Written by Phil Cerroni
By Phil Cerroni
At one time or another, everyone has been dragged to a community event where cutesy themes and forgettable masquerade as action and dialog within the community. The Valley Ranch Casino night on Feb. 15 hosted by the Valley Ranch Association at the Omni Mandalay in Las Colinas may have been the exception that makes the rule.
One of the first guests to arrive was Irving City Councilman, Brad LaMorgese, and he was very excited about the prospect of talking with his constituency about current issues while playing a little blackjack. The casino atmosphere was especially appropriate to the evening because one of the hot topics, according to LaMorgese, was the new alcohol ordinance.
“My sense from Valley Ranch and Hackberry is they’re very solidly for changing our ordinance for our areas to go to the 70/30. To get a higher quality of restaurant do you need to do something with your alcohol ordinance? Those are the things we are constantly looking at,” he said pragmatically.
LaMorgese admitted that he is also involved in other, less contentious, ventures aimed at making Valley Ranch more luxurious.
“We’re talking about [building] $400,000 homes in Valley Ranch and on the back end of Hackberry,” LaMorgese continued. “When you have that quality of a home coming, then you’re getting retailers and restaurants thinking, ‘hey this is an area to go.’ Then you’re looking at maybe a health foods store like a Whole Foods.”
Another community leader making himself very available was Valley Ranch Assoc., Residential Board chairman, Steve Adams who took special pains to explain that the residential board is doing everything it can to air out the stereotypes homeowners’ associations have fallen into.
“Most people don’t realize that homeowner associations aren’t formed by homeowners but by developers,” Adams said. “They [developers] set up the association and their rules so the early home buyers maintain their homes in an attractive manner and make it easier to sell the properties that they need to sell to get their money back.”
These short term rules can sometimes lead to catastrophic problems.
“Sometimes those rules are very hard to change. It’s one reason that homeowners associations often find themselves required to enforce rules that aren’t necessarily in the best interest of home owners,” Adams noted wryly. “That’s what’s we’ve been working very hard to overcome.
“Their interests, by and large, overlap with the homeowners’, but they don’t always. A classic example in Valley Ranch is the two tree rule. It was to their [developers] interest to have two trees growing in every front yard [it made the property more attractive]. As the root systems got larger and started to disrupt sidewalks and get into people’s pipes and too much shade was killing people’s grass, it became to be in the homeowners’ interest to have only one tree.
Since Valley Ranch prides itself on being a charming community, it is only natural that the residential board is already looking ahead to what the area will look like in the future.
“Our goal, at this point, isn’t to try to achieve a particular look but to be responsive to what the majority of our homeowners want,” Adams said. “Basically our communities are built out at this point so the overall architecture of Valley Ranch has been established.
“I think the next big issues will come if people decide they want to tear down a home and put up something new. In that case, my guess is, we will probably stay pretty consistent with the look that we have.”
Adams stressed that the residential committee is not only concerned with sheds and freshly trimmed lawns, however. The board has a responsibility to people living in apartment communities, and these issues do not apply to them.
“By putting the association at their service and being a resource for more pleasant living for everyone who lives in Valley Ranch,” Adams explained. “We own our own building that we can make that available to people who want to have a book club meeting or whatever kind of functions. Our newsletter and our email list are available to people who want to promote an event that they’re planning.”
Another area where the association is hard at work is making the community more environmentally friendly, especially by getting non-potable, or gray water piped into Valley Ranch.
“Our community irrigates its public areas with drinking water,” Adams said not without regret. “We’re investigating getting gray water into Valley Ranch. We can’t get it into Valley Ranch right now – that’s going to be a long term project – because it has to come under LBJ and 161. In the meantime, we are looking at lower water usage and sprinkler heads that get more water on the grass and less water in the street.”
Next time you think it’s not worth your time to rub elbows with your community leaders, just remember that besides learning something that may have a significant impact on your life, you might have the chance to win some rad door prizes, get some good eats and go toe to toe with politicians in a vicious game of Texas hold-em.