“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
— Bert Lance
We hear a lot of loose talk about change. As if anyone who is doing something that works already is stuck in a rut if they resist reinventing the wheel. Even something that ain’t broke can be improved upon, but not without a good plan. And there are certain elements of CountryPlace character that should be preserved.
HOPA Community. CountryPlace is a community protected by the federal Housing for Older Persons Act (HOPA). Our HOPA designation lets us restrict home ownership to residents who are at least 55 years old. HOPA also permits us to place restrictions on the duration of residence by children under 18 years old.
Almost as intrinsic as our unity as Americans and Texans is our common interest as retirees (or nearly retired), as grandparents (and great grandparents), as surviving spouses and all the other unifying blessings of staying forever young together through our golden years. Whatever the change, our HOPA nature must be preserved, else we are no longer CountryPlace.
Tax-Exempt Status. CountryPlace is a tax-exempt organization. Which means the IRS doesn’t tax us the way it taxes companies like Kroger. Which also means Texas doesn’t collect tax on our assessments. Which means far simpler paperwork than gets piled on non-exempt homeowners associations (yes, there are some).
But we are also not the typical tax-exempt HOA. We own property on which a taxable corporation conducts business: the golf club. And although tax-exempt organizations like a church can operate nominal activities like a small religious bookstore for the benefit of their charitable mission, the IRS won’t look kindly on a church taking advantage of its tax status to run a major business such as a Barnes & Noble franchise. In short, a very strict wall must be maintained between our homeowners association and the golf club, else we risk losing our tax-exempt status. And whatever the change, our tax-exempt status must be preserved, else we are no longer CountryPlace.
Golf Course. Yes, the elephant in the room: that golf course we own, on which the golf club operates. Love it or not, the golf course has been a key characteristic of our community almost from day one. Even if one does not actually play golf, the course and the club materially affects our personal and community finances, from the portion of our assessments attributable to our ownership interest to the intangibles of the value of our homes. And beyond the economics are countless social factors, both within our community and for Pearland and beyond. We are known both to ourselves and to others as the community with a golf course.
The course should not be abandoned and left to go to open field. And whatever we do to make it work, we should maintain as much control over the future of the golf course as possible. Whatever the change, the CountryPlace golf course must be preserved, else we are no longer CountryPlace.
Active Volunteer Spirit. The very heart and soul of CountryPlace is its active volunteer spirit. Each of us came to CountryPlace with many skills and talents. Our community was built and has grown on the enduring strength of using our experience to help each other. Those who know us well have held us up as a unique model of the best a community can hope to be.
Responsibilities that our Board can perform should not be delegated to outside management. Our own residents can and must serve most of the operational duties of our community – ranging from elections to personnel management to events and activities. We should rely on the advanced professional knowledge and experience of our homeowners to run our community for ourselves instead of having it run for us. No matter what the change, CountryPlace volunteer spirit must be preserved. If they cut out our heart and kill our soul, we are no longer CountryPlace.
Critics are too quick to falsely criticize preservation of basic values as if the protectors of those values merely wish to “do things the way they’ve always been done.” But whatever the change, our core character must be preserved. Real leadership recognizes constructive limits on change.