Homeowner and Condo Associations do what it takes to keep residents happy
Posted on 03/23/2017
With hundreds of people living in each of Northville’s signature neighborhoods, there’s a lot of work to be done for the common good. The people who facilitate this are the board members of homeowner/condo associations.

Command central is typically at board meetings – some associations hold one annual meeting while others meet several times a year. Issues are also brought up year-round in neighbors’ front yards, while walking the dog, or over coffee or a cold brew in downtown Northville.

Agenda items at meetings focus on dues collection; budgeting for new or replacement items; scheduling repairs; and taking on bigger projects, such as entrance signs, lighting and landscaping. The condition of the roads is another concern. (Each year, the City schedules several neighborhood roads to be repaired.)

Lexington Condo Homes Association, at 8 Mile and Taft, arguably has the biggest challenges of the five homeowner associations interviewed. Laura Keller, president of the association, is working with fellow board members on a plan to replace the shared water lines to each building with individual water meters, which will be paid from their operating budget.

“Trying to convince people to do this is hard,” Keller said. “The payback could be 2-1/2 years.”

The condo association members are also studying replacing the shared gas line into the buildings with individual meters. The goal with converting these utilities to individual meters is to give residents more control over payment for their portion and to save costs overall.

Another expense involves the neighborhood irrigation system, which keeps breaking down.
“Breaks in the line can go undetected,” Keller said. “One bill was $2,500 more than usual due to a break in a two-inch pipe that didn’t get noticed for eight days.”

Phase I of the new irrigation system was completed in 2016; Phase II begins this spring and will add high-tech rain sensors so the system isn’t activated when it rains.

Neighbors banded together for Randolph Drain repair

Another major issue for the Lexington Condo Homes Association was the rising amount of sediment in the Randolph Drain that runs along the backside of the condos. The sediment significantly slowed the flow of water that travels through several Northville neighborhoods before it crosses Center Street and terminates at the Middle Rouge River near Ford Field.

“An easement was signed to Oakland County and they were ultimately responsible for maintaining it,” Keller said. Costs incurred are charged to the Randolph Street Inter-County Drain Board, comprised of representatives from Oakland County, Wayne County and the Michigan Department of Agriculture. The board oversees maintenance of the drain and assesses the City of Northville, 62.19 percent; the City of Novi, 35.4 percent; and Wayne and Oakland counties, 2.41 percent combined. 

Keller and other condo owners spent three years advocating for the board to pay for the clean-up at Randolph Drain, and in 2016 the board agreed to take on the extensive project, assessing fees as described above. Dredging is going on now and will be completed by July 1, 2017.

Parks, land islands need maintenance

Lexington Commons Association covers 162 homes and is also the parent association of the north and south condo associations – with a total of 192 units.

The association manages the commons area and maintains the parks in the neighborhood. This year, it plans to repair the playscape and add new picnic tables. Lexington Commons Association President Todd Farmer says a neighbor, Johnny Vallespir, and his Boy Scout troop – about 20 in total – will do the work and earn an Eagle Scout badge.

Abbey Knoll, located at 8 Mile between Taft and Beck, plans to upgrade their entrance this year with lighting that improves visibility off 8 Mile. They may enhance the character of the entrance by adding short walls near the new sign.

“When they widened the road, it’s hard to see the lighted monument sign on the island,” said former Association President Bob Krestel. The subdivision of 98 homes also plans to refresh some of the islands with new landscaping and benches, keeping it consistent throughout the neighborhood.

Do good fences make good neighbors?

Northville Estates’ biggest issue, aside from wanting additional road repairs, is fences. While the board is lenient with fences along Beck and 8 Mile, most residents of the 155 homes there prefer the open space that comes without being fenced in. “I don’t want to see fences divide homeowner from homeowner,” said Association President Chuck Murdock.

Mailbox woes and street lights
Both Abbey Knoll and Pheasant Hills have uniform, high-end mailboxes made of cast aluminum with power-coat paint. The problem is that the finish is wearing out sooner than it should. Both subdivisions are seeking ways to cost-efficiently fix the problem.

Pheasant Hills Homeowners Association President Dan Wegienka said residents are pleased with the gas lights that were put in 12 years ago in the neighborhood with help of the City. “It makes the streets look aesthetically pleasing. We are known as the gas light district.”

The Association spread the cost of the lights over a ten-year period. There are 54 lights, which are kept on day and night because it’s cheaper then turning them off and on.

“People walk at night. It’s not dark. Electric lights would be brighter. We have a lot of hills; people like to go up and down the hills,” Wegienka said.

A parting note
One bane of associations is that it’s hard to find good contractors. Keller had difficulty lining up a carpenter to rebuild steps to a condo unit, while Murdock found that sign-makers wouldn’t call back when asked to bid on new signage for Northville Estates.

Watch City News for other articles about Northville neighborhoods. If you want to share news about your neighborhood, please contact Liz Cezat, communications manager, at 248-305-2703 or lcezat@ci.northville.mi.us.