Who is in charge of the Radburn Association?
The Radburn Association is controlled by a nine member volunteer Board of Trustees and a group of former Trustees together known as “members”. Membership is retained for life. However, only members who currently reside in Radburn have voting rights. About 30 people out of approximately 3,000 residents (1 percent) are voting members.
How can I become a member?
Only those people chosen in a private members’ meeting, or nominated by the sitting Trustees in a closed work session and subsequently elected by the residents, are members.
Is the President of the Radburn Citizens’ Association (RCA) a member?
Yes and No. The President of the RCA is the only Board member freely nominated and elected by all the residents. However, the RCA President is only considered a member temporarily while in office.
I thought I was a member when I bought my house?
If you lived in any other community association in New Jersey, you would be, but not here.
I pay assessments for the maintenance and use of Radburn’s pools and amenities. Doesn’t that make me a member?
No. If you haven’t served as a Trustee, you are not a member. You are merely a resident who can share in the amenities of Radburn.
What is the difference between assessments and dues?
Radburn uses the term “assessment” rather than “dues”, which implies membership. Both dues and assessments serve the same function in a common-interest community such as Radburn.
Do I have any rights at all as a non-member?
Non-members have no power in Radburn, and the Board of Trustees is under no obligation to act upon any petition for change. Even motions passed by the Radburn Citizens Association are not binding on the Board. As a non-member in Radburn, your rights are limited to voting on the annual ballot for the Board of Trustees.
How did the Radburn Association end up without membership for all unit owners?
The original developers of Radburn formed the Radburn Association and seated its initial Board of Trustees in 1929. The Board was given the power to select its replacements. Eventually declaring bankruptcy, the developer never detailed exactly how the residents would take control of the Association.
Will the Radburn membership system always be this way?
Bill A469 passed the NJ Assembly by a margin of 71-4 (with three abstentions) in June 2015. It states that all homeowners in an association such as ours must be considered to be members, bringing Radburn into alignment with the rest of New Jersey. In the new legislative session the bill needs to be re-introduced, and then passed by both the New Jersey Assembly and Senate.
Did the board have a right to hire a lobbyist without disclosure to the community?
No. The Trustees engaged a lobbyist to influence the legislation and prevent “potentially detrimental costly and destabilizing consequences” to Radburn according to their letter dated January 13, 2016. They did so months earlier with no notice to the community and no open vote taken. The NJ Appellate Court Decision in Moore vs. Radburn requires that all binding votes by the board must take place in an open meeting with prior notice to residents. Entering into a contract, such as the one between the RA and lobbyist, is an action which must be conducted at open meeting. Any action contradicting that decision, even if justified in bylaws, is illegal.
Does attorney-client privilege allow the Board to withhold disclosure?
No. The law regarding attorney-client privilege has nothing to do with this issue. Attorney-client privilege refers to private communications between lawyers and their clients. It does not in any way restrict Radburn from fulfilling its responsibilities for voting on contracts in an open meeting as per state law for Planned Real Estate Developments.
Will the pending legislation “divide” the community?
No. In Radburn, about 30 people out of approximately 3,000 residents (1 percent) are voting members. Radburn is the only community in NJ where 99 percent of paying non-member homeowners are denied the right to select people for the annual ballot through a fair and open process, are given no say as to how Radburn spends its collected assessments, and are not allowed to see receipts for Radburn’s expenditures. That’s what’s divisive.
Does the bill require “democracy” in Radburn?
No. The bill requires financial transparency, membership, and fair elections, which are typically democratic concepts. However, it does NOT require any form of “town hall” governance, where every member may deliberate on all issues. The Board of Trustees would continue to make decisions as representatives of the entire community.
What is so important about membership and open nominations?
Membership and open nominations ensure that the Board will be accountable to all homeowners, since homeowners would have the power to elect those who truly represent them. Currently, residents may only vote for two Board seats annually from a ballot of four nominees selected privately by the sitting Board. No write-in votes are recognized by the Board.
I have heard that open nominations will lead to unseemly campaigning in Radburn and the election of people who don’t have the community’s best long-term interests at heart?
Elections would be managed by a committee of homeowners – none of whom are current board members. This will ensure that elections are fair. Radburn homeowners are responsible, intelligent adults who can be trusted to serve the community well when selected through an open nomination process. The community can decide whether to forgo door to door campaigning in favor of a “candidates’ night” or other communication.
Everything has worked well under our system for over 85 years, so why change it now?
The current system resulted in resident unrest and protests in the 1980s, 1960s and even as far back as the 1930s. Homeowners had no oversight to prevent the near total depletion of Radburn’s capital reserve fund in the early 2000s, the secretive sale of Daly Field in 2004, and excessive legal bills totaling millions of dollars both before and following the litigation. Legal charges continue to be well in excess of $200,000 annually (in some years, 10x that of the entire borough of Fair Lawn), with receipts not disclosed to residents. Due to the lack of transparency and accountability, the current system is not working so well.
Will Radburn have to spend tons of money to comply with legislation mandating membership and open nominations?
No. The Bill states that by-laws must be amended to comply with the law. The NJ Department of Community Affairs (DCA) must provide guidance and model by-laws for communities such as Radburn to adapt for our purposes. It will be the Board’s responsibility to revise the by-laws according to DCA guidance and the law.
Can I opt-out of Radburn because I am not a member?
No. There is no opt-out clause in the Radburn Restrictions, which were attached to your Deed when you bought your property here. The Radburn assessment was automatically made a condition of your purchase for as long as you own your home. Membership has no bearing on your obligation to pay the assessments.
Can the Citizens ever vote out a member or Trustee?
No. Only a majority of the sitting Board may vote out another Trustee. As to members, there is no written rule, but only the members themselves can make such a determination.
Can Citizens attend a Board work session?
No. Board work sessions are closed. Legislation would require open work sessions.
Can Citizens attend a member meeting?
No. Member meetings are private.
Can my concerns be addressed at a Trustees’ “Open Voting Meeting”?
Yes and no. Open meetings were instituted in Radburn as a result of the court decision in Moore vs. Radburn. Residents may attend these meetings but have no right to ask questions other than the Agenda discussed. Typically, the only item on the Agenda is to approve the prior meeting minutes. There is no method for residents to put any item on the Agenda. Any other questions must wait until the meeting is actually closed, and are taken only at the Board’s discretion. Comments and suggestions made during the discussion period are “off record”, and are not required to be written, recorded or discussed further by the Board.
Can Citizens change the rules?
No. Only the Trustees and the members may make changes to the Radburn by-laws. In fact, even if the Trustees were to make such a change, it is still up to the members to decide if they wish to veto any change.
I’ve heard Radburn is not a Homeowners’ Association?
The formation of Radburn preceded the establishment of modern Homeowners’ Associations. However, New Jersey courts have repeatedly ruled that Radburn and Homeowners’ Associations are both “common interest communities” and “planned real estate developments” as defined by State law, and must follow the same rules for the protection of their unit owners.
I’ve heard that Radburn is a private corporation?
The Radburn Association is a private, 501(c)(4) “social league”, according to its Federal IRS tax registration. That means that Radburn is a registered non-profit corporation for tax purposes. In fact, virtually all Homeowners’ Associations, condominiums and co-ops are corporations.
Why is the Radburn system legal?
According to the NJ Planned Real Estate Development Full Disclosure Act (PREDFDA), the association Board of Trustees must be elected by and responsible to the members. In a decision that many people consider contentious, the NJ Appellate Court in MOORE vs RADBURN decided that while Radburn was indeed subject to this law, the Court did not have jurisdiction to decide whether the law intended all paying unit owners to be automatic “members”, as it does not explicitly define all “unit owners” to be “members” – even though it uses those terms interchangeably. Therefore the Radburn system, although contentious, is not unlawful.
Does this Bill change Radburn into some sort of condominium?
No. The Bill makes no changes to ownership of your property. The Radburn Association continues to hold title to the parks and facilities.
Will my assessments change if this bill becomes law?
No. Your assessments are based on a percentage of your Borough tax bill and the estimated annual budget determined by the Board of Trustees. The bill requires no changes to that formula.
Does the pending legislation create intrusive state oversight and extra expense?
No. The Planned Real Estate Development Full Disclosure Act already applies to Radburn, so this is not “NEW” governmental intrusion. The government, through statutes and regulations, has been providing homeowner protections all along. This will simply strengthen enforcement to ensure fairness for all homeowners. No additional association money is required under the bill.
What would be my responsibilities if we all became members?
None. Serving on the Board or a committee will continue to be a volunteer effort.
Will Radburn have to end the Architectural Guidelines?
No. The Bill does not require any change to the Architectural Guidelines nor to any services currently performed by the Association. It only addresses disclosure, fair elections and membership.
Will everyone have to know if I missed an Assessment payment?
No. The Bill addresses financial disclosure of expenses of the Association, such as legal, professional, tax and maintenance costs, and bank records. The Bill explicitly states that “personal identifying information” must not be disclosed.
Will Radburn be required to burden everyone with a bunch of unwanted mailings?
No. The Bill requires financial disclosure, meeting notices and minutes. It does not specify that such disclosure must be mailed to every homeowner, rather, that it be made available for inspection at the Grange upon request by any homeowner with advance notice.
Why would I need to know anything more about Radburn’s finances than is already provided?
Actually, very little about Radburn’s finances is currently provided to the community. We are given a budget summary but there is little detail beyond categories such as “professional services”. We may be told that Radburn has adequate “reserves” or has established an “investment” program for the Daly Field proceeds. Despite a New Jersey Appellate Court ruling that they should show residents “a record of all receipts and expenditures”, they will not provide that detail. For example, they may report spending over $200,000 annually on professional fees, but residents are unable to learn why that line item is so expensive.
How does lack of financial disclosure affect me?
We are all required to contribute our share towards Radburn’s continued operation and maintenance, including any emergency or improvement expenses that arise. It is not unreasonable to assume that one day, you may sell your home in Radburn, and a prospective buyer might be concerned that there is so little detailed information made available about Radburn’s expenditures.
Can’t the Radburn Citizens’ Association President tell me all I need to know?
It is the Radburn Citizens’ Association (RCA) President’s duty to conduct an open forum for the community, bring the community’s concerns to the Board, and relay the Board’s responses and actions to the community. The President may submit announcements to appear in the Radburn Bulletin, however, Radburn maintains final editorial control over space in the Bulletin and has edited and limited the President’s messages from time to time. Regular mailings by the RCA are burdensome on an organization which has no regular source of funding other than volunteer activities.