The Surfside Property Owners Association (SPOA) had it’s annual meeting Saturday January 21st 2023 at the Whiskey Howler Bar and Restaurant in Surfside, Playa Potrero.
The Annual Meeting was similar to most past meetings where the Board of Directors presented the items they accomplished over the last year and outlined the hopes and dreams of the Board for the coming year. The Treasurer presented the income and expense statements for the two past years. A new Secretary and Vocal were nominated and both elected uncontested.
Roads were an important issue for most residents, however the SPOA President explained the Board has no jurisdiction for maintaining the roads, despite it being one of the largest budget items in the expense report. In 2022 it was over 45% of the total expenses at over $14000.00 USD.
Long term residents are confused, as in the past, the original Association did grade the roads and maintain ditches to help with drainage in rainy season. It was the main purpose in the formation of the organization.
Surfside Estates was considered a large finca that was subdivided into 500-1000m2 lots. Roads were essentially concessions and the Municipality had no responsibility for their maintenance. Some roads disappeared and others were added since the original plan was made.
The roads were graded twice a year with a local backhoe, if the funds existed. For those who lived here and those who came seasonally that was enough. There was nothing like the traffic we have here now. The main access roadway, RTE 911 is under the control of the Ministry of Transportation (MOPT) and remains so.
At one point in time the Association fought to ban ATV tours coming through the community. The signs are still present on some streets. The current Board appears to favor the Community roads being considered public, so restricting traffic is not possible. The reality is it was always next to impossible to enforce.
At some point in time the Association Board requested the Municipality take over the roads. That appears to be in process, however limited government budgets often slow the process. SPOA President confirmed this during the meeting, and also that it was unclear when the Municipality would undertake any measures to improve the roads.
It is also important to note that speed bumps and heavy ropes that were installed by residents and encouraged in the past, are illegal under Municipal regulations. Only Municipal workers can install speed bumps in places approved by the local Muni. Yet the 2021 budget shows an income from the ropes that were sold to residents to be used as speed bumps. If the roads are considered to be managed by the Municipality, why is the SPOA profiting from the sale and installation of illegal speed bumps?
The key point is that with change comes regulations and no guarantee of improvements.
The SPOA President also pointed out that they can’t just keep adding lastre to local roads without risk of flooding out low lying properties. Something we all face come Green Season.
Another key point discussed at the meeting was the issue with security and break ins. It was reported there were less theft reports filed in the last year than in previous years. That could indicate there were less crimes committed or that residents are simply not reporting them.
It is important to file reports of crimes, so the Municipality can allocate appropriate resources to places where crime is on the rise. The process requires that residents go to the local police station to fill out a report. Property Managers and the Association Security Committee are assisting those who have experienced a crime with forms and requesting additional translation services to be made available to local police.
The local cameras that were purchased and installed in 2021 at a cost of over $8000 (one third of the overall expenses), are working but no longer monitored by anyone. It was intended that security staff at the Bahia del Sol were going to monitor the cameras but this was not happening, according to the Treasurer during his report.
It is unclear what the cameras were intended to accomplish since they are aimed at public roads. They would do little to curb the break-ins of homes unless someone was seen walking with the proceeds of the crime in plain sight. In any case the SPOA Board hopes to expand the program by getting more cameras in public areas.
The event had a good turnout with many new residents in attendance. Many long term residents however were not present.
Part of the issue regarding low turnout may be due to the lack of advance notice as the notification went out by email the night before the meeting to current members only. It is likely they sent out notice by social media however this only informs current members.
We asked the Treasurer how the Association planned to get new members if they only notify existing members by email and his response was “what else can they do.” One would expect a community organization to do a little more, especially when the organization relies on membership dues and donations to pay the bills.
The SPOA has a website with no advance mention of the meeting posted. There are local stores that have places to post community notices and there are several local community papers and websites that provide free community service announcements.
Based on the income statement there are approximately 145 members including business members, and less if one considers those with multiple lots. There is room for improvement.
Other items discussed were:
• the ADI application status, which is still awaiting approval.
• The Green Zones – attempt to reclaim Green Zone properties that were sold and registered awaiting action by the Municipality and the National Registro
• Bus Stop Shelters and repairs
• Illegal Signage – where only approved signage can be erected but realtor signage is exempted.
• Graffiti removal – the community is now safe from graffiti
The SPOA despite its faults and limitations is an important community asset that serves as a voice for the community in representing the Surfside community to the Municipal and Provincial Government. It relies on the participation of the community. If you don’t agree with what they do, let them know. If you have ideas on ways to improve the community or the Association, let them know.
Most important, get involved.