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Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Serving your community through volunteering

So...I was recently accused of  trying to turn our neighborhood into "Myville"...Really?  I volunteer, it is what I enjoy doing.  I believe in giving back, and it is a really terrific way to meet new people, especially your neighbors.  The one downside of serving on any HOA, however, is that you see some of the ugliness in your neighbors.

We have lots of deer in our neighborhood.  I mean lots.  Most of this is due to the large wooded areas throughout the common areas, as well as our belief to keep the land as natural as possible.  I don't believe that this is in the actual documents of the HOA or Architectural Review Board ("ARB") but it seems to the be the status quo.  Nevertheless, deer seem to be a main topic among homeowners.  One reason is they like really beautiful plants -- to eat.  You know those gorgeous hydrangea?  Buffet dinner to deer.  What about tea roses - ditto.  They like some azaleas, most tulips and all kinds of other really gorgeous plants.

People like me choose to plant relatively "deer resistant" plants rather than encourage them to visit for a feast...but when deer are hungry, I found some of my geraniums recently munched upon.  Prior to our moving to Dunlora, there was a movement among a minority of residents who wanted to hunt deer within the community.  Now, while I enjoy venison, I don't want someone hunting on my property or anywhere near my property.  If I don't get shot (I have terrible luck, and would probably be the one on the phone with an arrow or bullet in my shoulder calling 911 - it is just the way my universe treats me), then it could be my child.  Or some young group of hikers gets shot.  All because of too many deer.

Now, I am not exactly a tree hugger, but I do respect Mother Earth and Nature in general.  When this land was developed, it was woods.  The deer were here first.  In fact, it is us living in their space.  So, when  the new Board was voted in, this was due to the fact that were not supportive of the "hunting in one's backyard" philosophy.  Now, it seems, the pro-hunters are gearing up for a come back.  This is NOT a good thing.  It is too dangerous.  I like to meditate in  my woods in my back yard...what happens if some hunter thinks I'm a deer?  I get shot.  What about my dog?  She is fawn colored and looks like a small deer...if someone shot her, I'd be out for blood.

So - it is important to know that this is going on.  It is also important to understand that this is not a feasible manner in which to discourage deer from hanging out in your yard.  Put up a fence, or like me, plant things that they don't like to eat.  You can also use that horribly smelly stuff that people put all over their seems to work, just make sure you don't stand down wind when your neighbor is applying can linger in the nostrils...for days.

You can also encourage  your human males to simply pee in your yard marking your works in the wild with animals?  Perhaps it will work for us humans as well...who knows.  I'll know you're reading this if I see you outside peeing in your yard.  Heh!

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Volunteering in Dunlora

I'm a firm believer in community service.  I served on the Condominium Owner's Association ("COA") Board of Directors in my former neighborhood, and now I'm doing so here as well.  I started out joining the  Architectural Review Board (ARB") when we moved here, as I saw an announcement in the newsletter stating that there was a vacancy...There are actually 2 vacancies.

This was a way for me to meet people and learn not just from the documents, but also from the folks who live here.  I've worked construction (on the administrative side, not actually out doing the hard stuff) for many years prior to my foray into the financial worlds of the secondary mortgage market...but I digress.  This is an awesome Board.  The Chair and the other Director are really nice.

I was asked to run for a position on the Board of Directors of the Home Owner's Association ("HOA") in the summer of 2011.  I sent my biography to the nominating committee and this was published in the newsletter as well.  I then had to speak in front of the homeowners at the Annual Meeting in October.  I was duly elected and am enjoying the fruits and foibles of said service.  There are disgruntled folks in all neighborhoods and I'm learning that Dunlora has these as well...but for the most part, these are the 1% and while their voices are heard most often, out of more than 300 homes in this neighborhood, when there's really only 10 that complain the most...that's not too bad.  Not anything I haven't seen before.

I have also recently taken over as editor of the newsletter.  I'm really looking forward to this the most.  This is an opportunity to really get the news to the homeowners within the community.  Those that rent should also have access to this information as well, and we do have a few renters, although specifically the percentage of homes that are rented within Dunlora, I don't have those statistics.

Dunlora offers all sorts of amenities.  I've spoken about the clubhouse pool, the playground, the gym (small but efficient) within the clubhouse, and the trails within the community.  I know that I mentioned the trails.  There are specific points of entrance and exit, but some folks still continue to walk through my yard...Guess it's time to start cleaning the guns again.  Just kidding...or am I????  Waaa Haaa Haaaa.

Anyways - let me also point out some benefits of sharing information.  If you are new to Charlottesville - there is the Greater Charlottesville Newcomers.  This is a wonderful group of people.  They are moving to an online newsletter to make things easier for them.  You can call and leave a message on their message board and you get hooked up.  They have all sorts of activities.  I am a member, but am not active.  Although I'd like to be.  They play bridge (even for those of us who don't have a clue, you can learn!), there are monthly socials and dinners, trips to interesting places nearby, lectures on money and how to save or manage it, also tennis groups, golf groups...too numerous to mention them all.  Check them out...

I love my neighborhood and I adore Charlottesville.  I'm so happy we moved here.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Benefits of Living in Dunlora

The entrance gate at the front of Dunlora Drive
So...Yesterday I briefly talked about our search for a home and some of the great things that led us to buy a house here in Dunlora...But there are other great things about living here as well.  First, the location.  I love being close to downtown Charlottesville.  I mean, that's where all the really terrific restaurants, shops and theatres are.  Granted, I'm biased as  I'm lucky enough to be able to be actively involved with Live Arts, and am even in an upcoming production.  But I digress...the shopping is amazing, and even if the Meadowbrook parkway (county side) weren't open, it would still be only 10 minutes (with traffic) to downtown.

The pedestrian mall is such fun.  The amazing shops feature some truly amazing local artists, as well as unique boutiques that offer gifts, clothing, and other goods and services.  I truly adore the Pedestrian Mall as well, as it is dog friendly.  While I also have two felines, I like to bring my dog downtown.  I can have coffee, tea, a meal or a fantastic glass of wine while sitting outside and enjoying the weather, meanwhile, my pup can sit next to me begging for whatever I am eating, or indulging in...I don't share my coffee, tea or wine with her, but sometimes will give her a taste of my lunch or snack.  Despite her many years of obedience training, and her Canine Good Citizen, she is still poorly behaved in that she jumps up on people, but I think it is also a breed specific behavior inherent to Italian Greyhounds.

We're also close to Hollymead Shopping Center on 29 North.  It is also about 10 to 15 minutes (with traffic).  Kohl's, Target, a Harris Teeter as well as other shops are up there, and it has Vinny's, my favorite italian restaurant here in Charlottesville...Granted, it is very family friendly and small and, well,while not gourmet, it is fantastic eating.

Dunlora also has trails maintained by a committee with a budget granted by the HOA Board of Directors.  These volunteers enjoy hiking, biking and running as well as nature and the trails are well marked.  When a resident moves in, we have a welcoming committee who gives our new neighbors a directory with the paths clearly marked in it.  I will say, that having purchased a home that had been vacant, some of my "neighbors" were using our back yard and stairs to access these trails, which I didn't like...who likes strangers trespassing through their yard?  Not me, and when I kindly asked one couple to please, the next time, use the marked trails, they vociferously told me to "f... off" which was not very neighborly, in the least.  Then they proceeded to speak negatively about me to their neighbors...really?  This kind of thing happens everywhere, and since then, we seem to have made an unspoken peace and people no longer traipse through my back yard...wonder if it was perchance me cleaning my son's rifle while sitting on my deck stairs?  Gotta love Virginia and their gun laws...

Other than this, there is a beautiful club house and pool.  The pool is open from Memorial Day through Labor Day, and it can be rented out to the residents for pool parties, but lifeguards must be present.  Talk to the management company about this too and make sure you get the name and number of the local representative of the company that manages the life guards, just in case the weather  turns and you are still planning on having a pool party.

Dunlora also has public gardens where vegetables can be planted as well as soccer fields.  A professional grade tennis court (the association recently renovated the tennis courts to bring it up to this level) is also maintained by the association and is free for residents to use.

All in all, the neighborhood is wonderfully located, beautifully maintained, and for the most part, incredibly friendly.

We love it here in Charlottesville, and our neighborhood is a fantastic place to live.  I'll write more later...

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Living in Dunlora

As a relatively new resident to Charlottesville, we looked at every neighborhood known to mankind within the area. From Greene County to Fluvanna, and then within Albemarle County. How were the schools? Frankly, this didn't help, as ALL of the county middle and high schools are excellent...we have a middle school age child. So, once we met with every principal, every guidance counselor, had a tour of the three middle schools (Jouett, Sutherland and Burley - We determined that Western was too far, well, west) and the two high schools (Monticello and Albemarle), it was important to find the right neighborhood.

Now, I'm not saying anything nasty about any of the neighborhoods we didn't choose, but something about Dunlora just felt right from the moment we first drove through. It is heavily wooded, with abundant wildlife. The homes are not cookie cutter, and the pride of homeownership is apparent in the way that the homes are maintained. Then there is the cost of the homes themselves.

At first, we didn't think that we'd be able to find a home within our price range. Then we were fortunate that there were two in the neighborhood on the market within the neighborhood in our budget when we were really ready to buy. We'd sold our home in the Washington, DC area and were living in a 2 bedroom apartment. Not enjoyable. We were determined to find the right neighborhood and the right house. We were lucky. The house that we bought had been vacant for over two years and the price had fallen by 50%. This was AWESOME!! What a deal!

Dunlora is all that we wanted in our home. The neighbors are welcoming and very friendly...something that was missing in my old neighborhood in the Washington, DC suburb where we had lived previously. The location is awesome, as it is less than 10 minutes from downtown and the University, and yet, the same distance from the shops located up at 29 North in the Hollymead Shopping Center. We are near to the mall, churches, and shopping. What more could a gal ask for?

Then there's the fact that there are TONS of kids. We love this aspect as it is important for our only child to be able to find friends to hang with. There just so happen to be several.

Overall, the welcome we've found in our new neighborhood has supported me fully throughout my husband's deployment. Also, the new friends and social gatherings I've been fortunate enough to enjoy have really made life in Charlottesville so much more than I imagined.