OCEAN PINES – Several bylaw changes proposed for referendum will now advance to a public hearing.
On Monday, the Ocean Pines Association Board of Directors held a special meeting to consider more than 30 motions related to bylaw revisions. President Colette Horn noted while some motions proposed new language, others proposed actual policy changes.
“The bylaws have not been revised since 2008 …,” she explained. “So this is the first step in the process.”
The motions considered this week proposed revisions to several sections of the bylaws, including meeting notices, general manager and director responsibilities, and the resignation and removal of a director. The board also considered motions related to the candidate verification process and candidate eligibility requirements.
But before discussions began, community members came before the board during public comments to oppose certain amendments, including one that would require board candidates to be an owner of record of real property in Ocean Pines for a minimum of three years, unless they have served on a committee or advisory board for a period of one year.
“Where did three years come from?” said resident Tom Schwartz. “I have a real problem with three years, and here’s a reason why. The MLS listing for the last three years, from 2019 to Dec. 31, there were over 1,500 changes in ownership. If you assume at least one person did the mortgage, possibly two … that’s up to 3,000 people that would be disenfranchised from the eligibility of running. And that doesn’t include estate sales and sales by owner … That needs to be struck.”
Community members also took issue with a bylaw amendment that would make board candidates ineligible if their spouse is a convicted felon of certain financial crimes.
“It’s so hard to get people to run for this board,” resident Tom Janasek said. “You are going to make it so restrictive that why don’t we just have the board pick the members.”
Resident Mark Thomas also argued against the proposed eligibility requirements, as it restricted the number of association members that could run for the board.
“The president of the United States could run, and his wife could be a felon,” he added. “This makes no sense to me. It seems like you are attacking someone.”
In Monday’s five-hour meeting, board members held lengthy discussions on candidate eligibility requirements, including a proposed revision to define “owner of record,” a term at the center of recent litigation against the association and its board.
“I think this gets to the core of issue we had in the litigation …,” Director Frank Daly said. “It broadens it to include trusts and other forms of ownership that have become prevalent since the last bylaw change and since the pandemic.”
The proposed definition would not only recognize property owners as those listed on a recorded deed, but also trustees and corporation officers and partners. A motion to develop the revision into a referendum question passed unanimously with an amendment to add “co-trustees” within the definition.
In total, board members voted in favor of 31 motions, with several being amended from the original versions. Five motions, including those relating to “duration of ownership” and “felony-spouse,” were withdrawn.
“The motions that carried today will be sent to our corporate counsel to prepare the referendum questions, each of which will articulate a change in the language of our bylaws,” Horn said in a statement this week. “Following that, a town hall meeting will be scheduled that will give the membership the opportunity for additional comments and discussion with the Board on the proposed bylaws changes and the language of the referendum questions.”
She continued, “The final step will be for the referendum questions to be put to the membership for a vote. The questions that receive a majority vote by the membership will determine the revised version of our bylaws.”