February 7, 2017
Board Members Present: Lar Stampe, Gary Nelson, Tom Etter, Patti Langman, Don Davis, Tom Randolph
Not Present: Dan Edwards, Tom Cox, Ruth Frasier.
The meeting commenced at 7:30pm with the Pledge of Allegiance.
Ballots were collected from those in attendance and combined with mailed in ballots to be counted. The count was 123 for Tom Cox, 123 for Don Davis and 125 for Jennifer Usis (one new board member replaced Gary Nelson).
Lar introduced the board members and told a little about each of their responsibilities.
Lar Stampe - President
Tom Etter – Vice President
Ruth Fraser – Treasurer
Gary Nelson – Maintenance and Budget (retiring from Board)
Don Davis – Security and Environmental
Tom Cox – Architectural Chair
Patti Langman – Hospitality
Tom Randolph – Reserve Analysis
Dan Edwards – Audit and Ad Hoc
There are many community volunteers that work very hard along with the Board to make Lake James a successful self-managed Home Owner’s Association also:
Madge Stampe – Secretary, Newsletter, Billing
Peggy Sansone – Environmental Chair
Ted Hleba – Webmaster
Linda Major – Welcome Wagon and Hospitality
Nicole Donovan – Signage and Hospitality
Susan Russell – Neighborhood Watch and Directory
Kate Stikeleather – Maintenance
Ted and Debi Benham - Maintenance
Craig Langman – Maintenance, Architectural Committee, Environmental
Lar informed those present of our new 4th Precinct Liaison:
Lt. Lynch left information that the purse snatching on Belvoir Lane is still under investigation and the detectives and working on some “leads”.
Our new VBPD representative is Officer Astin.
Reports from various Committees were then called for:
Peggy Sansone spoke of her frustration in dealing with the City over our pollution problem, especially since promises have been made, gone unfulfilled, and our problems are worsening. The Environmental Committee can no longer win this fight ALONE! WE NEED COMMUNITY INVOLVEMENT.
The Lake James Environmental Committee engaged in the following activities from January to December 2016:
1. Spent $6,000.00 for professional water analysis, algaecide & materials for lake spraying
2. Obtained an estimate for purchase and installation of Solar Bee aeration systems at $54,000.00 per unit (3 needed for size of Lake James)…and system results are uncertain.
3. Peggy Sansone sent 32 emails and phone calls to city officials regarding the status of the lake from Jan – Dec; several went unanswered. From Jan through June Lake James was assured the wetlands project would begin very soon. In July we were abruptly told the project was not funded because of a change in requirements, and that there would be no City improvements to water quality at Lake James.
4. The Cedar Hill Canal and HRRC (information was presented by Don Davis).
Hampton Roads Recovery Center (HRRC) is a private landfill that receives construction demolition and debris materials including fly ash, bottom ash, tires and other building materials that may contain asbestos and lead paint. HRRC pumps potentially contaminated surface/ground water from their drainage holding pond directly into the Cedar Hill Canal. HRRC’s discharge point is the “headwater” of the canal. During periods of rain, there are approximately three places where storm water from Centerville Road also contribute to Cedar Hill Canal water flow. Normal flow bypasses Lake James, but by design, during “high water events,” excess water overflows the inlet weir and potentially contaminated water flows into Lake James.
The difference between Lake Christopher, which is not having water quality and blue-green algae problems, is that Lake James has the Cedar Hill Canal. Otherwise, both lakes receive water from aquifers and from street drain runoff. Theoretically, we should have fewer problems because our lake is larger and deeper.
Our water testing provided by the Virginia Aquarium shows extraordinary high levels of pollutants being discharged into the Cedar Hill Canal.
The City has made many efforts on the behalf of Lake James to maintain our water quality. Years ago, the city landfill pumped water into the Cedar Hill Canal. After objections by Lake James, the City reversed the flow of their landfill water by blocking off the Cedar Hill Canal and reversing the flow into their own holding ponds to allow sediment settling before flowing into the Elizabeth River. The City also built the bypass canal and has installed a series of weirs to aid in controlling Cedar Hill Canal water entering the lake.
We believe HRRC is manipulating a legal loophole in their permitting. Although HRRC is operating as a landfill, and is in fact licensed as a landfill by the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), it discharges surface/ground water under a permit issued by the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals and Energy (DMME). HRRC reports on the DMME website that since 2005 they have ‘zero’ personnel dedicated to mining, and they have produced ‘zero’ products from their mining operations. We filed a complaint in 2012 with DEQ who conducted an investigation that resulted in the decision that HRRC was operating in compliance with their permit. The water discharge was deemed to be under the cognizance of DMME. At the same time a complaint was also filed with the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The EPA accepted DEQ’s report. In 2016 we revisited this issue by filing a complaint with DMME. DMME again investigated and also deemed that HRRC was in compliance with their DMME mining permit. DMME stated that HRRC is performing a mining operation in that they are backfilling their pits. It is our belief that HRRC is pumping surface/ground water under the mining permit so as to avoid the more stringent water monitoring requirements dictated by landfill discharge permits.
Two possible solutions:
• Direct HRRC to divert their effluent to the City of Virginia Beach landfill canal. This leads to a large City-owned lake adjacent to the landfill that has zero impact on residents. It flows via swamp lands and streams to the Elizabeth River as well, but does not pass through any adjacent residential areas. Cedar Hill Canal flows continually adjacent to resident’s homes, and Brandon MS all the way to the Eastern Branch of the Elizabeth River (Fairfield area).
• Direct DEQ to enforce the effluent sampling requirements as a ‘landfill operation’ instead of the requirements for Non-Metallic Mineral Mining operations. That would force HRRC to modify their process and clean up their effluent discharge.
5. The lake was treated 4 times by Lake James volunteers this year: Don Davis, Lar Stampe, Ted Benham, Tom Randolph, Paul & Peggy Sansone, Chris Pierce, Don Hawker, Joe Messer, Tom Cox and Kate Stikeleather.
6. Warning signs were posted around the lake warning of toxic algae in the water.
7. Lake James personnel attended a storm water management seminar June 9, 2016.
8. Three professional water analyses were conducted: Feb., May and June. High e-coli levels were detected in the inlet canal and near the swimming beach.
9. We enrolled Lake James in the Algaecide Cost Participation Program with the City of Virginia Beach in May 2016. As of Feb. 2017, the program has still not begun.
10. Requested three culvert clean outs from the city for the blocked in the Bypass Canal
11. Lake James is enrolled in the Virginia Aquarium water testing program
12. Lake James organized and participated in a meeting on September 7, 2016 with Virginia Beach Councilwoman, Amelia Ross-Hammond, Public Works Officials; Phil Davenport, Mark Johnson & Melanie Coffey, the LJ Environmental Committee, and LJ Board members to discuss what actions the City would take to help alleviate the pollution problems. Many promises were made, very little has been done to date to reduce the inflow of polluted water. A detailed report on proposed city actions was promised to be ready in November 2016; to date no report has been received.
13. Reviewed city websites for expenditure of taxpayer funds for storm water management.
14. Created a document outlining expenditures on lake projects throughout the city.
15. Wrote and submitted a document on the history and timeline of pollution in Lake James for city officials and our councilwoman representative.
16. Contacted city and state representatives to help solve the pollution problems in Lake James.
17. Compiled a list of environmental lawyers to assist the LJ community in seeking corrective action from the City of Virginia Beach.
In summary, 2016 was a very difficult year for the Environmental Committee. Many hours were spent communicating with city officials, conducting research on lake pollution and treatments and compiling and submitting documentation. After one year of urgent emails, phone calls and meetings the city response has been minimal. To date, the banks of the Cedar Hill Canal have been cleared, and sand bars in the canal removed. Many promises were made to the Lake James community concerning lake in-flow, but the City has reneged. The lake is in poor condition and probably will be unusable this summer unless corrective action is taken. Algaecide treatment alone by our LJ community is not enough.
GOALS FOR 2017:
1. The sole focus of the Environmental Committee will be to pursue corrective actions for the lake from the City of Virginia Beach; the primary focus will be on the pollution problems from the Cedar Hill Canal. This includes organizing the LJ community to go to a City Council meeting and request corrective action, and for the community to help with a letter writing campaign.
2. The community also needs to continue their good stewardship and scoop the poop, don’t feed the ducks, use little to no lawn chemicals, maintain riparian buffers and keep the street gutters clear of leaves.
3. Elizabeth River Project believes that it is incorrect that HRRC is discharging contaminated water under a mining permit; they might be able to help us, and they have contacts with DEQ, etc.
We are tired of being told there is no “money” for a clean lake solution.
Strongly worded letters have been written to our State Senator Frank Wagner, and to Delegate Rocky Holcomb.
We are also looking for a consultation with an Environmental Attorney.
The financial reports including the accounting for the 2016 budget summary and the Annual Budget for 2017 were handed out. This information is available at www.ljha.org in the “private/log-in” section of the website. Gary Nelson explained that although there appears to be a lot of ‘operational’ money in the bank, a significant portion of that money is set-aside only for Lake Quality Management, and only for the Reserve Fund (which is required by the VA statutes for capital assets). $40,000 is held in a “Contingency” fund for unexpected damages or for hurricane related clean-up assistance which are costs not covered by the Reserve Fund. Budgeted money that was not spent in the 2016 has been rolled over into the 2017 budget line items and for impending legal fees. Approximately 75% of homeowner’s have paid their dues for 2017; only 1 has not paid for 2016, and 1 is making periodic late payments.
Gary Nelson reviewed the major 2016 projects which included the removal of 10 more gum ball trees from the park at a cost of $4,000, and the repair at the boat ramp. Another annual expense is bringing in washed sand to the park beach.
Already in 2017 the Deodora trees along Belvoir Lane have been limbed up to allow delivery trucks and school buses to pass. There are no major projects anticipated in 2017 that will exceed our maintenance budget.
Tom Etter reported, in Tom Cox’s absence, on the update to the Lake James Architectural Rules and Regulations which was required due to state statute changes. The Architectural Committee researched the new statutes, consolidated the previous “Guidelines” by eliminating duplication and contradictory wording, and adopted new rules for enforcement.
Question: What happens when a house is being flipped and there is an Architectural Violation?
Response: The Architectural Committee does an exterior inspection of each property for the “closing package” prior to the sale with a ‘punch list’ of items that need to be fixed. These violations must be corrected or they will be noted in the HOA disclosure.
Question: What can be done about the artificial flowers on a property?
Response: There is nothing currently in the Covenants to cover that as a violation.
Susan Russell, our Neighborhood Watch Coordinator, discussed the Neighborhood Watch program stressing the importance of reactivating our participation in Neighborhood Watch so that we can keep our community safe and secure. Susan and Gary Nelson have defined the neighborhood into 27 zones ; we need Block Captains for 14 positions. Each Block Captain has 10 houses in their zone. The Block Captain’s responsibility is to keep updated information on the residents in their zone and to pass along important information when necessary. This is a very easy, 3-4 hour per year commitment. Please contact Susan Russell to volunteer for one of the remaining positions; if you are already a Block Captain, please volunteer to take a second zone.
Susan and Gary Nelson have also been working on updating the directory which, when finalized, will be posted on the “private/login” section of our website, and can be downloaded. There will NOT be a booklet directory.
COVENANTS TO BE UPDATED
Lar Stampe discussed the need to have the Lake James Covenants revised and re-written. They were originally recorded in 1982. Many things have changed including laws about home businesses, limited residential lodging, and Covenant compliance issues. Our current Covenants contain nothing about the reserve fund requirements. Over the past several years, Lar and Tom Etter have been attending Legal seminars on Homeowner Association Management to “get up to speed” on updating Covenants. The Board has now decided to go forward and seek an attorney familiar with HOA Covenants.
Question: One resident asked what to do about Graffiti.
Response: Contact the non-emergency number and report it to the police. Residents may clean it up if they so choose.
Comment: A resident was recently injured by a dog ‘off-leash’ in the neighborhood.
Response: All pet owners should have their pet on a leash which is a city ordinance.
Patricia Brooks volunteered to take over the ‘Welcome Wagon’ responsibilities from Linda Major.
The meeting was adjourned at 8:50pm.