commentary by Joe Reynolds
At the OPA board meeting on March 28th, the directors approved a motion by director Pat Renaud to have BEACON( Business Economic and Community Outreach Network at Salisbury University) do some sort of a community development study for OPA. The stated overall goal of the $16,500 study is, "To develop custom models and interactive dashboards to visualize and analyze the costs, benefits, as well as the economic, employment, and fiscal outcomes of three to four potential Ocean Pines community planning and development scenarios."
Odds are the Renaud motion was actually set in place by Director Tom Terry. Renaud was not on the board when this issue came up perhaps a year ago. However, Terry has been courting Renaud, trying to woo him away from his position with the current board majority. Terry's entreaties are bearing fruit.
One can probably make book that no one on the board even understands what the stated overall goal actually means in plain English.
During a past presentation to the board about a year ago, Beacon Director Dr. Memo Diriker said the key to the entire study would be five or six questions to be answered. The questions would come from OPA. Dr. Diriker admitted the questions themselves could well be political in nature.
The proposal to employ BEACON, as approved by the board, contains an Appendix A detailing nine questions. Some are very political in nature. The questions originated totally within the OPA Comprehensive Plan Committee with no discussion by the board or involvement of the community at large. Association members were told at the Saturday meeting that the questions would be subject to change as the project progressed, but it is a safe bet the die is more or less cast.
Why the board voted to proceed with the committee's nine questions as the starting point with zero discussion or community input is incomprehensible.
Let's take a look at some of the questions.
Question 7 -- Actually two questions. "Who are the OPA community stakeholders (residents, board, staff, county, etc.)? What is the sphere of OPA's influence (local, regional, etc.)?"
The reality is the primary "stakeholders" are not even mentioned in the question. Those are the owners of property in OPA; the people who are the association members; the people who pay the bills for OPA. OPA's sphere of influence? Are we going for nation state?
How about Question 9, again two questions. "Should we be a municipality or an HOA? What kind of community do we want to become and how do we get there?"
The question is perhaps fundamentally flawed as it asks an "either/or" question and any move to a municipality would almost surely result in a municipality AND an HOA result. In short -- a disaster where the over 50% of Ocean Pines property owners who live elsewhere fulltime would not even have a vote.
Other questions ask if the membership has the ability to afford the operational and capital improvement costs of the HOA. Say what?
How will all such questions be answered? According to the document approved by the board, this will involve convening a series of "opinion leader" focus groups to include board members and volunteers, staff, external stakeholders, and others (if needed). Then there will be a series on one-on-one interviews with "key" stakeholders (up to 30). Then there may be town hall meetings, online surveys, etc.
Now, here's the kicker -- at the board meeting the actual questions in the proposal from Beacon were downplayed. Don't worry, we were told. Right now the questions are not important.
Well, guess what? The document approved by the board contains this sentence: "To the extent possible, address the study questions compiled by the Client (see Appendix A on page 3 of this proposal)." Obviously these questions will be used initially and influence all that comes after.
One can only wonder who will select the elitist "opinion leaders" and "key stakeholders" in Ocean Pines, those aristocrats who will help shape our collective destiny. Every single association member is an opinion leader and a key stakeholder when it comes to this HOA, and no one else. This is another fiasco in the making and yet another perfect example of the pitfalls of a bureaucracy.
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