The vast majority of the 300 Leisure World residents attending a town hall meeting July 28 made it clear that they oppose the management of their residential facility in Silver Spring and won’t consider supporting a proposed $7.2 million administration building until they see the results of an engineering study on the current structure.
So far, however, no engineering study has been undertaken or agreed to by the management of the large complex that is home to 8,500 people who are at least 55 years old.
“No matter what you hear, [construction of the new building] is not a done deal,” said Sheryl Katzman, president of Just Us, the residents’ group that conducted the meeting. Her organization wants both an engineering study and a resident-wide referendum held on the proposed building.
“This [town hall] is for the residents to be heard,” Katzman said. The residents “have heard for years what management wants, and they are not buying it.”
Resident after resident approached the microphone on a very rainy afternoon to vent their frustration about what they considered their lack of input.
Some were concerned by the proposed removal of trees and reduced greenspace, but most expressed displeasure over what they considered a decision by a management team that won’t even see if they can save money by updating the current building.
According to a letter from management that was read at the meeting, the current administration building is moldy, doesn’t have enough room for its staff and isn’t up to current code.
Some attendees spoke out against those who make decisions at Leisure World. Still others called for the residents to obtain legal counsel to fight the expenditure in court.
Leisure World General Manger Kevin Flannery did not attend the meeting, but a handful of the 34 board members did.
Carole Portis, the only board member to speak during the meeting, said she often gives Flannery “a run for his money” and is in the minority as most board members support everything Flannery wants.
Resident Jordan Harding told the crowd he has attended numerous board meetings, and “I have never seen such arrogance to the needs and the voice” of residents. “The community is run by a general manager and a handful of acolytes.”
Meanwhile, a sometimes-vicious email stream written by residents on both sides of the issue continues, with new posts written several times a day.
Bob Ardike, who has lived at Leisure World for four years and writes many of those emails, said during the meeting, “Right now we are almost like prisoners in an occupation.”
He added, “We have to demand that a democratic process get started.”
Those in attendance were urged to step up and call board members and local elected officials to express their dissent.
At a Leisure World Community Corporation board of directors meeting on May 23, 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.
Just Us has distributed a petition calling for a referendum and engineering study. About 1,700 residents have signed that petition.
Katzman explained earlier that she does not believe the board of directors has the legal right to agree to a new building as they are not directly voted on by residents. Residents do elect a person from their mutual, which is what building units are called, and from this larger group, members are then selected to the board of directors.
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.
Ardike told attendees he has heard that “discussion started” to raise that fee to 3 percent.