Lake voters reject increases in landslide

Hinkle and Williamson elected as directors

By Heather Michon, correspondent

Lake Monticello voters overwhelmingly rejected ballot proposals to raise annual dues and pay a $50 per household subsidy for the community’s two restaurants at the 47th annual meeting of members on Saturday (June 29).

Some members in the packed meeting room gasped as Elections Committee Chairperson Jean Booth read the results:

  • The proposal for a $180 dues increase phased in at $60 per year failed 754-1,346, or 35.9 percent to 64.1 percent; and
  • The proposal for the restaurant subsidy failed 467-1,663, or 21.9 percent to 78.1 percent.

Voter turnout was just over 48 percent, with 2,122 of 4,412 potential ballots returned, a turnout rate Booth deemed “exceptional.” Of those ballots, 1,272 votes were cast by mail, 783 online, and 67 in person.

“We will have to check our records, but this voter turnout may turn out to be one of our highest,” Lake Monticello Owners’ Association (LMOA) Communications Director Judy Fish said in an email to members following the meeting.

The Board of Directors proposed the increases earlier this year, arguing that critical reserve funds for community infrastructure and roads would not be able to keep up with expenses in the years ahead, and that The Pub and Lakeside Restaurant needed an additional annual infusion of money from residents, on top of budgeted amounts from current dues, to remain in operation.

In 2019 LMOA dues were $861.33, plus all homeowners pay a $212 improved property fee for a total bill of $1,073.33. Barcode stickers for entry into the Lake’s gates cost $10 per vehicle per year. The board has the authority to raise dues by 3 percent each year, but additional increases require membership approval.

In online discussions following the vote, some members felt the failure of the ballot measures was a sign that LMOA needs to tighten its fiscal belt and start living within a more modest budget. Others said they understood why the board was requesting the additional money.

Wesley Chambers said he voted for the dues increase because he saw the need to build up reserves for future needs. “Just ask any retiree,” he wrote. “Your 401k is never large enough, especially if you make it into your 90s. My brain understands the financial requirements needed for an association this large. So while I can list the things that madden me, I chose to let my brain overrule my heart.”

The restaurants were a major point of debate on local social media channels, with many arguing the community should not be required to support underperforming amenities.

“They are not a necessary amenity and the community has spoken,” said JoAnne D’Angelo Spitale in a Facebook discussion. “If they cannot sustain themselves without funds from the association, then they should be closed. Rent the buildings out as event venues to the community for a little extra income.”

Voters also selected two new board members from a group of four candidates. Booth reported the final vote counts:

  • Jay Hinkle: 1,090;
  • Johnny Williamson: 1,041;
  • Jane Zimmermann: 878; and
  • Mike Feazel: 785.

Hinkle and Williamson will replace outgoing Directors Marlene Weaver and Larry Cormier.

Both Weaver and Cormier were awarded plaques for their service and praise from board president Rich Barringer.

Barringer credited Weaver with his and Tom Braithwaite’s decision to run for the board after watching her “effort to start improving this community when she thought it was going downhill.”

“Nobody has worked harder for this community than Marlene,” he added. “And I will also tell you, you don’t want to get a call from Marlene when she’s not happy.”

Larry Cormier said it had been a pleasure to work with LMOA staff and community over the years. “Everybody I’ve ever talked to gave me their opinions. I enjoyed listening to them, and nobody ever got nasty. Even when I didn’t agree with them, they would listen to my perspective.”

Editor’s note: Chambers and Spitale gave permission for their quotes to appear in the Fluvanna Review.

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