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Wiliamsburg VA Real Estate “Fords Colony News”

From an article in the VA Gazette 

JAMES CITY – In a stunning affront, homeowners in Ford’s Colony are looking outside the gates to find a new management company. That threatens developer Realtec’s hold over the sprawling planned community.

The potential shakeup is the latest wedge in a series of disputes that date back to an attempt to build 220 workforce homes across News Road. Realtec hoped to roll the project into the Ford’s Colony master plan, which homeowners vehemently opposed. Things went downhill when management pushed a big continuing care facility as well.

The homeowner association president downplayed any animosity. Deborah Gatzek-Kratter said, “This isn’t anything adverse about RCS,” referring to Realtec Community Services. “It’s just a normal process. It doesn’t reflect anything about anybody. There’s no problem [with Realtec]. This is about getting the best value, the best service, for the money.”

It is nonetheless the first time the Homeowner Association has challenged an arrangement forged 23 years ago by opening the management contract to outside bidders. Last week six bids came in, including one from Realtec.

What’s at stake is a contract worth $4.5 million that covers more than 25 employees in 24-hour security, 30 in maintenance, five in management and two in recreation, plus summer temp help. Community Services maintains 45 miles of private roads and 250 acres of common area.

Realtec the company oversaw the compound until 2000, when it ceded control to the Homeowner Association after a series of phases.

Insiders said this week that with Realtec’s “veto power” over association decisions set to expire in 2010, now’s the time to recast the contract or retain a new company altogether.

Realtec general manager Drew Mulhare said, “We believe that keeping the interests of the developer and the HOA aligned is in the best interest of both entities and, of course, the folks who own property here.” He said Community Services drew a 90% approval rating in a recent survey.

Skeptics feel Realtec is still in charge.

Ousting Community Services is more complicated than hiring a new company. It owns the project maintenance facility, which houses management offices, storage, a mechanic’s shop and a fuel depot. The HOA pays into a shared-use agreement, but the cost is half of what homeowners can expect to pay in mortgage or lease costs for separate facilities, Mulhare said.

Indeed, Community Services would be under no obligation to let the homeowner association use the facility.

“Maintenance companies, large landscape companies and construction companies have spoken to us in the past regarding co-op agreements, mergers or leases,” Mulhare said. They are attracted to being close to the 3,000 lots, 2,400 homes and 600 to-be-built units at Ford’s Colony.

Then there are the 60 or so Community Services employees. Realtec could be subcontracted by the new company, Mulhare noted, which moves the negotiations mostly to a matter of the $436,000 upper management portion of the contract.

“It would separate me and my development connection from the management agent,” Mulhare said. “However, there is no evidence that my dual relationships have been a determent to the [Home­owner Association].”

Village at Ford’s Colony, the controversial continuing care facility on News Road, will come online in a matter of years, Mulhare said, providing more business for whoever runs the compound.

Gatzek-Kratter carefully noted that the decision was not based on the controversy over the continuing care facility. More than 900 Ford’s Colony residents initially opposed the plan, and the HOA later tried to block it through legal means. Eventually both residents and the HOA supported the retirement home, or at least agreed to not fight it anymore.

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