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April 2024 Meeting Minutes

Updated: Jun 14

Briarwood HOA meeting

April 9, 2024


Call to Order


  • The meeting was called to order at 7:04 pm.

  • The meeting was held on-line via Microsoft Teams.


Roll Call


  • Present: Jean Zwier, Patrick Daniels, Chrislyn Particka, Lynne Page, Mike Karagoulis, George Plastis, Kayla Daniels, Jim Rypkema (quorum met)

  • Guests: Joey Schmidt, David Austen, Roland Gifford, Gus Breymann


Approval of Minutes from the 3/12/2024 Meeting


  • Jean made a motion to change the reasoning for not having a garden committee to that it has not historically been an official board committee. 

  • Jim made a motion to approve the minutes as amended, Mike and George seconded. The vote was unanimous, and the motion carried.


Approval of the Minutes from the 2/13/2024 Meeting


  • Pat made a motion to approve the minutes, Chrislyn and Jim seconded. The vote was unanimous, and the motion carried.


Announcements


  • Pat thanked the board members for considering two motions by email. They were:

  • The contract with Sisu for mowing and snow removal has been renewed for three years. Pat made the motion for this action, Jim seconded. The vote was unanimous, and the motion carried.

  • The inclusion of account balances has been removed for past meeting minutes and will no longer be included moving forward. The vote was unanimous. Pat made the motion for this action, Jim seconded. The vote was unanimous, and the motion carried.


Officer and Committee Reports


  • President, Pat

  • Where should the board meet? 

  • Pat stated there was a brief discussion of potential locations by some members after the March board meeting. The HOA can use Okemos schools for free four times per year. He also stated that he believes the annual meeting must be in person, and that it is preferable to do the first meeting on the new board in person, which leaves two other meetings in the calendar year. 

  • There was discussion about other places (e.g., library, township firehall, township offices) and none would work for various reasons. 

  • Lynne volunteered to search for other spaces and Chrislyn asked if anyone was a member of a church that had a meeting room and allowed use of it. 

  • Pat made a motion to hold the June and October 2024 meetings at Chippewa School, Lynne/Jim seconded. The vote was unanimous, and the motion carried. 

  • Guest Bruce Timmons 

  • Bruce asked if announcements can be added to the website. The issue will be passed to the communications committee.

  • Bruce raised the issue of unleashed dogs in the nature park and asked the board to send a letter to go to residents of Fox Hollow and Knob Hill. 

  • Jim said that he also sees a lot of people running with unleashed dogs, and suggested Rick Grillo, MTPD Chief and Briarwood resident, may be able to share some appropriate steps. 

  • Chrislyn said that if a letter is sent to surrounding neighborhoods that one should also be sent to Briarwood residents. Jean agreed, stating that it should go in the newsletter and that the issue has been ongoing for years. 

  • There was discussion about where letters might be sent; a letter to Knob Hill would go to the management and to Fox Hollow would go to the HOA. The Briarwood announcement would go in the newsletter. 


  • Vice President, Jim

  • Jim stated that it’s good to be back on the board and that he previously served as president for three years. He is rekindling his relationships with county and township officials and that it is going well. 


  • Treasurer, Lynne

  • Lynne stated that she is in the process of transitioning the bookkeeping from Ray and Pat to her. She has had several questions and has not been able to confirm if an 1120 tax return has been filed for 2023. She also asked Pat if they could meet soon to go over some documents. There was further discussion about where previous documents are stored.

  • Pat said that Ray handled the filing.  He also noted that there at least some hard copies of documents were in the pumphouse – but Ray scanned/filed several tax documents in 2021 and 2022 to get the HOA current.  He will follow up with Ray.

  • Jean asked if the HOA has received the water bill for the garden. Pat said he hadn’t seen anything – but suggested that Jean email the treasurer email address, as the email will go to both Lynne and him.  


  • Secretary, Chrislyn 

  • No report.


  • ACCE Committee

  • Lynne gave the report. She raised issues about aesthetics and covenants. She stated that the board has a well-established procedure for following the covenants and that she is sorry to see they have not been followed to the detriment of the neighborhood; the board is tasked with preserving aesthetics and thus, property values. She sent an article that articulates why HOAs are good and asked all board members to read it so it can be discussed at the next meeting, and then perhaps publish it in the newsletter or on the website. She also sent a short document that describes the written approval of an ACCE application. 

  • Jim stated that since the previous Thursday, he has spent a lot of time on ACCE committee work, and that it’s his responsibility as a board/committee member. He suggested the board consider removing the 30-day default approval clause.

  • Kayla replied that the 30-day clause is in the covenants. 

  • Jim stated that when the neighborhood was built, fences were a rare instance, only approved for pools. Now the board is getting many fence requests, which places a large burden on the ACCE committee. He acknowledged that the current board has a huge challenge in blending the values of long-term residents vs. newer residents. He also noted that other nearby neighborhoods have stayed firm on no fences. 

  • Lynne stated that she is not in favor of the modifications to Mr. Schmidt’s fence but that she understands it does not violate Meridian Township code. She requested that Mr. Schmidt be required to submit a new application to have new options to the current eyesore as it is not acceptable to the aesthetics of the neighborhood. She feels sorry for Mr. Schmidt but does not think the fence is acceptable. 

  • Pat suggested that the ACCE look at adding more members, with the reminder that committee members do not have to be board members. He also asked everyone to remain as objective as possible when it comes to ACCE requests, that what one may like or dislike, and to focus on what the covenants do and do not allow. He requested that the ACCE bring suggested changes to the board. 

  • Guest Gus Breymann requested that the ACCE discontinue using the short fence application that is on the website as the form is too short and does not include enough information. 

  • Pat noted that the information online came from the written form – and was voted on and approved by the board at the time.  He again said that ACCE is welcome to propose edits to the form and the HOA website, but this will require a board vote.

  • Guest Joey Schmidt thanked the board for the invitation to the meeting. Joey stated that his fence had been approved by the 2023 ACCE and that he is following the fence line that they suggested. He spoke with the neighbors as suggested on the fence form, who were supportive. Other neighbors are complaining about the fence, and he is disappointed that they did not come talk to him, and instead went to the board. He has spent much time talking to board/ACCE members and Meridian Township officials. The experience has been very negative for him. 

  • Chrislyn, Kayla, and Pat stated that they appreciated his comments. 

  • Jim thanked Joey for attending and said that as ACCE chair, he is allowing Joey to continue building the fence. 

  • Joey thanked the board, and as an employee of OPS, wanted to state that OPS buildings will be completely unavailable during the summer for potential board meetings due to renovations. 

  • Lynne him for his perspective and regrets what he has been through. She stated she would like the ACCE to consider suggesting a modification and to work through a better resolution.


  • Audit Chair

  • Lynne has an audit reconciliation form that has been used in past years. She stated that non-board neighbors have volunteered to review forms. She will make a formal proposal in a future meeting. 


  • Communications Committee 

  • Pat gave the report for Kristin, as she was absent. Kristin will be reaching out to the events committee to see if they would like help with flyers. Kristin also put together a rough draft for a survey to be sent to neighbors regarding improvements to neighborhood common areas. Chrislyn and Pat have made comments, and a version will be ready by the May meeting for the board to vote on.


  • Events Committee

  • Kayla stated that the garage sale will be June 7 and June 8, with trash to treasure on June 9. The special trash pickup will be on June 10 and June 11, with one for large items and one for smaller items.

  • They are working on a list of food trucks that will be in the neighborhood this year. Keeping with one or two week rotation, depending on truck availability and asks.

  • Elizabeth Pahl will coordinate National Night Out, which is on August 6 from 5-7 pm. 

  • They will soon discuss the fall picnic and luminaries. 

  • Lynne asked how people sign up for the trash pickup. Kayla stated that it is on the website, and that payment is also made on the website. Then a list of addresses is provided to Grainger. 

  • Jean stated that she had received a National Night Out flyer in the mail and that she will give it to Elizabeth or Kayla.


  • Maintenance Committee

  • Mike stated that the Sisu contract for mowing and snow removal was renewed for three years. Chrislyn is working to find a provider for lawn fertilizer and pesticide applications.

  • Mike raised discussion of the security light at the old playground area. It flickers off and on, is dim, and that a tree has grown and obscures it. He does not see that it needs to be kept. 

  • Lynne spoke with neighbors about the light and they prefer to keep it. The light is provided by Consumers and the HOA does not pay for maintenance, etc., and that Consumers will fix it if they are informed of issues.

  • Further discussion included support from Jean to keep it, George suggested that Consumers may re-direct the light so that it better illuminates the area, Chrislyn questioned if Consumers would consider removing the tree as maintenance, Jean stated that the HOA pays Consumers to use the area under the power lines. 

  • There was no motion made to remove the light, so it will remain. 

  • Mike stated that the nature park has at least four dead trees; some could fall on neighbors’ houses so he thinks that all should be removed. It also appeared that some neighbors have been dumping yard debris in the park. 

  • There was discussion about how much of the tree should be left in the park after they are cut down. Chrislyn suggested to remove large trunk pieces and leave smaller diameter parts behind to provide habitat. Guest David Austin agreed. He is a big fan of the nature park and noted that the developer of the neighborhood called it a “preserve.” He encourages it be left as natural as possible. Jean and Lynne agreed. 

  • Pat noted that board approval is not needed to obtain quotes for removal of the dead trees.  Mike said he would make some calls.

  • Lynne raised the issue of tree hazards along neighborhood outlots. 

  • Mike explained that the outlots are the pathways, a strip of land adjacent to Kinawa drive, and the Tamarack and Heritage entrances, and that there is encroachment of them. During the August storm, there were lots of trees down in the pathways, and he noticed that there are fences over the lot lines, yards have taken over, trampolines, etc. How should the board deal with that? 

  • Pat suggested that he coordinate with the ACCE. When were the fences installed? When does Adverse Possession go into effect? 

  • Lynne suggested that with the details that go into Adverse Possession, that research should be done and a discussion planned for the May meeting. George agreed – lot line location, etc. needs to be explored.

  • Pat stated that he had gotten an inquiry about No Mow May as it’s being promoted by East Lansing. 

  • Jean said that last year, the board did not take action on lawns that had not been mowed. 

  • Chrislyn stated that there is little science-based evidence that No Mow May provides all of the benefits that is claimed. However, as there may be some benefit, she would not recommend that the board take action on long lawns in May. 

  • Chrislyn provided an update about the search for a new lawn fertilizer and pesticide application company. She made contact with a company at the Lansing Home and Garden Show that is willing to developed a less-extensive service package. 


  • Nominations Committee

  • Jim reported that he has been talking to some neighbors. 


  • Welcoming Committee

  • Jean reported that she has pulled data from the Meridian Township website to look for sales in our neighborhood. She tried to determine how far to go back to welcome neighbors, as so many were missed during COVID. She settled on talking to newer neighbors first and tried to visit 8 homes last year. She missed a lot of people but left flyers with neighborhood information and has made some connections that way. 

  • Lynne and Chrislyn are still willing to welcome people. 

  • Pat asked if we still had enough goodies; Jean said yes. 


New Business

  • None


Member/Guest Comments

  • Gus Breymann stated that it was a good meeting. He reinforced his thought that the short fence form should no longer be used. He also asked how many ACCE members have been making decisions in the recent few years and recommends that the ACCE get board approval before OK-ing request, suggesting that it be completed by email. He also sensed a sentiment among some board members that they cannot deny applications, but that he believes that is the role of the board to sometimes do. He also said that he thinks neighbors not on the board should have the right to object to fences, etc. and suggested the ACCE take that into account.

  • Pat noted the whole purpose of having an ACCE Committee is to remove this from board meetings.  He added that neighbors should be informed – but does not have any say in the matter.  He again noted that the ACCE Committee should consider expanding to five members.

  • David Austen agreed with Gus’s comments about fences. His main comments were about the Nature Park, and how he has had conversations with an ecologist about the maintenance of native plants and how to promote them, and how to inhibit invasive plants. He would like to meet with Mike to talk about these things. 

  • Mike offered comments about the ACCE approval process, that it’s his opinion that personal circumstances should not be included when considering what does and does not get approved, especially considering that people move.

  • George, to follow up on Mike’s comment, stated that the application should include a clause that an owner must remove a fence if they move from the property. He also is very concerned about fences that are encroaching on pathways and is upset that those fences were approved in the first place, as it could be considered a form of stealing. 

  • Jean stated that she agrees personal circumstances should not be taken into consideration, but that since there have been so many variances over the years, that it is difficult to deny most fences. 

  • Mike stated that he does not think that precedence of other fences should influence approvals moving forward. 

  • Kayla stated that she thinks it’s hard to define the vision of the neighborhood. It’s not very clear in the covenants. As a personal example, she and Pat were not provided a copy of covenants when they purchased their house, and had seen so many fences when they toured the neighborhood before purchasing, that they were very surprised when their initial fence request was denied. She added that, as Jim mentioned earlier, the vision of the neighborhood has changed since the covenants were signed and that the ACCE must be as objective as possible when it comes to fences. And the board should really consider if fences do decrease value, and suggested that realtors be consulted. 

  • Jean noted that she specifically sought information in 2020 and 2021 to support the argument that fences decreased property value.  She could find no such support 

  • Mike stated that he is understanding that Kayla thinks the board should work on the vision. 

  • Kayla said that she has heard a lot from long-terms residents about park-like vision and wonders if that is the vision for newer neighbors. 

  • Lynne agreed and said that she thinks communication is important and that context is a consideration. But that when you buy a home, you know what the covenants are. She thinks that fences are detrimental and consistency is important. 

  • George would like to see a list of prohibited fences and that the uniformity that was present when they first moved to the neighborhood has been lost. 

  • Kayla said there is a list of what is prohibited is on the website and that the ACCE, at the time, took a long time to develop it. 

  • Lynne suggested that it needs some work – and Kayla invited her to work on it. Lynne said that it is too loose and that a 2008 court order ruled that the specifics of a fence do not have to in the covenants to be enforceable. 

  • Pat noted that, as he has said before in conversation with Lynne, that a court order from 16 years ago may or may not apply, depending on the specific issue being argued.

  • Kayla said that the problem was that any definite language in the fence requirements would require a change to the covenants, per advice from an attorney. 

  • Pat reiterated an earlier comment, that if the ACCE would like to re-work forms, etc., that they should put things in writing and propose it to the board. 


Adjournment

  • Jean made a motion to adjourn, Kayla seconded. The vote was unanimous, and the motion carried. 

  • The meeting adjourned at 9:03 pm.


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