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Commission on Common Ownership Communities

Minutes of the Monthly Meeting

September 11, 2013

(Approved)

The monthly meeting of the Commission on Common Ownership Communities was called to order at 7:10 pm by Chairperson Elizabeth Molloy.

Present: Commissioners Molloy, Dubin, Kabakoff, Alkon, Stone, Fishbein, Fonoroff, Ethier, Weinstein, Coyle (10).

Absent: Commissioners Cromwell, Winegar, Whelan, Brandes, Zajic (5)

Also attending:  Associate County Attorney Walter Wilson; CCOC Staff Peter Drymalski.

            1. MINUTES.  The minutes of the August, 2013, meeting were unanimously approved as drafted, with an amendment by Mr. Weinstein to Item 8, showing that he recommended the use of the King Farm Community Room.  (Alkon, Dubin, Fishbein abstained.)

            2. COMMUNITY FORUM:

            None.

            3. NEW CASES PRESENTED FOR REVIEW:

The Commission considered Case No. 36-13, Steve Wasser v. The Sherwood Condominium.  Mr. Drymalski stated his opinion that although the Commission had jurisdiction over the allegations of the dispute, it should nonetheless reject the dispute under the business judgment rule because all the possible legal issues have been resolved in a way favorable to the condominium association by other hearing panels in other cases and the only remaining issue is whether the board had the right to exercise its discretion the way it did.  Mr. Wilson disagreed, saying as long as the Commission had jurisdiction, it should proceed to hear the case and let the hearing panel decide on the interpretation of the bylaws and laws.  The Commission voted 8 to 1 (Stone, opposed; Fonoroff abstaining) to accept jurisdiction of the dispute.  The Commission then voted 9 to 1 (Weinstein, abstaining) to deny the motion for a default.  Finally, the Commission voted 9 to 1 (Fonoroff, abstaining) to deny the motion to dismiss.  Ms. Ethier and Mr. Dubin were appointed to the hearing panel.

            4. REQUESTS TO THE COMMISSION:

            None

            5. DECISIONS AND ORDERS ISSUED; OTHER LITIGATION:

There were several important decisions issued in August, which are summarized in the Staff's Monthly Report.

            6. COUNTY ATTORNEY'S REPORT:

Mr. Wilson reported that the County Executive has not decided whether the County should intervene in any pending appeals.

            7. STAFF REPORTS:

Mr. Drymalski thanked the panel chairs and Mr. Wilson for their assistance in clearing up a backlog of decisions, and reported that the CCOC is now up-to-date in its Decisions & Orders.

Mr. Drymalski reported that he was interviewed by a writer for CAI's national magazine, "Common Grounds," as part of an upcoming article on government agencies across the country that assist community associations.

Mr. Drymalski reported that he had attended a work session of the County Council's committee on Bill 19-13.  The committee favorably reported on the Bill, with the amendment that the bill give the CCOC the right to award attorney fees to any prevailing complainant under certain conditions, regardless of whether the complainant is a member or an association.

            8. COMMITTEE REPORTS:

Ms. Ethier reported that the Annual Forum Committee will focus the Forum on the topics of "Reserves, Reserve Studies, and Capital Budgets."  It will choose a date and speakers.

The Legislative Committee did not meet.

Ms. Molloy reported for the Education Committee.  It will host a seminar with CAI on the topic of Fundamentals of Volunteer Leadership" in the COB Cafeteria on Saturday, December 7.  CCOC will charge a $10 admission fee to cover the costs of supplying lunch and refreshments.  It will announce the seminar via press releases, the CCOC's "eSubscribe" program, and an email directed to all registered community associations.  Mr. Fonoroff offered to assist the staff in reformatting any mailing list information received from the DHCA licensing office.

            9. OLD BUSINESS:

None.

            10. NEW BUSINESS:

The Commission voted unanimously to accept the application of former Commissioner Allen Farrar to serve as a panel chair for default cases.

Ms. Ethier raised the issue of mandating periodic reserve studies, and offered to research the issue further if the CCOC desired.  She referred to a meeting she had with a county councilmember, who criticized the CCOC for not requiring reserve studies.  Ms. Molloy expressed concern that a requirement that an association must conduct periodic reserves studies might be a burden on smaller associations with minor or no common property. Mr. Dubin cautioned that the existence of a reserve study, by itself, is no guarantee that an association will act on the recommendations and budget its reserves properly.  Mr. Wilson gave his opinion that the County might not have the power to adopt a law mandating reserve studies because, arguably, the State has preempted the regulation of community associations for itself.  Other members expressed the idea that the County had a legitimate interest in encouraging or even mandating reserve studies in order to maintain and improve its housing stock.  After further discussion, the consensus of the Commission was to allow Ms. Ethier to do more research on the topic and to report back to the CCOC when she was ready.

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

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