Located in Wilmot Township at the western edge of the Region of Waterloo, Foxboro Green is a private subdivision with 215 bungalow homes on a 108 acre country property on the rolling Waterloo Moraine. Just 15 minutes from Uptown Waterloo, 20 from Downtown Kitchener and 25 from Stratford, this is country living with city conveniences only a short drive away. New Hamburg, an old established and growing country town on the meandering Nith River, is convenient for library, post office, professional services and everyday shopping needs. An adult lifestyle community, the owners are 50+ to seniors, mostly retired though some are still working. The layout of the property is such that no home backs onto another. Homes on the perimeter of the property enjoy unrestricted views across the farming country or the Foxwood golf course next door. Interior homes enjoy the large open green spaces and the wooded areas of the property. 7 kilometres of walking trails bind all these areas together in a web of beauty.
The community is justly proud of its Recreation Centre, an 11,000 sq. ft. facility containing assembly/event rooms with kitchen, a library, TV lounge, an indoor lap pool with adjacent sauna, spa and change rooms, fully equipped fitness room, woodshop, crafts room and a billiards room. This building is set beside a stream fed lake in a natural setting, with more formal landscaping around the building and spacious parking area. Indeed space is the aspect that strikes visitors entering the property on the half kilometre drive around the lake.
The site is fully serviced with water from a modern water treatment plant fed by 3 deep wells. Waste water is treated on site in three rotating biological contactor (RBC) units with the clean effluent being returned to the ground water system via several large tile beds. It is these tile bed areas that form the large interior open green spaces. The water wells and treatment plant are owned and operated by the Region of Waterloo. The waste treatment and disposal facilities, presently being operated by the developer, are in process of being taken over by the Region. These services are designed for an average population of 2 persons per home. The roads and underground services for street lighting, potable water, irrigation water and wastewater are common elements or assets of the corporations.
MANAGEMENT AND VOLUNTEERISM
From the first days of the development there has been strong volunteer involvement in the management of the community. Committees oversee the Recreation Centre, Grounds and Services operations and in many cases do much of the daily monitoring, minor maintenance and repairs themselves. A Social and Events Committee organizes seasonal functions, monthly Happy Hour, craft 40h, shows and outings. A team of volunteers produces a monthly community newsletter in collaboration with the computer club. The needs of seniors inevitably involve healthcare issues; a Care Committee offering support, contacts with agencies, and help at home or with transportation serves these needs.
The Kitchener property management company of Sanderson Management Inc. was retained in 2000 and the manager has been a great help in unloading the officers and volunteers in the day-to-day operations, paperwork for meetings and resident interactions. The manager handles most of the contracts for maintenance, while committees handle policy and oversee the finances. The willingness and desire of residents to participate presently extends to the bookkeeping, budgeting, and reserve fund functions.
Described as a phased freehold condominium community, each unit comprises the home and the lot on which it stands. The units are wholly owned by the owner. The site was built in nineteen phases of between ten and fourteen units. Each phase is registered as a separate condominium corporation.
Nineteen Condominium Corporations with shared common services and facilities require an organization to glue them all together. The glue is a Reciprocal Agreement between the corporations that sets up the Foxboro Green Homeowners Association with a mandate to manage, operate and maintain the common elements and assets on their behalf. The Board of Management of the Association consists of the president of each corporation plus the chairpersons of the volunteer committees running the common elements. In the early days all three directors of each condo sat on the Board. Then, as the site grew, the Board became so unwieldy that membership was reduced to one representative only. An organizational bylaw was adopted by the Association to regulate its activities. Today the Board consists of 24 members! Needless to say, the day-to-day management is handled by the core Executive Committee of officers and committee chairpersons, plus the Property Manager. This bizarre and diffuse structure has been made to work by dint of necessity. Nevertheless, the need to have consensus opinions, legal resolutions and enforcement issues dealt with by several levels of governance has led to delays and frustrations.
Fortunately, after many years of waiting and none too soon, we now have the new Condominium Act 1998 and the legislated ability to amalgamate! Started in June 2001, with the formation of an Amalgamation Committee of five directors, the community in February 2002 achieved the consent of at least 90 percent of the owners of each corporation. It has taken a great deal of hard work and soul searching to get to this point. The first step was to decide on how to present the need for amalgamation to a community in which an owner’s experience, interest in, and knowledge of community organization varied from intense to apathetic, from 6 years in residence to having moved in 3 months ago.
At first glance, the economies of scale appeared to offer savings in management costs and legal costs, particularly as new bylaws and procedures are required by the Act for all 19 corporations. On reflection, while these cost reductions are real, they are difficult to quantify, and may be spread over many years. Compared to the one time charge for the costs of the amalgamation process, estimated at $70,000, the potential savings pale into insignificance.
The conclusion of the committee is that the major reasons for amalgamating Foxboro Green are:
Put together, these four outcomes will enhance the value and saleability of the owners’ homes.
The last bullet perhaps requires some explanation. By virtue of the Reciprocal Agreement, all nineteen corporations are required to act in synchronism in matters affecting the Common elements, Common assets, rules, bylaws, reserves and insurance. Since each corporation must pass the necessary resolutions both at Board or/and at Owner meetings, it is possible that one or two owners in a single corporation could refuse unanimity and cause failure of a decision that would otherwise easily obtain majority in a community wide vote. This type of situation is very divisive, and close calls on serious issues have already occurred more than once. It is exactly this situation that was a cause for concern in the amalgamation consent process itself — itself-two persons in any one of the nineteen corporations could have effectively vetoed the wishes of 213 other owners!
The community is fortunate in that the site is completely built out. The developer has been extremely conscientious in completing his obligations. The amalgamation committee retained the services of the legal counsel who set up the original documentation, and other professionals who had worked on the project. The timing was right for this community, despite being the guineapigs for a process that has gaps and glitches in the regulations. Lucky indeed are those sites with only three or four corporations!
Throughout the process the committee has focussed on consistent information being given to all owners. The first information meeting was held in an off-site hall large enough to hold all residents (about 65% attended). The amalgamation meetings were scheduled on-site in four consecutive sessions with the same people giving the same presentation at each meeting. All information letters were mailed to all residents. Regular reports were made to the Executive Committee and to the Association Board. The community centre notice board was used for reminders and the community newsletter for updates and repeat reminders. The manager having contact information for vacationing residents was crucial in dealing with the senior exodus in winter. The active involvement of all directors of all corporations became vital in collecting the last few consents.
The final survey work and registration processes are underway as this article goes to press. The community sincerely hopes that, by the end of summer, CCI will be able to print a news flash congratulating the Corporations of Foxboro Green on a successful amalgamation and welcoming a new Waterloo Standard Condominium Corporation to the membership role.