Sunland candidates take a stand

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The Sunland Owners Association will fill three vacancies next month after an unusually contentious race.

Sunland, a housing development south of Woodcock Road and east of Sequim-Dungeness Way featuring a scenic golf course, is 440 acres and has more than 850 residential units.

The community is known to be an economic force in

Sequim, where many residents dine, shop and get medical care.

Though it has been known to be largely a retirement community, Sunland Owners Association President Sabra De Rocha said young families are calling the community home as well.

Six candidates are competing for three positions on the governing board. The candidates are Chris Clark, John Hamer, Monica Ostrom, David Owen, Gil Simon and Ken Thomasson.

Below is a Q&A between the Gazette and the candidates.

Q: Would you support a merger between the Sunland Owners Association and the Sunland Golf and Country Club? Why or why not?

Chris Clark: The Sunland Owner's Association (SLOA), Sunland Golf & Country Club, and Sunland Water District are three legally distinct entities with independent boards and commissions responsible for the guidance and direction of each. The idea of a merger of any of these entities has not been proposed by the current board, is not a legal option and is not an issue that is on the table. I would prefer to dispel rumors and focus on efforts that continue to move Sunland forward. We are fortunate to live in a beautiful community blessed with welcoming neighbors.

John Hamer: I am against a combination of SLOA and the Sunland golf course. I firmly believe that the golf course needs to stand alone in a financial sense but also believe that homeowners have an interest in the golf course's success. In my opinion, home values will not remain unchanged in the absence of the course and I have heard no vision for a golf-course-free Sunland. With the above said, the issue of a rescue package for the course was closed last spring with the board determining that SLOA could not force homeowners to fund the golf course.

Monica Ostrom: This issue was brought before our community several years ago and was rejected. If, for any reason, it should arise again, it would involve amending our Articles of Incorporation as they now stand. In my view, the decision that the two entities should function independently was a wise one. It is a true symbiotic relationship in which each contributes to the good of the whole, making Sunland the unique and beautiful place that it is.

David Owen: No. SLOA and the SLG&CC are separate legal entities and should remain so. SLG&CC reported financial difficulties and sought an initial bailout of approximately $1,250,000 over five years, paid by Sunland

homeowners on a mandatory basis. The SLOA board received legal opinions in 2006 and 2010 addressing the legal separation of the two entities. I trust that the golf club will be able to solve its financial problems but will not vote to allow the 100-120 golf club homeowner/members to transfer any debt or liability from the golf club to the other 700 homeowners.

Gil Simon: I would not support such merger. While co-existing in the same community, the interests, needs and social habits of these two groups are markedly different. The golf club, being a private club representing approximately 15 percent of the population, needs to remain a separate organization, standing on its own financially and not be dependent upon, or subsidized by, the rest of the community for its operations or existence. There certainly are areas of mutual interest and cooperation between these two separate organizations, but I am opposed to merger, consolidation or subsidy.

Ken Thomasson: I would absolutely not support a merger. When golf clubs have tried to merge with HOAs in other communities it has resulted in intense legal battles, and the attempts have not held up in court. It's not what homeowners bought into, it's against our CC&Rs, and against Washington state law. It would be foolhardy to try to change our CC&Rs; many Sunlanders will rely on selling their homes to support their final years and it would be hard to find buyers willing to be financially tied to the golf course.

Q: Would you support continuing to contract with the city of Sequim for sludge removal or handling the matter on-site?

Chris Clark: The Sunland Water District management and commissioners have done a commendable job of keeping the homeowners informed about current issues. This issue is more complex than the question proposes and is also not a decision to be made by the SLOA board, but by the water district, with the support of the ratepayers. The water district indicated at the meeting with the homeowners on June 23 that more information would be forthcoming. I will consider my support of an option at that time when I am fully informed, not as a SLOA board member but as a ratepayer.

John Hamer: I would favor Sunland retaining control of our sanitation system and would feel that passing this function to an outside body is a much greater risk to

homeowners' finances than the golf course. This is a major issue to be worked through over the next few years, but only concerns the Sunland water district. SLOA and Sunland Water District are separate entities, and this election has nothing to do with the future of the Sunland water system.

Monica Ostrom: It must be understood that the SLOA board has absolutely no legal jurisdiction over the control of Sunland's biosolids, also known as sludge. The administration of this function is solely the mandate of the Sunland Water District, which consists of its own duly elected commissioners and functions totally apart from SLOA. It is my understanding that SWD has a very good working relationship with the city of Sequim, and I would hope it would continue as long as that remains a viable option.

David Owen: I am a candidate for the SLOA board not the Sunland Water District. In the same way that SLOA and the golf club are legally separate, SLOA and the water district also are legally separate entities. Speaking only as an individual homeowner, I would like to see the current arrangement with the city of Sequim continue until all options have been thoroughly researched and a decision reached that provides long-term benefits to all Sunland homeowners.

Gil Simon: What are the available alternatives, environmental impact of each and long- and short-terms costs? As a homeowner, not as a member of the SLOA board, once all of the information and studies are available, I and other members of the community will consider the choices, voice their opinions and expect to participate in the decision-making process and the ultimate decision.

Ken Thomasson: Sunland Water District and SLOA are separate entities, controlled by different boards. I would support continuing the contract with the city of Sequim. SWD presented four proposals in the recent past and neither included continuing the contract. This was due, per SWD, to the fact that the city of Sequim would not renew the contract and would no longer accept the sludge. I personally spoke with the city of Sequim, Public Utilities Department, and was told that they would renew the contract for the current cost and would continue it for the foreseeable future.

Q: What would you bring to the table if elected and what do you hope to accomplish during your term?

Chris Clark: I have been a property owner of Sunland since 2002. My background is in education, legal studies and technology, and I have prior board experience. I seek to use these skills to enhance quality of life through increased communication, enforcement of the CCRs and continued education to prepare Sunland for future success. My home number is listed in the Sunland directory and I welcome questions. I also strongly encourage residents to visit the SLOA official website at where you can be notified of meetings and review minutes and governing documents.

John Hamer: I am interested in protecting and increasing the valuation of Sunland homes and my decision-making will follow a path guided by that principle. I want Sunland to remain the beautiful, friendly environment I have come to know. Sunland is a great place to raise children and retire in peace and safety, which is the traditional Sunland that I represent. SLOAs' focus must be retaining and building on the past success of our association.

Monica Ostrom: Sunland has always been known for its friendliness and helpful neighborly attitude. Both the homeowners' board and the golf club board are comprised of volunteers who generously contribute copious amount of their time in an effort to maintain our community as the enviable location it has always been known to be. My goal is to deal with any controversies that may arise in a manner that maintains that legacy. And I strongly feel that any and all homeowner issues should be dealt with strictly within the confines of our own community.

David Owen: Independence, common sense and honesty. I oppose extracting funds from homeowners to help finance activities and other schemes, enjoyed by the few, at the expense of the many. If elected, I will focus on learning the duties and responsibilities of board membership and voting in a responsible, legal and productive manner. The composition of the SLOA board needs to change, reducing its domination by golf club members to better reflect the needs and interests of the majority of Sunland homeowners.

Gil Simon: I bring 40 years of corporate legal and business experience, and membership on numerous local boards. I would work to rationalize and update the outdated and conflicting CCRs, bylaws and rules governing the community, settle the concerns regarding the Davis Sand & Gravel situation by negotiation and mediation (hopefully without lawyers), provide increased neighborhood security and develop a modest program to provide financial relief for financially hard-pressed residents.

Ken Thomasson: The current governing documents need to be updated. I have found contradictions between some of the documents, therefore, it is imperative to revise them to better protect each homeowner and ensure their rights are protected. I will allow all homeowners to be heard and provide them with a response within a reasonable period of time. I will listen intently and attempt to resolve all matters in the best interest of the majority, not the minority.

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