Two hundred and thirty-four eligible voting members of the Association met at the Garden Club on Sept. 18, to cast their preliminary vote for a bylaw change. At stake was a proposed amendment that would place a restriction in the bylaws requiring a vote by the membership before any Association funds or staff time could be spent to study incorporation in the future. The preliminary vote won by an overwhelming majority — 231 yes and 26 no — so now the ballot will be sent to all voting members in the Covenant on Oct. 13 for a final vote.
Association President Lois Jones called the special meeting to order at 7 p.m. and gave members an opportunity to voice their opinions — for or against — with a three-minute time limit. There was plenty of heated discussion, sometimes coming from unexpected sources.
First to speak was Bill Hinchy, spokesman for the Committee to Preserve Country Living, the group that petitioned for the bylaw change. “It’s simply not a good policy to spend money when an association doesn’t want it,” he said, outlining one of five points as to why the bylaws should be changed. Even though Hinchy felt that the information gathered at the last study was valuable, it came at a cost of approximately $85,000. “I’m afraid that in the future, with accelerating costs, that number will double.” Hinchy based that notion on a past study to incorporate, held in the late 1980s, which only cost $40,000. Of special concern to Hinchy was that incorporation in the future might cut services of the Association. “This is a conflict that must be considered,” he said. He made it clear, however, that by changing the bylaws it is not an attempt to stop anyone from seeking incorporation.
The majority of those casting votes agreed with Hinchy, but there were voices against the measure that may resonate throughout the membership once the ballot goes to all voters Oct. 13.
“This is completely unnecessary,” Dave Moon, a member of the Covenant for the past 37 years, stated. “The board has the power to handle this. We should not amend our documents to handle fiscal matters. This tells the board: we don’t trust you. It ties the board’s hands.”
“This amendment is way too narrow,” Marion Dodson, Rancho Santa Fe voting member said. She felt that any time more than $100,000 is spent, it should be heard among the membership. “Can’t we broaden the scope of this?” she asked.
Bob Spears, past vice president of the Association board, was also against the bylaw change. He served on the board during the previous incorporation study. “We were glad to have a study because there had been a big turnover in membership during the past 20 years,” Spears said. “There was a desire to have the study done.” Spears’ concern was that 40 percent of the membership contributes only 11 percent of the budget. Longtime members, who contribute less money, could affect a vote in the future. He felt that decision should be left with the board of directors.
The ultimate decision, however, will lie with voters when ballots are sent out Oct. 13. Voting members will have until Nov. 17 to vote. Ballots will be tallied Nov. 18.