Sunday, October 14, 2012

The newsletter discontinuance issue

I'm not sure how many of you noticed this, but there was an announcement in the last subdivision newsletter that the newsletter is going to be discontinued within a few months. 

Excerpt screengrabbed from the POA website section that posts up newsletters.  Note that it directs readers to the new POA website in lieu of future newsletters. 
This is noteworthy because the newsletter has been the primary means by which subdivision cohesion has been achieved over the past six years. 

The significant limitations I see with the proposed website-as-information-alternative are as follows:
  1. The website is a vehicle of the POA and the POA is a legal entity.  The POA is the first layer of our comprehensive American system of governance (and those of you who have tried to gain permission for various property modifications are probably painfully aware of their authority).   For this reason, there are many relevant neighborhood issues into which the POA may simply not want to insert itself simply because it's neither the POA's legal mandate nor is it necessarily in anybody's best interest for the POA to try to play that role. 
  2. Frankly, I don't find this new POA website to be very useful at all.  It's just another largely-static compilation of information much like any other generic POA website out there (and arguably, that is how it should be).  The POA website contains no visible means of networking residents.  I can see no obvious method by which it could effectively share information and feedback quickly in real time.  If you have any issues to raise, the only route to inquiry is through the property management company.  This is simply subdivision boilerplate, as it arguably should be.
The whole business of the newsletter's existence gets a little dicey because it was started as a purely-social connectivity mechanism by a resident who only later became an elected member of the POA.  I've been asked in the past if I plan to run for the POA and I've said no, definitely not, because I cannot - it would be a conflict of interest.  I'm running a blog in which I'm intentionally raising questions and stating positions that might not be consistent with what the POA endorses.  Therefore there's too much potential for residents to get confused between what originates with the POA and what originates on the blog.  It would not be proper to confound things via my participation on the POA. 

Anyway, the bottom line regarding the newsletter is that I offered to take over the distribution of it.  In doing that, my idea was to alter the distribution of it in a way that clarified the following:
  1. Things that were clearly POA matters could be efficiently routed to the POA (for example, residents complaining about violations of deed restrictions).
  2. Things that were not-so-clearly POA matters could instead be efficiently routed to the blog and hashed out here (for example, concerns about people coming through the neighborhood driving either their own personal junk-collection jalopies or maybe even ice cream trucks). 
My offer to take over management of these two communication vectors was declined because the newsletter publisher previously promised all of the Centerpointe residents that she would not share their emails with any third parties, and I represent a third party.  The newsletter is therefore scheduled to be discontinued with no alternative networking device to pick up the connectivity slack (other than this blog which many Centerpointe residents aren't yet aware of).

I'm not sure what should be done in light of this, but if any of you have suggestions, I'd like to hear them.

This discontinuance is coming at a bad time.  It's coming right at the time when development pressures are increasing substantially in our area and so I worry about how information is going to make its way to residents in a timely manner - timely enough for us to collaborate and weigh in on it, if such an action proves to be appropriate.  Nobody can stop the coming development on our remaining adjacent private property parcels, but sometimes design modifications can be negotiated that minimize impacts on Centerpointe homeowners.  Additionally, sometimes private property development plans are approved at the municipal level with errors in them that can then impact surrounding properties.  Residents of the following streets are potentially at quality-of-life risk because they are located near to undeveloped tracts that are currently for sale:
  • Arlington Pointe
  • Harvard Pointe
  • Walnut Pointe (the most vulnerable, as I see it)
  • southern portions of Azalea Pointe
  • southern portions of Elm Pointe
We need to know quickly and in real time when real estate transactions transpire, and we need to be able to spread that information among residents in order to gauge whether anyone has legitimate concerns.  I'm not sure of the best way to do that. 

The POA didn't seem to pay any attention whatsoever to the fact that the new "public safety building"  (note that this term is nothing but a polite euphemism - it's a police station and jail, just like it says on its design documents) got approved to be built right next to us.  Here they were worrying about pickers when in fact we're due to have what appears to be substantially more incarceration-related traffic on our flanking arterial, which is West Walker Street.  Does that strike anyone besides me as a little bit odd in terms of priorities??  Who is more likely to be scoping Centerpointe out for nefarious purposes?  Random junk collectors or people who have proven themselves as criminals, plus the associates of such people who will be driving through our area during the process of bailing those people out? 

Maybe upon comprehending the police station / jail issue thoroughly, maybe we would have decided that we are not opposed to it.  But the fact is, we never got the chance to get that information and to have that conversation amongst ourselves.  The "public safety building" doesn't seem to be as jail-intensive as originally planned, but I still haven't found any documentation that reveals HOW MANY jail cells are due to be included in this new building.  I don't even know what the project entails (other than an obvious lack of sidewalk) and it's already underway.  This is not the way things should be.

And while we're asking such questions, what about that other tract that is not included with this facility now under construction?  What, for instance, if League City with or without the participation of Galveston County, decided to expand the jail facilities in the future to include the other tract?
The "public safety building" will only occupy approximately the left-most half of the total available land.  What will be built on the other half?  When will Centerpointers find out about that, and by what method?  Will there be time and opportunity for us to evaluate the impacts on us?
I think that we ought to be able to communicate efficiently with Oaks of Clear Creek as well as our other surrounding neighborhoods (Wilshire Place and Patton) on some of these issues as well.  Does Oaks of Clear Creek realize that they're scheduled to have a large blinking radio tower built just off the north side of their subdivision?  I sent them a feeler, but only to their POA, and I don't know if they have a resident networking mechanism of any kind in place.

Your comments are always welcome.  Even if I don't manage to respond right away, I'm always reading them and taking them into consideration, whether they are private emails or blog comments.  Thanks for your input. 

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