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SCW Board moves forward with tennis court project


The Recreation Centers of Sun City West Governing Board on Thursday, with the advice of its legal counsel, informed the community it was moving forward with a planned tennis court renovation project, and no community election would be held.

The Board voted unanimously to follow the bylaws, as confirmed by the Association Attorney, and not hold an election.

An election was requested by a petition that had circulated in the community in April and gained more than 1,000 signatures. The petition asked that the project be delayed until the community could vote on the expenditure. The Bylaws, however, do not give members the authority, even through a petition, to affect the budget. That power rests with the Governing Board, however, all felt that the petition demonstrated an important purpose; the people spoke and the board listened.

In a written legal opinion requested by the Board, the attorney advised the Directors that an election in this case – to allow the membership to vote on a capital project – is not proper or allowed for in the Bylaws.

Under Bylaw 4.18.3, regarding Board powers, the Bylaws state the Board shall “hold and bear the fiduciary responsibilities for the preservation of the assets of the Association.” And under Bylaw 4.19.6, regarding its Duties and Responsibilities, the Board is charged with, “Ensuring that Association facilities are properly maintained.” Similarly, Bylaw 4.19.7 states the Board shall approve the annual financial plan.

“It is very important for the Board of Directors to protect the assets and property values of our residents even when there are controversial issues,” said President-Elect Peggy Robbins.

The petition that was circulated asks “that this project be removed from the 2017-2018 budget and delayed until such time as ample justification has been made for this expenditure of member funds and the approval of the community has been determined through a Special Election Vote, prior to proceeding further with this project.”

However, there is no provision in the Bylaws allowing members to stop the Board from carrying out its duties in Bylaws 4.18 and 4.19 to preserve the assets of the Association and approve the annual financial plan. Under Bylaw 9.1, members may amend the Bylaws by getting at least 1,000 signatures on a petition and calling for a vote. But the vote would be to amend the Bylaws, not to amend the budget or stop a capital project.

“This Association is organized and operated to provide for the acquisition, construction, management, maintenance, and care of Association property,” said Governing Board President Wanda Schnabel. “The Bylaws charge the Governing Board with the responsibility to provide oversight of the administration and operation of the Association (Bylaw 4.18.2). These two statements charge the Governing Board with maintaining safe and adequately maintained facilities for our residents to use. Sun City West is nearly 40 years old, and many of our facilities are aging and need or will shortly need updating.”

The project in question is the renovation of eight courts (including new lighting on four courts) at the R.H. Johnson Tennis Complex. The project is budgeted at $961,477. Confusion arose because the second phase of this project, which includes renovation of the final seven courts at R.H. Johnson, as well as a proposed central landscaping/plaza area, was lumped in by some members of the community, who believed the entire project next fiscal year was going to cost more than $2 million.

Although the planning and design costs for the entire project was budgeted in year one, construction was budgeted in two phases, in two years. Phase 2, which is for the seven courts (three of which would be lighted), would cost $802,285. The central plaza would cost about $382,400. Both of those items were planned for the second year of the project, not fiscal year 2017-18.

Funding for new enhancements in the central plaza area such as shade structures, social area enhancements etc., would be funded by the Tennis Club. That was a major request from those who attended two community forums held by the Association to gather public input.

“We have appreciated all of the input,” Robbins said.

Schnabel added, “The tennis courts are the property of the Association, not the Tennis Club. It is the responsibility of the Governing Board to ensure our facilities are maintained. Nowhere in the charges to the Board does it say the facilities should only be maintained to support what some residents consider ample utilization. It is sound fiduciary responsibility to replace the courts with post-tension concrete, which will last a minimum of 30 years, instead of continuing to spend money on repairs that will only last a relatively short period of time.”

R.H. Johnson has a total of 16 courts. The 15 would be renovated in the two phases listed above. The final one is being put in now, at a cost of $77,687, which the Tennis Club is funding. That court removes the last pickleball courts from the R.H. Johnson Tennis Complex, which is part of a compromise between the tennis and pickleball clubs, which have been unable to coexist because of differences in their sports. The compromise was designed to end the years-long bickering between the clubs. R.H. Johnson was designated as the standalone tennis complex, and Palm Ridge was designated as the standalone pickleball complex in that compromise, which also included a pledge to renovate the R.H. Johnson courts. The current project for eight courts this year and seven next year, fulfills that promise.

Also during that compromise, it was recognized that Kuentz’s tennis courts were increasingly underutilized and might be better used for something else. That message also came across loud and clear in the two recent community forums. The Governing Board reiterated that intention during Thursday’s meeting. The ProBounce surface on Kuentz’s courts is good for a couple of years, and those courts will be needed during the R.H. Johnson courts’ renovation, but after that time, the Kuentz situation will be reevaluated.

Read the legal opinion from the Association Attorney.

  1. I believe clarification is needed on the fidicuary responsibility of the board to preserve the assets of the association. Examples of when assets were not preserved is the Sun Dome. Built by Del Webb at a cost of $8.6 million dollars, it was deeded over to ASU, due to diminished use and high cost. Golf courses have had changes made (hazards moved, added, or deleted) due to improvements or cost issues. This is not preserving all assets, but is acting prudently, with changes in usage, and reducing costs.
    Tennis club membership and RHJ court usage (documented by staff) have both shown decreases (club membership down 12% in 2017). This casts a shadow as to whether the second half of the court upgrade will be approved next year.
    Phase 1 of the project that has been approved rehabs 8 courts on the east side of the complex. The old pickleball court has already been rehabbed. This is located on the west side of the complex. If phase 2 is delayed or cancelled the complex will be disjointed.
    Evaluate the possibility that phase 2 will be cancelled or postponed. Rehab the 7 courts scheduled for phase 2 this year. That will give RHJ 8 new surface courts. If phase 2 is delayed or cancelled you have all the resurfaced courts adjacent to each other.
    This change will still give residents a state of the art tennis facility, as well as allowing the board to use our reserve funds in the best interests of the community.

    • Multimedia says:

      Ed, Thank you for your comments. I appreciate your thoughts on the location of the first set of courts to be renovated. In looking at the drainage situation, it is better to start where we have recommended. All the courts need to have proper drainage and starting with the back 8 allows for that. If by some chance we do not renovate the other 7, there would still be the drainage issue for that lower area because of its location.

      In looking at 55+ communities throughout the United States, a tennis center seems to be an essential ingredient to the assortment of amenities that attract buyers to the community. As a homeowner, I am sure you would want your property value to increase over time. By the Association providing a good tennis venue, the value to the community is improved. RHJ Tennis Center is a much more attractive facility than the Kuentz tennis courts. There is adequate parking and as the courts improve, the number of players may increase. We might have seen a slight drop in Tennis Club members due to the conditions of the court and the poor lighting. Many of the newer residents who spoke at the two tennis forums mentioned that they bought in Sun City West because when they looked at our facilities and saw the numbers of courts we provided, they knew this was a bit of a Tennis community, and that is what they were looking for. When they got here, they may have been disappointed in the poor condition of the courts.

      Staff will continue to look at usage of the courts and consider this, as will the Board, when deciding on renovating the remaining courts. We will also look at Kuentz and its utilization.

      Thanks again for your comments.

      Cindy Knowlton
      Recreation Manager

  2. John H Kasten says:

    I fail to see how the direct and on-purpose denial of owner-members rights as stated in By-Laws Section 3.3 and the focus on Governing Board “powers” rather than “responsibilities” can be construed as “Listening”. I also fail to find any reference in the By-Laws to support the claim that the Governing Board needs to “protect” the property values of the residents. If pointing to the By-Laws is going to be the defense, please use all of them and only them.

    • RCSCW PR says:

      Hi Mr. Kasten. The Bylaws give members the power to amend the Bylaws through the petition process. They do not give members the power to adopt or modify the Budget. That power is reserved for the Board. Director Robbins’ comments about protecting property values was her opinion. She does not state that it is listed in the Bylaws.

  3. M Cepaitis says:

    Hopefully we have looked into how many younger people moving in are into tennis. Does the younger generation play a lot of tennis.

    • Multimedia says:

      Hi M Cepaitis, while it’s hard to know if the younger generation plays “a lot of tennis” with total confidence, we do know that 10% of new residents that moved into the community in 2015/2016 have played tennis on our tennis courts.

  4. Dudley Gibson says:

    As author of the petition I am satisfied with the outcome, though I disagree with the attorneys opinion regarding the bylaws not allowing a petition for other than proposing ByLaw changes .
    I believe that more time should be allowed between the 1st and 2nd phase to allow evaluation of player acceptance and toleration of the hard concrete surface!
    Not a tennis player but why not test a couple of clay and or grass courts that could be replaced with post tension if it did not work out? We might be the only community in AZ with such courts?

    One thing that contributed to the petition movement was my, and many others, feeling that the normal project development process was not adhered to in announcing the Tennis and seemingly rushing through to commit over 2m$ while characterizing the major project as “maintenance”!
    I would like to see a summary, step by step explanation of the major capital project process!
    This would certainly improve Member understanding, and remove suspicion about future proposed major projects!

    • Multimedia says:

      Hello Dudley, In regards to clay courts, they are labor intensive and have a tendency to crack consistently under the Arizona sun. In addition, they need and use lots of water. Grass courts are similar to the lawn bowls in that they too are labor intensive. They require lots of water, ground leveling, and mowing, in other words, every day maintenance would be required.

      Here is a link to the Governing Board document describing the major project process. Hope this helps.

      • Dudley Gibson says:

        Thanks for response!
        I figured that clay and grass would be labor intensive, but perhaps players would participate in some of the minor stuff as an alternative to playing on hard post Tensioned concrete?
        If all 16 courts courts are post Tensioned and some players cannot tolerate that surface we are in an expensive catch 22!

  5. Scott L Mitzner says:

    The tennis court renovation is a total waste of money. Adds no value to our community and homes. Its like spending money to repaint and modernize a pig barn.

  6. Sally Prickett says:

    I chose SCW for my retirement because it contained many amenities which were kept clean and well maintained. I play tennis, pb, golf and use other facilities as well. I want a community which is progressive and inclusive of all interests. When I can no longer participate in physical activities I still want “my” community to have this mind set. Thanks to the Governing Board and all who participated in this process.

  7. margaret says:

    Dear community- just because the project is broken down into 3 parts/ 2 years, it still adds up to $2,146,000.When you add $961,477,+$802,285,+$382,000, a multi-million dollar project as the petition said, all which is not maintenance.

    However, with the community now aware, and the board, general manager, & staff knowing there are citizens who are concerned about fiscal responsibility in this community, hopefully this and future proposals will be handled properly– following bylaws, proper policies and procedures, & forums; not done after the fact, because a community petition brought it to light.

    So let’s watch the process going forward:
    1. Only 8 courts, 4 lights updated 2017
    2. Tennis pays their debt of $ 77,687 for useless E-W court
    3. Tennis pays their share ($ 150,000 or more?) of the central
    Plaza like other clubs have paid for new & ungrades, fair is
    ( plaza is obviously new, not maintenance)
    4.Real player use numbers are properly counted. Not counting ping
    pong or volleyball as tennis. Come on folks, Really!! Really!
    5.In future Repurpose unused Kuentz Tennis courts for other uses
    growing in the community.

    Don’t deminish the petition,1000 signatures were needed to be acknowledged, however over 1500+ signatures were acquired. This community held prior board elections with 800 votes, last year less than 3000. The petition signers were half the people who vote for board members.

    So let’s keep informed, participate, and be an active part of this great community.

    • Multimedia says:

      Good morning Margaret. We acknowledge and appreciate the petition, and the hard work that went into collecting the necessary signatures. It’s important to state that the author of the petition is satisfied with the outcome. The Board, General Manager and staff are aware that our Owner Members are concerned about fiscal responsibility and all of the above take their fiduciary responsibilities seriously. In this case, the Board did a thorough review of the bylaws in their decision to not hold an election. The Association attorney confirmed their decision and found that bylaws and proper procedures had been followed all along. We feel this was a great showing of how Arizona’s Open Meeting Laws work and that a positive outcome was achieved from the Board and citizenry alike. We agree with your last statement, we hope for Sun City West Owner Members to stay informed and participate. Have a great day.

  8. Diane Hashem says:

    I am very pleased that the Governing Board came to this conclusion. This will be a great asset to the community and will also draw more retired tennis players to SCW. I truly appreciate the efforts & hard work by everyone on the Governing Board.

  9. Karen Kirkman says:

    Thank you to the Governing Board for their time, hard work, and dedication to maintaining the assets we have and making SCW a great community!

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