Some residents of Leisure World, a residential facility in Silver Spring that is home to 8,500 people who are at least 55 years old, are so frustrated with management’s call for a new $7.2 million administration building that they intend to hold a town hall meeting of their own.
Just Us, a residents group run by Sheryl Katzman, is inviting residents to attend a July 28 meeting. The idea, Katzman explained, is to make sure that residents are aware that under the proposal, the administration building will be demolished and a new one built near the golf course even though an engineering study was never done to see if the current building could be refurbished instead.
“The residents are trying to put a stop to it. I am leading the charge,” Katzman said.
At a May 23 Leisure World Community Corporation board of directors meeting, directors voted down a request that would have allowed residents to vote for or against the new building. At the meeting, some directors explained they had voted against giving residents a say for fear that such a vote would diminish their authority as a governing board, according to an article in Leisure World News of Maryland.
A motion to spend up to $100,000 on an engineering study on the current building also was voted down at that meeting.
Leisure World General Manger Kevin Flannery did not return several requests for comment.
Katzman does not believe the board of directors has the legal right to make a decision as they were not directly elected by residents. Residents do elect a person from their mutual, which is what building units are called, to represent them. From this larger group, members are then selected to sit on the board of directors.
Management has explained that this setup is correct as it is in accordance with its by-laws.
But Katzman believes that Maryland law requires that a board making these financial decisions must be chosen by the residents.
Elaine Hurley, a six-year resident, is one of the elected representatives who was chosen as a member of the Leisure World board of directors.
“It seems to be a general sentiment among many people” that the board “just wants to tear down the existing building,” she said, adding she understands their frustration and that she also does not favor construction of a new building.
However, she said, she believes her dissenting voice has been heard.
The recent request for a community-wide referendum was voted down by the board, she said. “It was the majority opinion,” she said, while not specifically divulging the vote count.
She is concerned that the board “represents less than a percent of the populace,” she said. She also is upset that “the cost of the project has climbed. As time goes by, it does continue to climb.”
Hurley said, “I feel that the building has integrity. I feel a 50-year-old building has the capability to be refurbished.”
According to Bob Ardike, who has lived at Leisure World four years, the need for a new building hasn’t been explained. “It’s so puzzling to people. The message changes.”
He is concerned that all avenues have not been investigated before the board of directors decided to pursue plans for a new building. The current building is historic and fits well into the architecture of the community, he said.
The building was constructed in the 1960s.
An online poll among 500 residents that responded, found that 77 percent of the respondents were opposed to construction of a new administration building, 15 percent were in favor and 8 percent were undecided, according to Just Us. And 1,000 residents signed a petition asking that a referendum be held so that all residents could vote on the matter.
Funding for the new building will come from a resale fund. Leisure World charges a 2 percent fee on each resale of property. These funds are only used for facilities enhancement plan projects.