When the Homeowner's Association goes too far
I live in Southeast Virginia. I have been here since 2002 when the Navy chose to station me here at a local helicopter squadron. When I retired from the Navy in 2004 after 20 years of service I decided that I didn't want to move and uproot my kids again, so I decided to stay here in Southeast Virginia. In July of 2006 we bought and moved into a house in a very nice subdivision in Suffolk. When we moved in I promised my two boys that we wouldn't have to move again and that we would stay here until they graduated from high school. That was very important to me, and so we were thrilled when we found a house we loved in a subdivision called Burbage Grant.
Soon after moving in, my kids started school at the elementary school located in the neighborhood, and I was even more excited about the neighborhood! The teachers were amazing, the school was only 1/4 mile from our house, and the after-school care was affordable. The kids quickly made friends, and I started to make friends in the neighborhood as well.
I think one of the things I loved most about Burbage Grant (BG) was the fact that so many people knew each other and everyone seemed so nice. My oldest son started playing Little league and we met more people who lived in BG. Then the boys transferred from our Chesapeake Boy Scout troop to a Suffolk Troop, and even more BG people entered our lives! Living in a community that felt so tight knit was awesome!!
The summer of 2007 we found out that Burbage Grant had a neighborhood summer swim team, and I signed the boys up immediately. It was not free, we had to pay a registration fee, and buy swim suits, but to have an activity for my boys to participate in that was in the neighborhood where we lived, and kept them busy was a godsend for this worried mother. That summer my boys got hooked and we have been participating in the Tsunami Swim Club for the past 6 years!
The swim club has a short season, only 6 weeks, and we practice in the neighborhood pool 4 nights each week from 6:45 until 8:45 (two one hour sessions divided by age group of the kids). To be honest the first few weeks (from Memorial Day until at least June 20) the water is cold and the swimmers come out with blue lips at times. To their credit parents have to tell them to get out and get warmed up because the kids love the team so much they want to just keep swimming.
In 2009, our Homeowners Association Board of Directors decided it was time to charge us "rent" for the use of the pool. Keep in mind that the Tsunami Swim Club was formed in 1996 and had never been charged fees before this time. We were charged $700.00 for our 6 weeks of practice (where we use only 3 lanes of a 6 lane pool) 4 nights per week, and $200.00 per meet (we usually have 4 home meets), for a total of $1500.00. This is of course above and beyond our normal homeowners dues to use the pool. We said, "ok, that is fair", and began paying 4 years ago.
3 years ago I became the Team Manager. This is a loose term because the team is parent run, but someone has to organize things, and I became that person. I had to attend the HOA Board meetings in March to "hammer" out the details of the swim club license agreement with them. Every year that I went I heard from at least two board members about how "neighbors complained" about Tsunami "taking over" the pool, and one even said that Tsunami was "trouble" for them. They reluctantly allowed us to continue swimming in 2011, 2012 and 2013.
Each year as I entered the Board meeting in March I knew it was going to be a struggle and was going to have to hear all of the bad things about the team. I always kept my cool and countered each allegation with facts and no innuendos. This past year we were told that they felt "threatened" because our Treasurer sent an email asking for a refund for a night we could not practice. A child has vomited in the pool, and the lifeguards did not have the proper chemicals to treat the pool. If they had we would have been able to have at least one practice. When we asked for a refund due to no proper chemicals being on hand apparently they felt "threatened". I am still confused about that to this day.