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Woodlake residents miffed by proposed $500 ‘tax’ for aquatic center upgrades

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

CHESTERFIELD, Va. -- It may be too cold to use the pool right now, but in Woodlake, a Chesterfield community, the swimming pool is what everyone is talking about.

The neighborhood association may ask homeowners to pay hundreds of dollars to fix something less than half the neighborhood uses.

A Swim and Racquet club in Woodlake also offers an indoor aquatics fitness center, but club officials said the amenities are more than 30 years-old and in need of repairs and upgrades.

To pay for the upgrades, they're considering a $500 special assessment fee. Some homeowners aren't too happy about it.

"It's pretty aggravating what's going on,” neighbor Bridgette Berry said.

The Woodlake homeowner is talking about the flap over a one-time fee her family might have to pay if neighbors vote to kick in money the Board of Directors says it needs to invest in its Swim and Racquet Club.

“Because if people don't use it, why should they have to pay for it?” she asked.

The general manager of the club, Julie Joyner, said that if the fee is approved, it will be separate from the cost of a Swim and Racket Club membership.

She says currently only 40 percent of the neighborhood has a membership.

Joyner explains why the money is needed.

"Because of the age we are in need of continual reinvestment to keep the facility running smoothly,” Joyner said.

"I think it's a good idea...like to see it modernized...making it nice and livable for everyone in the area,” said Joe Mongiovi.

Joyner said this emotional issue will be left up to homeowners to decide.

“A simple majority rules on the special assessment issue and if they decide not to vote on it then it's time to look at other options and solutions,” she said.

Woodlake officials say the $500 assessment isn't a done deal. They are still talking about it with homeowners and a vote won't happen until sometime in February.

29 comments

  • Tammy

    You didn’t even get half the story here, Ms. Brown. This isn’t just about the age of the swim club facilities, this is about mismanagement, squandering of a Woodlake asset, and misleading the residents of Woodlake. This is about a huge number of employees suddenly leaving the WCA and the WSRC. And it’s not just about a one-time special assessment, it’s also about raising the regular assessments of the residents in very dramatic way. All this started about 18 months after Ms. Joyner reassured all that everything was dandy at the club, no money problems at all. http://www.chesterfieldobserver.com/news/2013-04-03/Opinions/letters.html

  • Kris

    Dear Ms Brown,

    I saw your piece about the Woodlake Community Association (WCA) on Channel 6. I do not think you have been given the full story. Most residents would probably be glad to pay higher yearly dues if we thought the money was being managed correctly.

    One year ago the WCA, a small non-profit, merged with the Woodlake Swim & Racquet Club (WSRC), a for-profit company. In one year the management of the WCA & WSRC have spent $500,000 over budget. Management cannot show residents where the money has been spent. Management has refused to have an independent forensic audit conducted. There has been no transparency and we have lost trust in the WCA board and management.

    We are hoping that it is merely a case of non-profit skill sets not being able to adapt to a multi-million dollar for-profit company. We may never know since the financials are being hidden from the residents.

  • armyhelo

    The end fact is this membership cost is not included in the standard HOA, so that money needs to come from those members that join. Other people in the HOA should not pay a dime for a facility they can’t use unless they pay extra to be allowed to. That’s like plopping down an American Family Fitness in the neighborhood and having the neighborhood pay to maintain it. Ain’t gonna fly. Can’t believe they have the brass ones to even try this. That whole HOA board needs to be replaced for even allowing this to move one iota forward….and like the meal tax there were probably efforts to avoid allowing the homeowners to even vote on it……

  • MAT

    Ms. Brown thank you for your story on the situation regarding the proposed Woodlake special assessment. The special assessment request is only part of the problem. There are serious mis- management and transparency issues happening in the community. 18 months ago the BOD president presented to the residents a ‘success story’ -http://s3.amazonaws.com/fp00003-woodlake/content_entry/1628/April2013NL.pdf stating that finances for the facilities were positive. Now the residents are being asked for special assessment funds to support this operation. Residents have repeatedly asked for accurate financials regarding this facility from the staff and management and they still have not been provided. Due to intensive research looking at the financial documents that have been provided some residents and the Woodlake staff are almost in agreement that the facility is 500k over budget for this year so far, and are still trying to figure out where the money has been spent. Requests for a forensic audit of the books have been denied and deemed to costly by the BOD. While asking residents for more money to fund the facility that only 40% of the residents belong to, the Woodlake BOD is also in the process of spending 175k dollars on several vacant land parcels next to the facility to add parking lots. This purchase was approved within the BOD and structured in a way to avoid having the residents vote on it. Again thank you for your story, but this situation is much more involved that just a one time fee.

  • SES1956

    It would behoove you to do a follow up story regarding the mismanagement of the WCA. This would include hostile work environment that caused 19 people to leave their employment in less than a year (some by choice , others not). This would also include the mismanagement of funds, unprofessional behavior (temper issues, breaches of confidentiality to name a few), the opening of Studio W which has proven to be a money pit, lack of upkeep at facilities that need it desperately, lack of security at the boat dock, purchase of land……..the list goes on. Residents that are aware are angry. There is a much larger story in this.

  • AngryWoodlaker

    If you live in Woodlake and don’t want to pay the fee, then don’t. There is nothing that the HOA can do to residents who do not pay the $500 fee. Ask a lawyer.

  • Eileen

    Ms. Brown: There is a meeting tonight at 6:30 p.m. at the Swim and Racquet Club clubhouse. This is located near the back of Woodlake across from Beacon Hill Townhouses. If you come out tonight, my guess is you will be able to interview residents who are very upset about all that is happening and will probably be demanding that the WCA management team is replaced before a vote can be put to the residents. As of September 2014, the management has managed to bring us to $500,000 over budget (they might be able to explain $250,000 but no one has seen that yet.) The one-time fee (NOT a tax) of $500.00 is only the beginning. They really want that same amount each year after that for no one knows how long, for sure. The WCA is in serious debt and, yet, this management team keeps spending. Please come back tonight.

  • Diane

    Thank you for doing this story! As you have witnessed by these comments there is alot more to this story. People in Woodlake love this beautiful community and want it to stay a viable community. While these facilities are older and they have been for awhile the previous management team always seemed to be running the facility at a profit. This team that is now in charge headed by Ms Joyner is well over budget…Same facility same equipment and now $500,000 over budget. Please consider doing a follow up to this story. Thanks so much!

  • James

    Ms Brown
    Obviously some folks here are not happy with the fact that your reporting did not take sides. Your story was right down the middle, were it belongs. It is appreciated by the people who understand the big picture.

    • Eileen

      James, please give us your version of the big picture. Do you know where the $500,000 went? A number of people have been asking for that for months now. If you know where that part of dues paid went, please let us know here.

      • James

        I am more than aware of the financial issues that are occurring and I will try to simplify and keep short the big picture.
        1) If you did not see this coming ten years ago, whether it is the WCA or another outside party controlling the SRC/WSRC you have no foresight. The model of this type of community (voluntary membership) cannot exist anymore. There is no mystery to where the money went
        2) The real villain in this is East West, it has always been obvious(if you were paying attention) they had no interest in keeping the properties maintained and or updated. If you doubt that fact, take a walk around their building by the lake and take a look, an utter disgrace. It is falling apart.
        3) Most of individuals who are doing the criticizing are doing so with some sort personnel agenda and the attacks on individuals are reprehensible. If individuals can’t frame an argument without attacking, don’t do it
        4) The assessment will be small change compared to the loss of property value if this whole thing goes south. That is not a scare tactic, that is reality.

  • Vote No Until You Know

    SES1956 is totally correct. This story goes much, much deeper than your report implies. When the vote was put to the community, several years ago, to buy the Swim & Racquet Club, residents were told that the club was very healthy and paying its own way with no problem. I consultant was brought in to assess the updates and repairs needed, and still, we were told, “no problems here.” The club was purchased from the developer, who lent the WCA $1 million at no interest, I be paid back over 10 years, along with a 5-year management contract, retaining the services of the existing management team for that 5-year term, because the WCA Board said, “We don’t know anything about managing the club, so we are keeping the experts on to teach us how.” We were also told that the club’s healthy income would easily make the loan payments. If, at any time, the income from the club wasn’t able to meet required payment, it could be delayed without penalty. At the end of the 10-year term, any outstanding balance would be erased.

    Three years after the purchase of the club, General Manager Julie Joyner and the Board of Directors apparently decided they had learned enough, because they paid the loan off early and let the managers go. Why?? We had nothing to gain by that except to terminate the management agreement. Had we gotten into financial trouble, we could have not paid the loan payment with no penalty. Now, In less than one year, under the WCA management, the club is now $500,000 over budget on spending, and they’re asking us to pay. Since voting “yes” to purchase the club, residents have had no input into the decisions made since then, including the creation of Studio W at a price of almost $100,000, and the proposed purchase of additional property to expand parking at the Swim & Racquet Club location, at a cost of $175,000, with $30,000 already paid down. There have been other smaller projects that have been postponed, only after loud objection by residents.

    Financial records and proposed budgets, all required by our bylaws to be made available to residents in a timely manner, were not published until residents demanded them. There is still no final 2015 budget, which was required to be published as of November 1, 2015. A draft version was released, but they are telling us that they can’t finalize it until they know if the special assessment of $500 per property is passed.

    At the Board meeting in October of this year, a resident asked why meeting minutes were being edited to exclude some topics, and the President vehemently denied that they had been. In that same meeting, a resident asked why an issued brought to them in June had not yet been resolved. The president replied that it had been an ongoing discussion and they were still working on it, but mention of the topic did not appear in any meeting minutes, from June through September. All of this is on tape. Either the minutes were edited, or they hadn’t discussed it at all. Either way, he lied. So who is responsible? GM Joyner is responsible for writing and/or editing the minutes, which are then examined and approved by the Board members at the next meeting. Joyner is responsible for the exclusions, and the Board members are all complicit by approving them.

    Further, staff members are dropping like flies, 19 in 13 months. Employee morale is at an all-time low. The WCA manager has a high school degree, no prior HOA experience, and has taken and failed the first-level HOA management exam three times – at the expense of the residents. The WSRC manager is also a high school graduate with no management experience other than previously managing the club’s lifeguards. Neither have business backgrounds. The GM is directly responsible for these appointments, and the Board of Directors wasn’t even able to answer residents’ questions about their qualifications at recent meetings. When the official takeover began January 1 of this year, almost all staff were asked to take on a significantly higher workload, resulting in salaried employees working 10-30 hours over overtime per week, with no overtime pay, and for many, little or no salary increase. Meanwhile, Joyner received a 14% raise and nearly $500 per month car allowance.

    The Woodlake community has lost confidence and trust in the Board, and especially in the management team. They have all failed at their fiduciary and legal responsibilities to the Woodlake property owners. The Woodlake residents need to make themselves informed, attend meetings, follow the website, and ask questions! It’s time to start throwing the dead weight overboard before this ship sink!

    • NewtoWoodlake

      Vote No Until You Know- clearly you are very well informed on this topic. It’s impressive, actually. Someone with that amount of intel should be leading this community. Have you considered seeking election for a BOD seat? Maybe you could be the catalyst to ending all this corruption that has infiltrated our beloved Woodlake. Or maybe you are better suited at falsifying events and information and making allegations that are causing irreparable damage to our community and our neighbors. Since you seem to have line of sight to Woodlake’s personnel files and a clear understanding of employment law, maybe you should head up the recruiting effort to hire and replace our incompetent staff. You seem to know just what qualifications the WSRC and the WCA should be looking for in its employees. And I’m sure your recon on Julie Joyner’s recent salary increase and car allowance will come in handy when you start recruiting for her backfill after successfully pushing her out. These perks will especially come in handy when needing to offset the low base salary that WCA budgeted for this role. But I’m sure there will be no shortage of candidates for these 19 vacancies– just read all these comments; who wouldn’t want to come work here.

      Here’s a question that I’m sure you can answer- why would our resident elected BOD, which is compromised of Woodlake resident volunteers, purposely mismanage our money and make intentional bad financial decisions that negatively affect them, their families and their properties? Oh wait… I bet they are exempt from the ramifications of their actions.

      I am so thankful that we have such an informed, intellectual and unbiased neighbor to turn to for the facts and answers. Who needs a BOD or a GM when we have you to figure it out?

  • Brockruth

    The same handful of people talking to each other on yet another public forum and proud of themselves for bringing more negative attention to their own beautiful neighborhood. Some of the people leading this quest to make themselves heard aren’t even Woodlake home owners or residents in the first place. Dedicate your time to coming up with a solution instead of spending hours plotting your next move to get revenge. Threatening to sue, fire people and call state agencies is not a solution. What it actually does is negate any valid points you may have had in the first place.

    • Midlo

      Not sure where you are getting your misinformation, but everyone who is outraged about the mishandling of the funds is either a resident or a member of the SRC. And, there have been numerous solutions put forth that have been ignored by the Board and the WCA. And, yes. People do believe that the staff should be terminated. Why throw good money after bad? Unfortunately, too many people are drawing conclusions without every having set foot in a meeting or read any of the documentation.

    • Eileen

      We are ALL either residents or owners which is a pre-requisite for attending all of the meetings within which we have lodged our questions and concerns for numerous weeks now. Get your facts straight! There is $500,000 no one can account for and you think residents should stay silent?

      • Brockruth

        Eileen I have as much information as you do, perhaps more. You don’t know anyone here does, or doesn’t know, so please don’t be rude. And yes it true that some very vocal and negative members do not own property in Woodlake.

  • W R

    I live in Woodlake, and I wont pay the $500. I’m an attorney, and there is NO legal requirement for me or anyone else in the community to pay. NONE.
    Fools will pay.
    the fix is simple: sell the pools. Problem solved.

  • Stephen W. Meeley

    Pleas don’t take the negative responses here as the only views of the situation. As in all things there are three sides to every story and the truth is spread somewhere among them all. The dreaded “incestuous amplification” is strong at play here (on both sides) and that never helps. There are certainly many aspects to our current situation (including mistakes, missteps, miscommunication and some plain old bad luck) and none of them have easy answers. Even though it may not seem like it now, I believe we will eventually get down to a good solution – but it won’t be easy getting there and even when we do it still won’t please everyone. I just hope we get there before too much collateral damage is done.

  • TheSoph

    The amount of negativity in Woodlake right now terrible. Yes, our community is divided, but the select few who pushed to have this story go public are bringing more negativity to this situation. The amount of conspiracy talk and hatred being publicly displayed in public and social forums is appalling.

  • Eddie

    Dear Ms Brown,
    thank for presenting a story that captures the REAL issues facing Woodlake, This is a wonderful place to live and there are difficult decisions to make regarding the future of the facilities. Your piece lends greatly to keeping the issue in perspective. I have been to the meetings and can attest that unfortunately, there are a minority of people that want to use public forums (board meetings / facebook) to personally attack the hard working people that support the residents of this community. Their agenda has no concern for the best interest of Woodlake.
    Again, thank you for presenting an objective story on the Woodlake issues.

  • Resident

    What most of you seem to not understand is that the board was expecting this backlash in response to the proposed assessment. They have much more experience in the field of running a business than most of you. Your negative Facebook posts and cyber attacks are getting no where. Just the typical crazy community members that every community has.

    • Midlo

      LOL. More experience at running a business? I certainly hope not, because they would be homeless. Check out the CVs of the BoD. Not ONE is a business owner or decision maker. Not. One. And, if they were expecting the backlash? Why the deer in the headlights look every time a question is asked? To me? It speaks volumes that they had ZERO idea how residents were going to react and are scrambling because of the number analysis put in to the situation. Again, it’s not the $500. It’s the staggering mismanagement of the funds. You might want to attend a meeting and get the actual facts rather than throwing around conjecture.

      • Resident

        Of course they were going to go over budget. The club was left in bad condition and they needed to spend money to restore it. Studio W was an opportunity to get a jump on surrounding clubs. When the WSRC opened it was very prosperous because it had little competition. There was nothing like it around. Now with the Y and the Amfam the WSRC needs to be competitive. That means updating the club and adding new amenities and opportunities. Look at the big picture. They have the good of the whole neighborhood in mind while most of the community as well as outsiders look at you all as a joke

  • Andrew Thomas

    It is unfortunate what is going on in Woodlake. I am referring not to the allegations of financial mismanagement, but the manner in which a small number of woodlake residents has turned on the woodlake community, spreading nasty rumors and demonizing WCA employees who are simply doing their jobs. Hardworking and capable women working at the WCA have been ridiculed based on their level of education, while people have made claims about their personalities and abilities and spread vicious rumors. Residents have gone so far as to call these women the devil. When other residents have rightfully called this minority on their generalizations and witch hunts, they too have been attacked and demonized. These residents do not wish to engaged in an open conversation, but rather point fingers and insulate themselves in their vicious group. I do not claim to be a financial expert, fitness professional, or a lawyer specializing in community associations (as many of the residents throwing accusations have acted) but I am a member of the community. I am absolutely disgusted at how woodlake members have been treating each other. Of course it is ones right to question the decisions of WCA employees, but to personally attack these employees and refer to them as the devil is blatant overkill. Perhaps a story should be done to shame these people.

  • Vickie Hall

    I am a resident of the city with 2 kids. We are getting to the point where we need to move to the suburbs for schools. I want to thank Bridgette in the story and everyone posting below. Woodlake is off the list of communities in Chesterfield County we will consider buying a house in. If I understand the story correctly the residents can vote to not pay the “tax” to upgrade their own facilities. I would recommend voting that way, talking to your neighbors and gaining support for your position. Why you would want your own facilities to fall into disrepair is something I don’t understand but I can see that position considering 40% of residents would benefit while 100% would pay. What I can’t see is airing your dirty laundry. I don’t want neighbors who go to the news every time something happens they don’t agree with, especially when they can vote. I see lots of posts about mismanagement below, I see they are $500,000 over budget, did they explain this to the residents? I would ask the BOD where this money was spent, maybe that’s happened and I don’t know the answer, I do know I will not look to raise my kids in this circus, thanks so much

    • NewtoWoodlake

      Vickie, as a relatively new Woodlake resident, I would be happy to share all the reasons why Woodlake should remain on your list of prospects. Every neighborhood north and south of the river has its share of crazy neighbors and Woodlake is no exception. With that said, your perspective is very justified– especially after reading these comments. Talk about a media black lash– it seems airing our community’s issues hasn’t successfully accomplished anything except tarnishing our “Best Suburban Community” image. Good job, guys!

      For all the Woodlakers who are behind this media stunt, please consider moving to a community that caters to your family’s needs, appropriates your money to your liking (all the time) and tolerates your illegitiment concerns and un-neighborly behavior. And once you find that non-existent neighborhood, make yourself useful and become a community leader so that you can get experience with solving the problems your are so good at pointing out. Luckily, you do not respresent the majority of this peaceful, generous community who are focusing on making improvements, but sadly your small group has successfully managed to infest our neighborhood with conspiracy theories, rumors and accusations. I’m so happy I fell into the “love thy neighbor” camp who’s prepared to do what it takes to mend this community and who are committed to repairing your damage.

  • Midlo23112

    Woodlake is a wonderful community and it is sad a small group of residents made a concerted effort to bring negative attention to it. Clearly they feel very strongly about the management of the facilities and neighborhood, which isn’t bad in most cases. Every community needs people passionate about their neighborhood; however this particular group is not using their passion for the greater good.

    Instead they have chosen to dedicate their energy to bring light to what they believe is conspiracy and deliberate misrepresentation. Starting rumors, petitions based on information they assume to be true, name calling and so much more. Many in the community have feared the effort of this group would do nothing but tarnish the reputation of our community.

    I thank Vickie for her comment and hope people see that bashing their own community and seeking negative media attention is simply a good idea. I hope they see that deterring future residents from buying in Woodlake certainly won’t help the community they supposedly love. Their hostility towards other residents, the BOD and managers is doing more harm than good.

    How many other neighborhoods have a vet, pediatrician, church, schools, daycares, restaurants, offices, a dance studio, tennis, fitness studio, multiple pools, miles of walking trails and more in their own neighborhood? This is truly a community and a few rotten apples will not change where many enjoy living.

  • Still Happy to Live in Woodlake

    This is an important decision and most owners in Woodlake are gathering information and educating themselves to make what they deem to be the best decision for themselves and their community. I sincerely hope that people reading these comments realize that the hateful comments posted here are not a reflection of most people in Woodlake. This is a difficult decision and not everyone is going to agree but most of us are at least able to have a civil discussion and disagree without eroding relationships with our neighbors. One of the things I love most about living in Woodlake is the sense of community that we have always had. Among most residents that continues. I am still happy to live in Woodlake. It is a beautiful neighborhood with some of the best amenities in the area. I appreciate all of the work that the volunteers and staff put in to do what they believe is best for the long-term future of our community.

Comments are closed.