by Ms. Kabakoff, nominated Ms. Molloy for chairperson, and Ms. Ethier, seconded by Ms. Kabakoff, nominated Mr. Dubin for vice-chairperson.

            Ms. Molloy raised the topic of amending the County Code to regulate automatic renewal contracts.  The CCOC received an inquiry from the Council staff on this topic, which noted that boards of directors had difficulty knowing when some of their long-term contracts were due to expire, and to act in time to terminate the contract and avoid the automatic renewal clause.  This was especially true for laundry room contractors, who usually have 10-year contracts.  The members discussed whether such clauses should be banned, or whether it was sufficient to require a conspicuous reminder from the contractor of the renewal/termination date.  Some managers stated that associations should have professional managers to help avoid automatic renewals and others stated that the boards had a duty to monitor their own contracts.  Mr. Wilson pointed out that any such law potentially exceeds the County’s constitutionally prescribed legislative authority to enact “local” laws only—i.e., laws that do not affect the interests of the entire state or of persons outside of Montgomery County—and therefore, based on the Maryland Court of Appeals’ ruling in Holiday Investment Co. v. Montgomery County, 377 Md. 305 (2003), might not survive judicial scrutiny.

            Mr. Zajic said the CCOC’s task is to consider whether such legislation is a good idea, not whether it is legally-valid—that is for others to determine.  Ms. Molloy said she was not certain to what extent there is a problem and that a better first step would be to educate boards on this issue.

            Ms. Molloy concluded by pointing out that there is no specific legislative proposal to respond to, and that the CCOC should reply to the Council staff by stating that although it is interested in the proposal, it is uncertain as to whether it is a widespread problem, and that increased education might be best at this time.

            11. NEXT MEETING:  The meeting adjourned at 8:45 pm.  The next meeting will be Wednesday, February 5, and the following meeting will be Wednesday, March 5, 2014.

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