By Ella Cox | April 1, 2021
Community associations successfully adapted to unprecedented challenges during the COVID-19 pandemic, seeking legal advice on holding meetings virtually, introducing new protocols for reopening amenities, and requiring face coverings in common areas even as more people are vaccinated. Association leaders are now considering which changes may become permanent moving forward.
At Sienna Associations in Missouri City, Texas, many former in-person processes will stay online, including handing out ID cards for the fitness center, modification requests, and the option for committee members to join virtual meetings when needed.
“The pandemic has gotten residents better acclimated to our community app for facility use and activity information and our website for resources,” says Lisa Cox, CMCA, AMS, LSM, PCAM, the association’s community manager and chair-elect of CAI’s 2021 Community Association Managers Council.
For most communities, virtual meetings have become appealing for board members and residents due to their convenience and flexibility. Higher attendance and participation is making them an option even after communities can return to in-person meetings.
Cox notes that Sienna’s management office is updating one of the conference rooms to allow for hybrid meetings.
Several states permitted community associations to hold virtual meetings during the pandemic if not allowed by their governing documents—an option that CAI supports for communities following the global crisis. Nancy T. Polomis, an attorney with Hellmuth and Johnson in Minneapolis, plans to include provisions when drafting governing documents that explicitly allow virtual meetings (since state statutes are unclear about permitting them), with guidelines on how they should be conducted.
Some communities also are re-envisioning their common areas to serve as productivity spaces as employers grant more flexible remote work arrangements. Warren Buckingham, board president at Parkside Plaza condominium in Silver Spring, Md., says the board is considering adapting its community room and park-like plaza to become resources for residents who prefer to switch locations when working from home or want a place to socialize.
“We very much expect that there will be long-term changes to how we live in this building,” he adds. The switch to more frequent remote work also is making Parkside Plaza’s board consider how to address increases in utility usage and managing noise complaints, for example.
One of the main things that Buckingham hopes will continue are the community’s virtual activities, many of which were organized to provide joy and levity throughout the pandemic. “We have found some really inspiring ways of strengthening the sense of community in the building, even though we couldn’t be physically in one another’s presence. We want to hold on to that as we look at the future.”