Box Hill North residents oust leaders

January 23, 1994|By Phyllis Brill | Phyllis Brill,Staff Writer

In response to mounting community pressure, including a petition signed by more than 60 percent of the residents, the board of directors of Box Hill North's homeowners association resigned Thursday.

At the heart of the dispute was a contract the board signed with McKenzie Sanitation of Joppa to be the sole trash hauler operating in the neighborhood beginning Feb. 1.

Four companies collect garbage Four companies collect garbage and yard waste in the community. Apart from those who live in townhouses, homeowners contract for trash hauling individually.

The resignations followed a lengthy, heated public discussion Wednesday at the monthly meeting of the five-member board, )) which represents one of the largest homeowners associations in Harford County.

A handful of community activists interrupted the meeting to present a letter and petitions, signed by 567 of the nearly 900 association members, demanding that the board be removed from office.

The protest was supported by about 150 residents who packed the Box Hill community center on Strathaven Lane and spilled over into the subzero temperatures outside.

Residents of Box Hill North, a subdivision of about 850 single homes and townhouses near Route 924 and Singer Road in Abingdon, say the agreement with McKenzie was made without their consent by a board that has become increasingly neglectful of residents' opinions.

Noting that the association bylaws allowed for removal of board members "with or without cause" by a majority vote of members, resident Mike Phillips read a letter of removal to the board and presented copies of the signatures to the board.

In addition to revoking the board's power, the letter noted that an interim board of three directors would take over until new directors are elected.

Annual elections are held in March, and directors take office in May.

Mr. Phillips, Martin Rising, a former board president, and John Terbot were named interim directors.

The move to oust the board came minutes after residents scored a relatively easy victory in convincing the board to revoke the contract with McKenzie.

William Casey, a Box Hill resident and attorney, pointed out that bylaws of the 17-year-old organization require that the issue of a parcel assessment, or trash removal fee, be put to a vote of the full membership.

He told the board that the vote should have been taken at a meeting attended by 60 percent of the membership.

"I ask the board now: Was such a meeting held and was a vote taken? If not," Mr. Casey said, "I suggest any action taken by the board is null and void."

After a brief recess to discuss the question, the board reconvened and voted to revoke the contract. Many of the residents, including those standing outdoors, cheered.

"It's clear the board of directors made an error," President Steve Beyer said after the McKenzie contract was voided. (The vote was 2-0, with Mr. Beyer abstaining.) "We are human and we can make mistakes."

The change to McKenzie would have increased the association fees for single-family homeowners -- now $42 a quarter -- an average $45 a quarter. But cost was not the issue, residents say.

"The majority opinion is that [board members] are just not listening to us," said Mr. Terbot, who cited a poll taken in the fall. "Of 197 people, 89 percent signed saying they were against having a single trash hauler."

But, he says, his survey was ignored and instead the board relied on a questionnaire published in the community newsletter that garnered fewer responses.

While trash hauling was the most controversial decision the board made, Mr. Terbot said, residents also were concerned about a recent closed budget meeting and the board's moving toward offering Box Hill North swimming pool memberships to residents of other neighborhoods.

The association's lawyer Neil Helfrich described the transition of boards Friday as smooth. He said board members decided not '' to challenge their removal in court because "it doesn't make a whole lot of sense to spend association money in a battle of injunctions," particularly with an election coming.

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