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Commission on Common Ownership Communities

Minutes of the Monthly Meeting

June 4, 2014

(Approved)

The monthly meeting of the Commission on Common Ownership Communities was called to order at 7:05 pm by Chairwoman Elizabeth Molloy.

Present: Commissioners Molloy, Dubin, Brandes, Zajic, Fishbein, Weinstein, Stone, Winegar, Cromwell, Fonoroff, Ethier, Mays, Kabakoff (13)

Absent: Commissioners Alkon, Coyle (2)

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

            1. MINUTES.  The minutes of the May, 2014 meeting were approved as drafted.

            2. COMMUNITY FORUM:

            None.

            3. NEW CASES PRESENTED FOR REVIEW:

            The Commission voted unanimously to accept jurisdiction of #64-13, Greencastle Lakes CA v. Nageeb, to issue an order of default, and to refer the case to a hearing panel for further proceedings.  The hearing panel will consist of Commissioners Ethier, Mays, and Weinstein.

            The Commission also voted unanimously (Mays, abstaining) to accept jurisdiction of #75-13, Johnson v. Riverstone Condominium, and to refer the dispute to a hearing panel for further proceedings.  Commissioners Fishbein and Winegar will serve on the panel and the case is set for a hearing July 23, 2014.

            At the request of the staff, the Commission unanimously agreed to refer #24-14, Prue v. Olde Georgetown Village Condo, to the Office of Zoning and Administrative Hearings if the staff is unable to obtain a volunteer panel chair for the case.

            4. REQUESTS TO THE COMMISSION:

            None

            5. DECISIONS AND ORDERS ISSUED; OTHER LITIGATION:

            The staff summarized the recent decision in ##52-12/67-12, McBeth and Muse v. Fountain Hills CA.  In that case a hearing panel held that the open meetings law of the HOA Act applied only to gatherings of the board of directors of an HOA to make decisions on HOA business.  By implication, meetings of the board of directors simply to discuss association business, such as work sessions, are not “meetings” under the law and therefore do not have to be held in open session.

            6. COUNTY ATTORNEY'S REPORT:

            Mr. Wilson reported on a citizen request to videotape CCOC meetings.  He said that the state laws allowed government agencies to set “reasonable restrictions” on the recording of official meetings, but they could not prevent such recordings.   He agreed to investigate whether any other county boards or commission have adopted any rules on the topic that can be provided as samples along with the model regulations published in the Maryland Open Meetings Act Manual for the CCOC to discuss at the next meeting.

            7. STAFF REPORTS:

            Staff reported it has completed and published the Spring, 2014 CCOC Communicator, which features a lead article by Ronald Bolt on rule enforcement procedures.  Mass emails have also been sent to publicize the June 21 training seminar.

            8. COMMITTEE REPORTS:

            Ms. Winegar circulated survey results gathered at the Annual Forum.  One of the results is that almost a third of the associations attending were self-managed, and a quarter of the associations had not had reserved studies performed.  Most of those surveyed wanted a seminar on covenant enforcement and about half wanted seminars on budgets and assessments.  Half of them said that the Annual Forum was very helpful.

            Mr. Stone reported for the Legislative Committee.  It considered a survey on two issues: amending bylaws, and removing the prohibition in the condominium act against prohibiting the leasing of units.  After discussion, the Commission agreed to combine two issues into one survey: amending bylaws by a simple majority vote, and gathering information on reserve funding practices.  Those interested will draft a survey to send to the staff before the next meeting.

            Ms. Molloy said the CCOC was investigating its options for responding to the Ethics Commission ruling on CCOC panel chairs.  She will assemble a group to prepare a proposal from the CCOC on the issue.

            9. OLD BUSINESS:

            Ms. Molloy led a discussion on the CCOC budget.  She pointed out that the Commission on Commissions had recommended that the CCOC continue unchanged, and had also recommended that the CCOC publicize its hearings more widely.  After discussion it was agreed to invite OCP Director Eric Friedman to the next meeting to discuss the CCOC budget and to show the specific uses to which the CCOC funds are being put.

            10. NEW BUSINESS:

            The staff reported on a suggestion from OCP that the County amend Chapter 10B to make mediation mandatory.  The consensus was that such a requirement would cause more delay and impose more work on the staff, which the staff cannot currently afford to handle.  However, the topic can be raised with the OCP at next month’s meeting on the CCOC budget.

            Ms. Ethier reported on a recent hearing she chaired, at which the respondent did not attend.  Instead, the panel allowed her to participate by speaker phone after the County Attorney’s office had advised that such participation was allowed by law.  The other party did not object.  Ms. Ethier reported that managing such a hearing was more difficult than a normal hearing would have been.  For example, it often had to be explained to the respondent who was speaking or asking questions, since she could not see them.  Ms. Ethier thought that a videoconference would be marginally better.  Mr. Wilson said that the Commission on Landlord-Tenant Affairs had rules on videoconferencing and he would circulate them to the CCOC.  The consensus was that remote participation should not be encouraged, and that the hearing panel should accept the respondent’s testimony in the hearing recently conducted.

            The staff notified the Commission of a proposal from Councilmember Leventhal’s office to restrict the use of “non-essential” pesticides, which included herbicides as well.  Interested members were to send their comments to the staff, which would prepare a response to Mr. Leventhal’s office on behalf of the CCOC.

            11. NEXT MEETING:  The next meeting will be Wednesday, July 2, and the following meeting will be Wednesday, August 6.

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