President’s Report (and Special Request)

As noted above, we have a new law firm.  At our last meeting, the Board voted unanimously to retain and transition to the firm of Chadwick, Washington, Moriarty, Elmore & Bunn P.C., which has its main offices in Fairfax and Richmond, with other locations throughout the state.  Besides being focused exclusively on serving community associations, the firm offers a series of annual seminars for its clients and an efficient and cost-effective arrangement for handling requests for legal advice on simpler, day-to-day issues.

As our first project for Chadwick Washington, the Board also voted to have the firm advise us on the number of directors we should have and their term of office, and, if appropriate, to amend our governing documents with respect to those items.  Given that our governing documents are now 32, 29 and 17 years old, respectively, the Board also anticipates a vote on tasking the firm to undertake a broader update of them, which is one of the special areas of competence of our designated principal attorney there, Allen B. Warren.

Special Request:  While we’re talking about our governing documents, we’ve recently discovered that no one on the Board, or at NRP, has a signed copy of our Bylaws, last updated in 2001.  If any of you longer-term owners happen to have a fully executed copy of the Bylaws, please let one of us know so that we can make arrangements to copy it for the Board and return your copy to you.  You can contact me at wzmphoa@gmail.com or any one of the other directors at the emails listed below.
 

Report on Burke’s Spring Branch

As noted in prior Newsletters, periodic e-mails from National Realty Partners (NRP), discussions at the annual meeting, and monthly discussion at several Board meetings over the past few years, the Board has been addressing erosion in Burke’s Spring Branch (BSB), the small intermittent stream that runs inside the woods along the eastern edge of our property.  Several areas of the stream bank are eroding the common area and undercutting trees and tree roots along the stream bank at a noticeable and measureable rate – a potential safety issue for adjacent homes, as well as for the sanitary sewer line that runs underground between the streambank and the patios of the row of homes in lower Van Tuyl. 

In March we tackled one of these so-called “hot spots” – the first of several on our radar – and the one most visible, which has been encroaching on the turf next to the streambank.  Our concern there was that the streambank was moving ever closer to the rear patio of the closest homes – not an immediate threat, but still a concern.  We addressed the tree hazard by cutting and removing one large tree and pruning two large “leaders” from an even larger tree in that area.  We addressed the streambank erosion in that small area by having a contractor install “rip-rap” (large, irregularly shaped rocks that help “armor” the streambank and help slow the flow of water by their disruptive, irregular shapes). The work undertaken to-date addresses about 25 feet of streambank.  Tree work – cutting, pruning, and removal of debris ran about $2,000 and rip-rap installation was $7,900, amounting to about $10,000 in total for all 25 feet.  It would have been even more, except that we didn’t need a detailed plan and design for that work or permits from Fairfax County or other agencies. 
 
The total length of Burke’s Spring Branch in our HOA’s Common Areas is around 750 feet – or about 30 times the length of the first “hot spot” – and much of it would apparently require a detailed plan and design, along with construction permits. Clearly, we cannot afford to do the same level of remediation along the entire stretch of BSB. Luckily, the entire streambed does not present the same challenges or need for remediation as the initial hot spot, so the same level of remediation shouldn’t be necessary for all of BSB.  Nonetheless, based on visits and proposals from multiple engineering firms, it appears that the total amount of work required would still be somewhere in the range of six figures.

At this point, the County has asked us to put our remediation efforts on hold pending its further review and feedback from the Fairfax County Storm Water Planning Division.  To assist the County in its review, we have provided it with photos and videos of BSB taken shortly after some of the recent heavy rainfall in April.  We have also provided photos of the rip-rap installation that was completed in March.  

Given that the remaining streambed area is significantly larger than the first project, it seems likely that we would need a plan/design for the entire stretch of BSB on our property, plus the County’s approval of them.  It’s also likely that we would need some as yet unknown number and variety of permits to allow construction to be undertaken in the remaining areas that would need such work.

The work undertaken to-date has been funded by the Capital Reserves Budget, which has a current balance at around $160K.  Work in BSB has been anticipated for a number of years, and there is a line item in the Association’s 2015 Reserve Study that earmarks a certain portion as a “Storm Water Drainage Allowance” and includes “a stream erosion control project”. But until we have a better understanding of how much of the streambed we’ll need to remediate and the associated design, plan and constructions costs, we cannot rule out the possibility of eventual transfers from operating funds to Capital Reserves, increases in the annual assessments, or even special assessments as needed to ensure that we maintain an appropriate level of Capital Reserves for the Association.

So, where are we now and what can we expect for the remainder of 2018 and the next year or two?  For now, we are on hold, pending feedback from the County.  We have proposals from two engineering firms for strategic planning and design, to include steering us through the permitting process with FXCO and possibly with the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The scope of work in the two proposals differs in level of effort and the portion of the streambed proposed to be addressed. Upon receipt of feedback from the County, those proposals will be amended to address a comparable level of effort so that the Board can make a fair evaluation and comparison.  The planning/design/permitting process will likely require six months (most of which will be in “wait mode”) pending county (or other) review of the plan/design.

At such point as any plans/designs are approved and accepted by the cognizant agencies, we currently anticipate that actual construction/remediation would be undertaken over a period two years, 2019 and 2020 at the earliest.  The first phase of the remaining remediation would likely address the portion of BSB (about 250 feet) below the concrete weir/crossing area at the foot of the steps coming down from Van Tuyl place and leading to the path in the park on the other side of the stream.  The second phase of remediation would address the portion of BSB upstream from that crossing area.  The upstream portion is longer/larger, but less problematic.

Finally, looking for more leverage with FXCO, we have approached our upstream neighbor (McLean Greens) about jointly lobbying the County.  The intent would be trying to pursue an arrangement where the County would weigh in with some resources if we present a coherent plan for addressing not just the McLean Province portion of BSB, but a larger portion that might include McLean Greens and possibly Stockwell Manor, which is where Burke’s Spring emerges from underground and starts the flow into the streambed.  To date, response has been underwhelming but we will continue to make that pitch.

For some photos of BSB after recent rainfall and to see how the rip-rap looks in the stream bed, please take a look at the last page of this Newsletter.
 

Communications Committee Report

The Communications Committee is pleased to provide the 2018 Winter edition of the MPHOA Newsletter, the first of our four planned newsletters for 2018.  MPHOA has three primary means of communicating with owners and residents:  the MPHOA web site, our periodic newsletters, and e-mail “blasts” from NRP to all owners and residents for single-focus, time-sensitive issues and news items.

As a step to improve community communications, early in 2017 we began to upgrade/replace the MPHOA web site with an improved appearance, more content and features, and improved timeliness and usefulness to owners and residents.  The new web site is:  http://www.mcleanprovincehoa.com

Please take some time to access the new web site, explore the content and features, and provide us with your feedback and suggestions on other enhancements that you would find useful.

A fourth method for communication has been in place for several years, but is relatively unknown.  The method is via “Google Groups” – essentially an informal community electronic bulletin board and is not an “official” means for the Board to communicate MPHOA news and is not endorsed by, nor used by, the Board to communicate with the community.  Instead, you may find it useful in posting items for sale, requesting suggestions for contractors or pet sitters, etc.  Click on the link below and it will take you to Google Groups.  On your first visit, you will need to request/create an account.  Alternatively, contact the site moderator, Howard Frost at hefrost@gmail.com for assistance.

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!forum/mclean-province 

Our Newsletter is distributed electronically to all owners and residents whose e-mail address is on file with our Property Manager, Mary Lockhart of National Realty Partners (NRP).  Should your e-mail address change, please provide the new e-mail address to Mary at MLockhart@NRPartnersLLC.com .  If you know of neighbors who currently do not receive electronic correspondence from NRP, please refer them to NRP to have their contact information added to our master e-mail list.

Keep your eyes open for a feature article about McLean Province HOA later this month in the Washington Post’s “Where We Live” feature in the weekly Real Estate section usually included in the Saturday edition.  We were visited earlier this month by a freelance writer who spent time with a few members of the Board and who walked the community area with those Board members to get a first-hand view of the community to go with the drier facts and figures that the Board members provided.
 

Architectural Review Committee (ARC) Report

Winter is tough on the community’s architecture and maintenance issues.   Some lessons learned from our first major 2018 cold weather:

1.  Make sure your owner and tenant emergency contact information (phone number(s) and e-mail address) is on file with NRP.  In the event of a burst pipe (it happened in the recent wave of freezing weather) we may need to contact someone as soon as possible.  E-mail addresses are also important to provide you with notification about snow and ice removal.

2.  Be sure to shut off the water to your outside front and back water faucets if the temperature is going to be below freezing.  The outside water “bibs” are the most vulnerable and tend to freeze and burst quickly.   Typically, there are separate shut off valves for each outside water faucet, which are located in the downstairs utility closet.  You might want to also consider putting an insulated cover over the outside faucet spigots.  A number of Styrofoam type covers that just clip onto the faucet can usually be found in most hardware stores.

3.  If you are going to be out of town for several days during a very cold spell, you might want to have someone stop by your residence periodically and turn on the water in a sink, tub, or toilet for a few minutes.   This keeps the water in the outside pipes and water meter moving rather than let the water sit and freeze.   Note: if a pipe freezes or bursts somewhere between the water meter (usually located at the front curb) and your house, you are responsible for its maintenance and repair.  If the water meter or pipe in the street breaks that is the responsibility of Fairfax Water.  While most of the house to water meter pipes are buried a couple of feet underground and have a fair amount of protection from freezing, the water meters are more vulnerable.  Keeping some water moving through the system every other day or so will help minimize the freezing threat.

While winter is not conducive to outdoor maintenance and repair activities, it is a good time for inspection, assessment, and planning for spring and summer maintenance needs.   Without all the tree leaves and other vegetation blocking your view, this is a good time for close inspections of your roof, the outside trim, and ledger boards.   It is also a good time to take a look at your fences.  Warped and missing boards are much easier to see as well as fence posts that may be leaning or finials (decorative ball on the top of fence posts) that are missing.  Remember in planning for your fence repair, the outsides of fences and gates are not allowed to be stained.  Include removal of any stain (e.g. striping or sanding or board replacement) and power washing in your fence repair plans.  Maintenance of fences is a particularly weak area in our community compliance with the Architectural Guidelines.  Take advantage of the clear visibility during winter and seriously check out your fence.

Finally, please remember that most exterior repair activities do not need advance approval.  However, replacement of external features, like roofs, windows, and doors do require homeowners to submit an External Change Request.  The External Change Request form, and the overall Architectural Guidelines document, can be found on the community website:   www.mcleanprovincehoa.com
 

Landscape Committee Report

After trash/recycling pick-up and snow plowing, landscaping is probably the next biggest area of importance to our community, even if we don’t think of it as an immediate and personal benefit as we might with trash pick-up and plowed streets when it snows.  In budget terms, landscaping costs are, by far, our largest expense.  While we’re probably all aware of the common area mowing conducted by our contractor, Environmental Enhancements, Inc. (EE) – 24 times per year, and leaf removal, conducted three times late each autumn, we may be less aware of more than a dozen other “one-of-a-kind” services they provide – fertilizing, mulching, weed control, aeration & reseeding each autumn, etc.  We think that all of these services contribute to the very attractive appearance of the community and hopefully to the “curb appeal”, and hence, to the value of our properties.  We believe our landscape expenses are as much of an “investment” as they are an expense.

For 2018 our “investment” via EE is $43,391 for our basic landscape maintenance contract – the same as it was last year.

In addition to the basic maintenance contract, the 2018 MPHOA budget includes $26,000 for “one-of-a-kind” investments, including tree cutting and tree pruning expenses.  Although much of the tree cutting and pruning is unplanned – mostly due to storm damage and to a few larger and older trees dying, we can pretty much count on significant “unplanned” tree work each year.  For the past few years we have spent more than $10,000 per year just for tree services.

One last landscape investment comes from our Capital Reserves – planting new trees.  At this point we have no specific plans for new plantings in 2018, but that may change if we lose any of our larger trees due to storm damage or disease.

What can we expect for 2018 as far as landscaping?  One big item on the planning horizon is the remediation of one or more sections of Burke’s Spring Branch, the small intermittent stream that runs inside the woods along the eastern edge of our property.  Several areas of the stream bank are eroding the common area at an unacceptable rate and undercutting trees and tree roots – a potential safety issue. The Landscape Committee and Board are looking at options to address the problem(s).  We currently have two proposals to do the research, planning, design, and permit processing for this work.  Both proposals are approximately $25,000 with another $5,000 in probable costs – and this is only for the pre-construction/engineering phase.  We hope to complete planning and design in 2018, along with remediation of one “hot spot” (bank erosion and undercutting) with the bulk of the construction in 2019.

All of the above is coordinated by our Landscape Committee (LC).  The LC is a group of volunteers that help plan and shape how our landscape budget is spent on our common areas.  The LC meets at 7:30 PM, the 2nd Wednesday of each month at Longfellow School, Room 118.  Meetings are open to all members of the community.  Look for signs announcing our meetings – they are posted each month at the two entrances to the community.  Easy entry to the school is via Entrance #4 (rear/south side).

The LC is looking for new members that have an interest in the maintenance and enhancement of the common areas, especially those who would like to help with some of our hands-on, do-it-yourself  projects. It’s good exercise and a good way to meet your neighbors in the community.  For more information, contact Steve Smith, Chairman of the LC:  ssmith17@cox.net or call him at 703-405-8292.
 

Dog Reminders for All Seasons

Please remember, dogs being walked in the community need to be on a leash.  It is against HOA rules for your dog to be off leash.  It is also a Fairfax County ordinance that they remain on a leash.

An additional courtesy is to always pick up after your dog.  This does not mean pick up after fido and then leave a plastic bag of dog poop somewhere in the common area for others to deal with. Thanks.

Message from the President: 2017 Annual Meeting

MPHOA Owners and Residents,

The Board of Directors is pleased to send you the first MPHOA Newsletter of 2018.  We intend to publish four Newsletters this year, Winter, Spring, Summer, and Fall.  We want to focus each edition on the special concerns and considerations within the community during those four seasons.  In addition, each edition will include the basic information that does not change from season to season and that serves as a key source of information and reference about the community and its management.

The most recent opportunity that we had to address comments and concerns of residents was at our 2017 annual HOA meeting on November 15th.  At that meeting two incumbents (Brian Hult & Steve Smith) and one new member (Howard Frost) were elected to the Board.  The Board enters 2018 with seven members, a decrease from nine members serving for the past few years.  This decrease is not due to any conscious plan on the part of the Board, but simply reflects the fact that with three retirements from the Board in 2017 and only one new candidate, the size of the Board has shrunk.  A full listing of the current Board is included on the last page of this newsletter.

At the subsequent December monthly Board meeting, new officers were elected:  President – Walter Zenner;  Vice President - Oliver Richard; and, Treasurer – Brian Hult.  Brian was also elected Secretary.  Steve Smith was reappointed Landscape Committee Chair, Steve Bay was reappointed Architectural Review Committee Chair, and Brian Hult agreed to continue as Communications Committee Chair.

All owners and residents are invited, and always welcome, at Board meetings which are held the third Thursday of every month at 7:00 PM at Longfellow Middle School.  At every meeting the board sets aside time at the beginning of the meeting for a Homeowners’ Open Forum, reviews and approves the Meeting Minutes from the previous meeting, reviews reports from the Treasurer and the various committees, and covers an ever-varying range of Old Business and New Business Items.  Attending a meeting is a great way to learn more about how our community operates.  We encourage you to attend a Board meeting.  Look for each new monthly meeting Agenda sent to your e-mail address by NRP early in the week for each of the monthly meetings.

Treasurer's Report

The Association’s operating budget for 2017 ended right about on target for the year.  As retired Treasurer Larry Kindsvater explained at the November annual meeting, while most major expense items remained on budget for the year, attorneys’ fees, insurance costs, and miscellaneous administrative expenses (relatively smaller items) were over-budget.  These expenses were more than offset by significantly less spending on snow removal ($2,070) than was budgeted ($13,000).  Sometimes, it’s the other way around.

As for our Capital Reserve and capital spending, we are in good shape.   Our Capital Reserve as of 12/31/2017 stands at $158,000 - on target to meet recommendations from the most recent Reserve Study completed in 2015.  In 2018 we will add approximately $30,000 to that total.  Our Operational Reserves as of the same date are $25,000 (and are used to offset any deficit when snow removal (and other) costs exceed the budgeted amount.  Our Retained Earnings/Unrestricted Equity balance is $17,390.
 

Status: Fairfax County Water Main Upgrade in MPHOA

As we reported in our Summer 2017 Newsletter, on January 20, 2016 Fairfax Water sent a letter to MPHOA property owners and to residents of several other nearby communities announcing county plans to upgrade the water system in our neighborhood and in those other communities – around 18-20 locations in all.  The plans and corresponding surveys were completed later in 2016 and the resulting surveys and plans had called for the actual construction work to begin in the late summer of 2017.
As of late fall 2017, the necessary permits from VDOT (required when digging up sections of public highways) had been obtained and the necessary soil sampling had been completed and work began on the Gervais Circle portion of the project.  That work was completed in late fall, due to unexpectedly nice weather.  However, cold weather precludes this type of work and the planned upgrades at the north end of Van Tuyl Place have been delayed until spring.

The Board keeps in contact with the County and will advise residents when there is a firm schedule for the Van Tuyl portion of this project later this spring.