Homeowner associations proliferating as city nears build-out

Editor’s note: Virtually every residential neighborhood developed within the past 10-20 years has fallen within the scope of a homeowner or neighborhood association. To help such associations meet an increased demand for services, cities have established separate departments and hired professional staffmembers. The evolution of Chandler’s efforts in this regard is detailed by Wrangler News reporter P.J. Standlee.

By P.J. Standlee

The merger of two city of Chandler departments in 1999 helped the city meet a growing need for more information and resources within its neighborhoods, whether for traditional or homeowner associations.

The Neighborhood Programs Office, which merged with Community Development under the umbrella of the city’s Planning and Development Department, resulted in an integrated Neighborhood Program built to provide resources and information to the city’s various neighborhoods while providing residents with a link to the city.

Crystal Prentice, Chandler’s Neighborhood Program administrator, calls the new Neighborhood Program a one-stop answer shop for Chandler residents.

With expectations of Chandler’s remaining residential space to be completely filled by 2012, there is great need for the city to provide more support and comprehensive information to neighborhood residents, she says.

“We try to establish and encourage a partnership between citizens and community resources and to assist in the long-term preservation of Chandler’s neighborhoods,” Prentice said.

What exactly does that mean? For instance, the Neighborhood Program provides funding for the Community Development Block Grant, which is a matching program up to $ 5,000 paid through the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

These funds can assist moderate-income neighborhoods in clean-up efforts, help beautify city streets or any other improvement project.

One good example, Prentice said, was the work the Evergreen HOA did using its block grant to renovate the neighborhood’s parking, landscape and common areas, which included removing dead landscaping, repairing irrigation lines, planting 37 new plants, laying down new asphalt.

All of the work was paid for by the $5,000 grant, coupled with $6,000 in matching funds from the HOA. Not to mention, of course, a lot of volunteer work by the residents.

According to Prentice, the Neighborhood Program also focuses on maintaining moderation and social services for its neighborhoods.

“We help support the homeowner associations and the traditional neighborhoods through education and training,” Prentice said.

“It’s not just physical but a social construction. We call it building human infrastructure. When you see a neighbor helping a neighbor, now that’s community.”

Another program, the city’s Service Academy, helps residents learn how the city operates by attending workshops. Residents who don’t have the time to do that can also work through the Chandler Neighborhood Advisory Committee, made up of other residents who help advise the city on problems and needs of residents.

Prentice said with More than 20 HOAs in Chandler, the Neighborhood Advisory Committees play an important role as a bridge between the city and its residents.

Marguerite Munkachy, a Kyrene Corridor resident and vice chairman of the Neighborhood Advisory Committee, said keeping track of the growing neighborhoods and HOAs while keeping up the traditional neighborhoods is a critical component to the continue development and quality of life in Chandler.

“Right now we have so many neighborhoods coming in with neighborhood associations, and then there are the older areas that have more challenging needs,” Munkachy said.

“We want the city of Chandler looking good all the way around.”

According to Munkachy, such new development as the proposed condominiums and businesses on the southern corners of Rural Road and Chandler Boulevard produce important additions to the city and surrounding neighborhoods.

“If it goes in, it’ll be a very good thing for that area,” Munkachy said.

Prentice said the Neighborhood Programs grants, improvement, moderation and education programs in conjunction with help from businesses and organizations  with the participation of residents help keeping Chandler looking good and on the right track.