Sunday, March 29, 2015

Town Hall Meeting in Loreto Bay

As you may already know, Loreto Bay is a Condominium Community and Homeowners manage the Development through a structure of 12 Sub Regimes within a Master Regime to establish policy and make planning and budget decisions that shapes our community now and into the future.  We employ a Condominium Management company to handle the day to day administration and supervise the staff and contractors we employ to provide the services and maintenance that are required to operate our community of over 600 homes.

While this is a simplification of a fairly complicated management structure that we inherited in part from the way the original Developer set up the Condominium in the first place, and in part as is required by Mexican law, it should be understood that, between the volunteers involved in the neighborhood Sub Regimes and the community wide Master Regime, there are close to 100 Homeowners contributing time and effort in helping to make Loreto Bay the beautiful and well run Community it has become.

While much of this considerable time and effort by these Homeowners goes largely unnoticed by the majority of Residents here, this past week there was a very public example of the sort of work that goes on behind the scenes to manage and plan for a Community this size, when the Master Regime Planning Committee held its first Town Hall Meeting this week in the Community Center here in Loreto Bay.  Although it was going to require my closing the Real Estate Office for a couple of hours, I was looking forward to attending the meeting as an opportunity to understand what was being considered for the future of Loreto Bay.

Not knowing what to expect in the way of turnout, by the time that I arrived at the Community Center about 15 minutes before the scheduled start time, I found that most of the available seats were already taken and by the time the Meeting began the number of Homeowners in attendance had more than doubled to over 120.  While this was an impressive turnout it probably was no more than half the current number of Owners that are here, as many couples were represented by only one person.  But it still surprises me how many people are living here at any given time during the Season, when there are usually only a small percentage of them evident coming and going on the sidewalks and pathways on a day to day basis!  

This 9 member Committee was just formed in January this year to review our facilities and issues and make recommendations for how the Community will continue to evolve and develop.  To prepare for this task, earlier in the year a survey was sent out to all of the Homeowners asking for feedback and to establish what they thought the priorities were for the future of Loreto Bay.  So to begin with, the Committee reported that there had been an over 50% response to this survey – high by standards for this sort of research.

It came as no surprise to me that the number one priority, according to these results, was the issue of vehicle parking within Loreto Bay.  One of the characteristics of this Development that appealed to many of the original Buyers was the “sustainability” of the project.  This was an important part of the “vision” the Developers had at the outset, and it became one of the selling points that appealed to the future Owners of Loreto Bay.  One consequence of this was designing Loreto Bay as a “walking community” where all gas engine vehicles are restricted to parking on the divided main road, or “Paseo Mision de Loreto” (we call it the Paseo for short) that runs mainly north/south through the Community.   Then you walk to your home on the network of many landscaped pathways that feed off the Paseo and connect the many Community Courtyards that the Homes are clustered around.

As the occupancy levels have risen over the years, and the numbers of Homeowners with cars has increased the parking density has continued to grow, particularly in the central part of the larger Founders Neighborhood where over 2/3 of the 600+ homes are located.  While there is always somewhere to park, this congestion can sometimes result in people having to park further from their homes than they would like, causing some inconvenience when you are carrying luggage or a week’s worth of groceries.      

The Planning Committee reported that last month in February, with a community occupancy level of about 43% (which will probably be close to our highest level this Season), there were in fact a small surplus of parking spaces at the peak daytime traffic levels.  However, there were also some recommendations for short term ways to increase the available spaces, including allowing parking on both sides of the south entrance road and permitting parking on left side of the Paseo, where it is wide enough that two vehicles can park without obstructing the road, along with other longer term options.

The second priority from those who had responded to the survey had to do with the Beach that is on the east side of Loreto Bay, where it meets the Sea of Cortez.  To begin with it should be understood that all Beaches in Mexico are public and so we do not “own” the Beach.  However, our proximity to the Beach and the Ocean remains one of the most important features of Loreto Bay and the Planning Committee had established some priorities to improve the access and appearance.

At the south end of the Development, just north of where the INN is located, there is a 275 foot stretch of Beach that had been cleared prior to Loreto Bay being developed and originally it had about 8 shade palapas (umbrella shaped, thatched roofed structures) that have deteriorated over the years and the several tropical storms we have weathered.  Rebuilding these palapas and re-anchoring them into the Beach was seen as the first priority in improving the appearance and utility of the Beach. 

Secondly, increasing the amount of Kayak and various “Board” storage near the Beach was considered to be the next most important facility, as the numbers of Homeowners wanting to enjoy these watersports grows.  It was also recommended that more “wash stations” be added so that saltwater and sand can be hosed off people, pets, and things, as they leave the Beach and move onto the pathways into the Community.  It was also identified that expanding our already extensive landscape maintenance within the Development to include “grooming” the sand and collecting any trash that is left on the Beach by the tide is also going to be recommended going forward.

The third area of interest according to the Survey response was Community Facilities including options for expanding the current Community Center where the meeting was being held.  This is an approximately 1,500 sq. ft. space which we rent from the Investment Group that manages the commercial property within Loreto Bay.  In addition to a significant lending library of books and DVDs donated by Homeowners, and some comfortable seating and wi-fi access, this space is regularly used by a variety of interest groups including Bridge and Mah Jong players as well as Yoga and other fitness activities.  Several interesting options were discussed, starting with some renovations that would improve the existing facilities and make it possible for more than one activity to be underway at a time, to possibly acquiring more rental space and even consideration of earmarking funds for purchasing land and developing a multi-use facility in the future.    

Further down the list of priorities were a Fitness Center – there is one small “for profit” gym I described in a recent posting and a similar fitness room in the Hotel that we may have improved access to in the future, but the consensus was against expanding these facilities as part of our Condominium amenities, leaving it to the marketplace to decide what they want to support.  Likewise, it was decided that there was not sufficient interest in adding more Community swimming pools to the three we currently operate, nor did the idea of developing a Children’s Playground within Loreto Bay receive much support – the feedback being that there were lots of other unique activities for the relatively small (but growing) number of young Visitors that are coming to Loreto Bay.

When the meeting concluded, after a lively Q & A period, I headed back to my Office for the rest of the afternoon and considered the many ideas and suggestions that had been discussed, arising out of the Homeowners Survey.  While I was pleased with most of the information I had gathered at the meeting, what struck me as most important was this planning process that had begun a few short months ago, and how it would begin to shape how the future of how Loreto Bay would look, starting in the near future - and extending well beyond.  And I realized how, from these modest beginnings, our Community would continue to mature and progress into an even more responsive and beautiful place for those of us who are lucky enough to be “Living Loreto”!