For those of us who live in communities with a Homeowners Association (HOA), we know that it can be a challenge to jumpstart new community projects. From the initial idea to breaking ground on the project, there are many meetings, conversations and negotiations that have to happen with HOA members.
This is especially true when trying to implement green projects, like installing a RainScape.
If you are thinking of introducing a green project, like a RainScapes, to your HOA, a few basic strategies can go a long way to ensuring a smooth process. And in the end, a RainScape that everyone in a multi-family community can be proud of.
At The Waterford Condominium complex in Kensington, resident Joyce Koeneman helped oversee the creation of two large rain gardens. After attending a Sacred Grounds workshop (an educational workshop Montgomery County RainScapes Program regularly holds for faith communities) Koeneman took some of what she learned and began to apply it where she lived.
“We discovered all the programs for funding and we worked with the County on the proposals that we presented to the board of directors,” Koeneman said. “We made proposals for rain gardens and permeable paving. The board of directors accepted the rain garden proposal.”
Before she learned about RainScapes, Koeneman already chaired a “green team,” which the HOA had started to help with recycling and other efforts around environmental sustainability.
In part because of that team, Koeneman said, green issues already were familiar to HOA leaders and residents. The team also periodically circulated a newsletter with environmental news and tips.
So in a way, the infrastructure was already in place for what Koeneman said was a key part of the project’s success: effective communication.
“I think it’s important to inform people,” she said. “When the green team began to work with the County on the proposals, it was after a lot of public information things. We did newsletters and open events where people can ask questions.”
After applying for a RainScape rebate, County experts then came out to walk the grounds and offer information.
“There are different ways to approach multi-family properties,” said Donna Evans, a planner with the RainScapes program. “Homeowners and private residences within the HOA community can apply individually, and the HOA itself can apply for common spaces, this combination can make a big impact on stormwater management.”
According to Evans, up to $10,000 in rebates are available to an HOA per parcel, while private properties can apply for up to $2,500 in rebates per parcel. By having multiple homeowners and the HOA both installing projects, multi-family communities can make a large positive impact on the environment and save money.
At Waterford, the process took “several years,” Koeneman said, making patience a real virtue. Even so, Waterford residents had plenty of questions.
“How much is it going to cost to maintain and what’s it going to look like?” Koeneman recalled being asked. “And standing water. But if it’s properly planted, that won’t be the case…There was concern about adding moisture to the ground. We’re about 14 stories high. We have a stable foundation, but we’re a concrete building. But we got the questions answered and we got past that.”
By keeping the HOA board of directors and rank-and-file residents in the loop, there were no surprises when the time came for the final decision. The HOA approved the garden project. Now that it is installed, even residents with the most concerns are pleased with both the process and the final outcome.
“I get nothing but positive feedback,” Koeneman said. “They say, ‘hey, those rain gardens look great!’”
Ultimately, even the largest or longest process in a multi-family home starts with simple steps—and can bear considerable fruit.
As Evans advices, “contact your HOA rep, contact the DEP, and start a dialogue.”
By Scott Harris. Contract writer for the Department of Environmental Protection.