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Laguna Woods’ Third Mutual monthly fee to increase slightly next year

Some good news came out of the Third Mutual’s recent board meeting: The mutual’s portion of the monthly HOA fee is not expected to increase for its residents.

However, the Golden Rain Foundation portion will increase slightly, according to Third board President Mark Laws.

“Over the past few weeks, while the board and staff have continued to work on next year’s budget, no significant changes have been identified. We’re still on track to not raise the Third Mutual portion of your monthly assessment next year,” Laws said in the meeting Aug. 16. “However, it does look like the GRF portion for next year’s monthly assessment will increase by $3.81, meaning your 2023 monthly assessment will be increasing from $777.12 to $780.93.”

Laws also said he is working on getting Third residents involved in providing advice for the mutual’s committees.

“We have a lot of experience within our community, and I’d like to tap into that to help ensure that the committees and the boards are making the best decisions,” he said.

For instance, he said he has asked the chairs of the landscaping, maintenance and construction, and architecture subcommittees to make a list of all the things they’re working on. He will then share that list with residents to offer their expertise.

Laws also mentioned there is an open board position starting in October for a three-year term. Third residents can get a candidacy application at the Community Center beginning Sept. 1. For questions, call 949-268-2295.

Anti-harassment panel

Board members also held a lengthy and lively discussion at their Aug. 16 meeting on the proposed Inter-Board Anti-Harassment, Anti-Abuse, and Anti-Intimidation Policy and Charter for Joint Hearing Body, the goal of which is to have a clear and consistent policy throughout the Village to address claims of harassment, abuse and intimidation by directors to Village Management Services staff, fellow directors and residents, and claims involving residents to VMS staff, directors and other residents.

The panel would consist of two members from each board – GRF, United Mutual and Third Mutual – and would work with VMS representatives, legal counsel and other relevant individuals to impose discipline as appropriate, according to a staff report.

A third-party investigator would look at claims of harassment, abuse and intimidation, and a legal review would be conducted to ensure that the complaints meet the legal definitions of harassment, abuse and intimidation, directors said at the meeting.

The proposed policy, which was originally introduced in May and has undergone revisions since then, once again came before the Third board  for consideration and introduction for a 28-day review.

Director Jules Zalon spoke emphatically against the proposal.

“I think this is a terrible idea,” he said. “We have enough provisions right now without a new set of harassment regulations. We can easily convict someone of harassment without something like this.

“This proposal is unnecessary, it’s unfair.”

Zalon said that based on past harassment-type complaints filed, the majority have been for members harassing staff, so he feels “the primary purpose is to protect staff from normal, if unpleasant, interactions with members at large.”

The purpose is to show compliance with California law, said Director Donna Rane-Szostak. “Nothing’s perfect, and perhaps it would be a cleaner proposal if it just quoted California law.

“And if I understand correctly,” she added, “the intent of this is civility and just consideration of others.”

Rosemarie diLorenzo, chair of the VMS board, said the proposal stemmed from harassment of board members and staff by another board member. “It wasn’t started just because we wanted to come up with some more rules.”

Still, Zalon said, “We should be a nurturing community, and we shouldn’t be a community whose primary harassment claims are against members harassing staff. Staff works for us.”

Board members voted 7-2-1, with one abstention, to put the policy on 28-day notification for further review and member comment. The proposal will undergo some modifications and return to the board meeting in September.

Internet, cable service

Disciplinary action was also discussed in a resolution on deactivating internet and cable services as a potential action in all disciplinary matters, when cases are brought for a disciplinary hearing, rather than applying only to delinquent accounts.

The 28-day period for review and comment had ended, so the resolution passed unanimously.

Watering restrictions

Finally, in new business matters, board members discussed a resolution limiting the use of potable water from hoses for watering outdoor plants to Wednesdays and Sundays only.

Kurt Wiemann, head of the VMS Landscape Department, emphasized that water that comes out of outdoor faucets is potable water, rather than recycled water. Restricting that potable water to two days a week goes along with what a lot of the state is doing, he said, and would help Third reduce potable water use outside.

Outdoor watering would be limited starting Sept. 16.

Director Rane-Szostak, who is on Third’s Water Conservation Committee, explained that recycled water comes from the water that goes down the drains, and that use of the potable water from hose bibbs goes into the lawn. “And it’s gone, and not even going into the recycled water file,” she said.

Another reason for the two-day per week restriction is simply to put water into residents’ consciousness, she said, and to raise awareness of the drought situation. In addition, she reminded residents outdoor hoses must have an automatic shutoff mechanism, as required by the El Toro Water District.

Board members voted unanimously to put the resolution on 28-day notice for review member comment.

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