OFE GAZETTE ©               

www.oldfarmestates.org              

 

 

Trustee Meetings

Second Tuesday of each Month

         Holy Cross Lutheran Church,  13014 Olive Blvd.

Corner of Fernview and Olive Blvd. Please enter at rear of church

7:30 p.m. - 9:00 p.m.

ISSUE 75                                                                                                                                               First Issue 2020

PRESIDENT’S MESSAGE

Dear neighbors,

 

Whew, what a year this one has turned out to be!

 

COVID, murder hornets, hurricanes, wildfires AND a Presidential election. It just does not get much more stressful than this.

 

Our regularly scheduled spring meeting had to be cancelled due to COVID precautions and space unavailability and we weren’t sure when, or even if, we would be able to open our pool this year.

 

We had to delay that opening and initially, in the season, limit the number of people at the pool at any one time, place information about County restrictions at the pool, put stickers on the decking to attempt to keep people moving in one direction, move chairs six feet apart and provide for disinfection protocols.

 

Spring rain deluges caused significant erosion issues on the common ground due to creek flooding and years old electrical connections resulted in ‘lights out’ at our entrance for a time.The gazebo is on while the lighting for the large monument sign is a work in progress.

 

All the while, we are making adjustments to a ‘new normal’ way of life. Zoom meetings, remote learning, working from home and shortages of everything from toilet paper and cleaning supplies to that specific brand of summer sausage at the supermarkets have caused most of us to re-think what we feel is important in our lives. 

 

We had our Fall General meeting via Zoom, 26 of us attended and we got a chance to see some of our neighbors.

 

Trustees received survey responses from about 25% of the households

 

There were a car wash, paper shredding and food trucks making their appearance in the common area at the pool this year! 


There are articles here in the Gazette about things that have been done and which are continuing to be done, in the neighborhood.

 

It’s great seeing all of us out and about, sometimes with kids in tow, taking in the beauty of the outdoors and waving or saying “Hi” in passing.

 

Kathy Schweitzer, President

NEW ASSESSMENT AMOUNT 2021

 

In 2018 we homeowners approved increases in the annual assessment amount in order to provide for the operation of the pool, thus allowing all of us to use it without paying an additional fee, and to enable the Trustees, over time, to accumulate "reserve funds" in anticipation of both increasing operational expenses and the possible implementation of projects around the neighborhood.

 

For 2021 the assessment will be $253.00 (which is slightly less than the 5% increase allowed by the amendment) and it will be DUE and payable in one payment by December 31, 2020. 

The largest expense(s) we have as a subdivision are for: common grounds maintenance, upkeep and repair/replacements; pool operations; insurance coverages and street lighting/electricity along with the fee to City and Village Tax Office.

 

The Finance Committee is charged with reviewing yearly expenditures, suggesting budget line item amounts and determining the needs for reserve funds. 

 

As with last year, City and Village Tax Office will be able to take your assessment payment on-line. 

City and Village offers the option of submitting credit or debit payments online. Residents can log onto our website www.cityandvillage.com, click the “Make Payment” button located at the top, right-hand corner of the screen. We have found that this site works best with the Google Chrome browser. PLEASE NOTE: There is a convenience fee of $10.00 that is charged when using this service

 

Kathy Schweitzer, President

SIDEWALKS: A WONDERFUL BUT POTENTIALLY DANGEROUS ASSET

 

The recently completed survey results drew attention to a large contrast in how homeowners feel about sidewalks. Sidewalks were pointed out as one of the things homeowners love about Old Farm, at the same time, the sidewalks are one of the things that homeowners said most frustrated them about living in Old Farm. In other words, we love them, but because of their conditions, we are frustrated and worried about using one of our nicer assets! Dozens of our residents walk daily but the sidewalks in some areas of OFE can be dangerous, not just because of the condition of the sidewalks but because tree debris, like gumballs, that collect in front of some houses as well as other obstacles not removed by homeowners.

 

The sidewalks themselves are the responsibility of our County Streets Department.

Trustees have been in touch with the County for the last couple of years requesting they (1) do more repair of our sidewalks, and (2) to repair them using concrete rather than asphalt and (3) reseal or overlay our streets. 

 

We have pointed out to them that in our neighboring subdivision, Seven Pines, the County seems to have used concrete to repair streets and sidewalks. In my most recent interaction with the County, I was informed that the County ‘surveys’ subdivision streets, uses a rating system to determine deterioration and has OFE “on the list” to reseals/overlay streets, but that will not take place for several more years. In addition, they informed me it is County policy to use asphalt in repairing sidewalk slabs. The result of this are the “ramps” you see along your walks.

 

Okay, so the County is contending that this is the situation we find ourselves in. Until these policies are changed, if possible, and we’re able to receive help with the condition of the sidewalks as a standalone priority, as homeowners we can greatly improve the walkability of the sidewalks in front of our own houses by making sure to remove obstacles including slippery mud, gum balls, leaves, pine needles and small branches that fall. Trees and especially large shrubs that branch into the walking space endanger walkers and often drive them into the yard or street to pass. Vehicles parked in the driveway that intrude into the sidewalks, a county violation, do the same thing.

 

Relative to the County, the Trustees were thinking that, perhaps, we homeowners could let our elected County representative(s) know directly, that we need their assistance in this area, that the condition of streets and sidewalks can have an impact on our property values and that ‘walkability’ in an area is a positive thing. We are probably 1000 voters or more and they might take heed. A signed petition from us, letters, emails and calls are possibilities --- or all of them! In the meantime, please, each household, make it a weekly habit to clean debris from your own sidewalk It’s fall --- aka, gum ball-acorn-branches-leaves- pine needles-time.

Look at your nice old bush branching over the sidewalk and tell it goodbye or at least give it a severe haircut and removing it from taking up sidewalk space. If we homeowners could just take care of the short sidewalk in front of our own house we could greatly improve the walkability of our wonderful asset, our sidewalks, for the seniors, young families and all users of the sidewalks.

 

Also, thanks to those trimming the grass from the sidewalk. It’s not a county requirement to maintain a trimmed lawn. However, there are places impeding passing walkers.

Please maintain the appearance of your property. It does not have to be ‘manicured’, and show that you care for your home.

 

Kathy Schweitzer, President

 

COMMON GROUNDS

 

As summer comes to an end, so do many of the common grounds projects and maintenance. I wanted to take a moment to let you know of some of projects that have happened in the past couple of years.

 

Most of the effort goes to maintain the common grounds. This includes mowing, weeding, trash cleanup and some tree work. One of the biggest criticisms we have had is the cosmetics of the front entrance and pool area. Fern Ridge owns most of the area along the east side of the road at the front entrance. We have been engaged with them for the past three years with little success. We are told they will cut down the mess of vines and weeds, but in the end they have still not done any work. The subdivision homeowners should be aware that when the mess is removed we will be left with a view of their maintenance yard. The plan is to then plant some trees that will take a few years to fill in and cover the maintenance yard.

 

We are working on alternative ways to engage with Fern Ridge. In the meantime we plan to cleanup up the little bit of the hill that is OFE and continue to improve the aesthetics. To date we have spent some time cleaning up the main entrance by trimming the red bud, reducing the size of the grasses as well as more time spent weeding than in previous years. Recently the front lights have stopped working. There is some significant damage to the electrical wire that runs under the road and to the end post and we are working to resolve the issue. We were able to replace the main light under the gazebo with a newer LED light to save energy as well as it has a longer life. Last fall we repainted the brown main entrance sign on the west side of the road and had several bushes trimmed or removed to increase visibility around the corner.

 

Moving to the common grounds around the pool area, we have spent some time removing trees and pushing the wooded area back away from the fence in an effort to make a barrier between the woods and the pool reducing the bugs, frogs and mosquitoes. We have also experienced significant erosion in the past 5 years around the pool area.

The creek currently surrounds the pool and if left unchecked would eventually erode the ball fields and most of the land around the pool. A significant amount of the water that was in the ball fields was due to the water runoff that expels through the culvert and into the creek through the woods. This was clogged and not allowing the water to be removed causing flooding and increased erosion.

 

There has also been standing water around the pool due to incorrect grading between the creek and the pool deck. With the increase in the homeowners fee and by reducing the common grounds spending slightly for the first couple of years we were able to save up for one of the biggest projects we have ever done. It took roughly 1.5 years to get bids, budget and to have the Army Corp of engineers advise and approve the plan. The project includes retrenching the flume, repairing and reinforcing the washout area next to the bridge, repairing a large erosion hole next to that washout area and a large erosion hole behind the pool filter house. It also included lining all with heavy duty fabric prior to placing gabion rock and rip rap stones weighing over 100 pounds apiece. To mitigate any future issues 14 trees were planted on top of the big wash out area. They are native willow and birch trees that’s root structure will secure the bank.

 

We also were able to utilize the dug up dirt to fill in a significantly low area behind the diving board area of the pool. By moving that dirt we should see less standing water around the pool. The project is now complete which should mostly eliminate any concern in the foreseeable future of erosion in those areas. A sign will be visible next to the rocks by the bridge saying “Danger Keep Off Rocks,” but I urge you to tell anyone that goes down there not to play or get near the rocks close to the bridge. They are very heavy and have the potential to resettle.

 

I also want to take a moment to thank our previous Common grounds trustee Larry Jackson. He did a lot with very little money for over 30 years and is probably the number one reason why we did not have more significant erosion.

Larry did a lot of work on his own that kept the sub division common grounds looking good. Much of the work that was done by volunteers in the past is now being done by contractors. This comes at a cost, but necessary cost to keep our neighborhood beautiful.

 

We are currently compiling all the survey results that are outside of maintenance to set the stage for future spending on the common grounds. Please do not hesitate to call or email me with any common grounds areas that need improvement or upkeep. Old Farm Estates is one of the best places to live in St Louis and with your help we will keep it that way.

 

Thank you,

Gary Salmans Trustee

BACK TO THE FUTURE

 

It was 1965 when my family moved into OFE. Olive was still a single lane in each direction. We were so far west that my father-in-law would jokingly say that he had to pack a lunch to visit us from University City. Residents were primarily young families with children. The attraction was the Fern Ridge elementary school, large homes with 4-5 bedrooms and sidewalks on both sides of the street. Ever wonder why the light switches are lower than usual? For the kids. In the ownership minority were mature couples that offered balance. Yes these senior people served as emergency baby sitting or just good ‘old’ fashioned advice.

 

So in the 56 years our demographics have changed from the children growing up to have their own cars overflowing street parking to a slow change of a mix of older and younger families and then eventually fewer young people. However in the past few years I have noticed an increase of young families with children. I now see a return to the days when we moved into OFE. Kids riding bikes, couples just out walking and neighbors talking with neighbors – at a social distance. Is the increase in outdoor activities a result of people ‘stuck’ at home because of COVID? Or just maybe, it’s time to meet our neighbors.

 

In the past year the county has issued a number of violations for failure to maintain their homes or property. A few cases are now in the county court system. Unfortunately due to COVID, enforcement has been difficult as the court system is closed. Nonresident out of state owners of rental properties are difficult to prosecute.

 

FYI In 1965 homes were owned by the occupants. Now approximately 20-25 homes are rented. The Gazette is distributed to these renters to encourage neighborhood unity, about $30 per issue.

POOL
 

To say this has been a unique summer at the pool is an understatement! However, I could not be more pleased that we were able to have the pool open this summer for our residents. In May things were very questionable, but by early June we were given county guidance on what would be allowed. We had to wait 21 days past when we would usually open. We relocated chairs and tables, bought Plexiglas, spray painted signage around the pool, posted up social distancing signs, built a Sign-Up Genius event page, and put together a COVID operating plan. We consistently followed the County guidelines and fluctuated between 25 and 50% occupancy for the summer. We had 3 shifts people were able to sign up for with 1 hour in between each shift for cleaning. We monitored how many people were at the pool to ensure we were following the capacity guidelines. We met as a committee monthly to ensure that everything was going OK. 

 

This is the first year in a long time, if ever, that we did not welcome our swim team to the pool the Tuesday after Memorial Day. One of my favorite neighborhood memories is watching kids pouring out of their houses at 8:35am and hopping on their bikes. If you are on Bookbinder, you can watch the procession of cars and bikes heading to the pool in full force. The Monday evenings in June were not spent at our pool or neighboring pools cheering our team to victory in the hot summer sun. Our swim coach admits that she had more time on her hands this summer than she would like! We hope this is the last summer that we aren’t able to have our summer swim team in session.

 

This is also the first year in my memory that we did not do our usual Banner Sponsorship or our Annual Trivia Night. These are big fundraisers for our pool and swim team. As a result of not being able to have either of those fundraisers, as a committee we have been meeting to brainstorm other ideas. Out of this brainstorming, came our first Car Wash event which was held on August 31st. 4 different “teams” of kids competed for which team could raise the most money. We had Tuk Tuk Thai food truck on-site and everyone had a great time, even with some questionable weather! 

As I write this article, we are about to have our end of season Pool Committee Meeting. This meeting is always a bittersweet one, reflecting on how the summer has gone and discussing all the shutdown activities that have yet to take place. The pool needs to be winterized, plans for off-season work need to begin, and we all cautiously hope, that next season we will be able to open fully-functioning with COVID behind us ready to cheer on our swim team, relax by the pool, or participate in trivia night, etc.

 

On behalf of the pool committee, thanks for a modified, but great season. Thanks to the many neighbors that come to use the pool, thanks for the volunteers that step up and help when something is needed, and thanks to the lifeguards and pool management company that keep the pool going all summer. Until next summer……

 

Pam Welker

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

POOL COMMITTEE
 

As I mentioned already, we had a memorable and historical season at the pool this year and none of it would be possible without the help of so many wonderful volunteers. We have a group of great volunteers – some that have been involved for more than 20 years and some that are new to the committee. The committee is made up of 10 – 12 volunteers that all hold a variety of roles such as: swim team parent rep, technology, communication, maintenance, life guard liaison, membership, fundraising, swim coach and more. 

 

We are always looking for more people to get involved and welcome new ideas. Please reach out to me at ptwelk@hotmail.com if you would like to be involved. Thanks to our current committee members: Patti Baum, Lori Cox-Buday, Anna Cunnigham, Kim Griffin, Courtney Riddick, Vince Riddick, Kari Schepker-Mueller, Michelle Tischer.

and Tanya Vance. I also want to thank previous pool committee members Jeremy Klaven and Mike Joerling for their commitment of time and talents over the last several years. 

 

With Thanks, Pam Welker, Pool Committee Chair

BE A GOOD NEIGHBOR OBSERVATIONS

 

Trash cans

The county requires that trash cans be stored at least three feet behind the front of the main residential structure. Generally, residents are aware of the ordinance. Please keep the lids closed. Repeat violators, just a few, have been visited by the county for enforcement. 

 

Gum balls

The annual gathering of gum balls. You and your neighbors want a safe walking path and not be concerned about any injury. Please cleanup any debris. You may believe that a few gum balls or wet leaves pose no danger. Consider a person walking a dog at night or a person with poor balance. The debris poses a hidden risk, the more debris the greater the risk. Unfortunately, the county has no ordnance for this situation. I’m aware of one resident who slipped on gum balls and broke her ankle.  

 

An article appeared in The Post-Dispatch May18 2020 ‘Ask the Road Crew’ regarding street sweepers in subdivisions. The St. Louis County Department of Transportation wrote “We don’t use the sweepers to remove piles of yard waste. Missouri law requires this category of debris be segregated from other waste during a sweep procedure such as fast-food wrappers, cans and sacks that can be separately landfilled. Our sweepers will maneuver around any human deposited mounds of yard waste they encounter. If a subdivision has non-yard-waste debris issues call our service request line at 314 615 8538 to schedule a sweeper.” (This is same phone number in the OFE directory for Highways and Traffic and Tree Trimming.)

I ask that if you are a renter please treat your residence as your own. Your neighbors will appreciate your efforts.

 

Trees and bushes

The county requires that sidewalks not be hindered by bushes or low lying trees limbs. It’s required that approximately a 7 foot clearance is appropriate. Please be a good neighbor and provide the appropriate trimming. Residents can also call the county for the trimming at 314 615 8538. A worker will investigate if trimming is required by the county and provide the service at no charge. Roadway clearance of 13-15 feet is also required. For safety’s sake, let the county do the road trimming.. 

 

Dog poop

It seems that more residents are walking and walking longer distances than in the past. A hand wave or saying ‘hi’ as they pass each other or stepping aside due to COVID is now common. Frequently the walkers are accompanied by their dogs. Thank you for cleaning up their dog feces. However not all owners are responsible. A gentle hint to the owner may be appropriate. And, it’s a violation of the St. Louis County Revised Ordinances 611.210. If an owner is not cooperative then call Animal Control at 314 615-0650

 

Jerry Goldberg Trustee.

IS YOUR PHONE NUMBER INCLUDED IN THE 2020 OFE DIRECTORY?

 

Please look up your name and contact information in the 2020 Directory and make sure we have listed you correctly. If your phone number, cell number and/or email address is not listed, please consider providing us with the missing element so that we can add it to the 2021 Directory. If nothing else, 2020 has shown us how important it is to be able to contact neighbors to get or give help and to share news.

 

Numerous respondents to the 2020 Survey of OFE Homeowners recommended setting up an email group of just OFE owners. We could save much money in mailings and provide information (and obtain information from owners) more efficiently using an email list. We understand that some people hesitate to provide their personal email for publication. Perhaps you want to create a simple Yahoo email address designated for OFE use only and not provide your personal email. That would work great. Anyway, please think about providing us more of your contact info and send me your additions and changes either by email (speck.ma@yahoo.com) or by snail mail before Christmas.

 

Finally, the 2021 OFE Directory will come out in the first half of March 2021. The publisher (Guide Book Publishing) is allowing additional time for advertisers to be seen in the 2020 Directory due to the Covid19 delays in publishing the 2021 books. We plan to return to the January publication date in 2022.

 

Thank you.

Mary Anne Speck, Trustee

GETTING INVOLVED

 

Have you ever considered getting more involved in the neighborhood? As a trustee, on the pool committee, or just giving your time and talents in another way? We would love to hear from you. We could use help with several trustee and pool committee roles that are open. There are a few district trustee positions that are open and there are always opportunities for “at large” trustees too. Here are just a few of the areas where we could use help: communication – we could use help with increasing and coordinating our communications both on the pool committee or as a trustee, we could use help with fundraising, we could use help with maintenance coordination at the pool, and we could use some help with a committee that is forming to take the neighborhood survey results and build proposals based on those results to present back to the trustees. These are just a few examples of ways to get involved. We are group of volunteers that would love working with additional people who have a passion for our neighborhood just like we do. If you would like to discuss, please call any trustee or me at 314-803-1165.

 

Pam Welker, Trustee

2019 FINANCIAL REVIEW

 

Pursuant to the Old Farm Estates Indenture, a Financial Review Committee was formed to inspect the financial reports and records for the period from January to December, 2019. The committee consisted of Trustees Pam Welker, Mary Anne Speck, and Sam Craig. The committee reviewed the following records:

 

  • The OFE Revenue, Expense and Cash Balance statements;

  • The monthly bank statements;

  • The check registers;

  • Receipts and invoices; and

  • The bank account reconciliations.

 

Appropriate comparisons and cross-checks were conducted to validate that the financial statements prepared by the Treasurer reconciled to the original documentation. No judgments were made as to the appropriateness of the expenses recorded.

These decisions were made when the board approved the annual budget or with approval of supplemental appropriations during the year.

 

In the opinion of the Review Committee, the financial statements fairly represent the financial position of Old Farm Estates subdivision for the calendar year ending December 31, 2019. In addition, the financial records appear to be well documented and maintained. 

 

Respectfully submitted,

 

Pam Welker, Mary Anne Speck, and Sam Craig

Trustees

COMMENTS ABOUT THE 2020 SURVEY:  IMPORTANT CAUTION

 

Please remember that calculating the results of the 2020 SURVEY of OFE HOMEOWNERS (below) is just the beginning. Now the really hard work begins. The article in this Gazette summarizing the results is NOT a plan for action. Trustees will employ the results of the 2020 Survey, as well as other owner input, as a base for a long term/short term plan for the next few years. Before an action plan is created, though, trustee committees will have to set priorities and budgets. Some suggestions that don’t cost much money may be implemented sooner than those that involve greater expenditures. We are hoping that owners who want to give time and energy to specific projects will step forward and volunteer for relevant committees that will be heading up projects. 

 

Trustees hope that the interest shown by owners in the Survey will spill over into action by owners.

 

Finally, it is likely that trustees will want more detailed input from homeowners and conduct additional, specific surveys in the future.

 

Mary Anne Speck, Trustee

OFE SURVEY RESULTS: In a Nutshell

 

A total of 137 owners responded to the survey this summer either in writing  (98 or 72%) or on-line (39 or 28%).  In other words, almost 25% of OFE’s 558 owners responded to the survey. For statistical purposes, 137 surveys are more than enough to enable us to generalize to solid conclusions about homeowners’ thoughts.

We tallied responses by the numbers of years respondents have lived in OFE so that we could see if preferences differed by time lived in OFE. Respondents gave us a great deal of useful information, interesting ideas and insightful comments . . . and a whole lot of things to think about!

 

Following is a summary of survey responses related to each question.  Please note, though the greatest majority of respondents did, not every respondent answered every question or every part of every question. In fact, one person did not answer even one question but sent us a blank survey attached to a letter from him/her. For questions #3 and #6, only the top three choices are listed on the tables attached. For the purposes of this summary, I used the total number of respondents (137) when calculating percentages.  The only exception is Question #5 (Special Assessment) where I used “122,” the actual # of respondents to that question.

Question #1: Number of years you have lived in OFE

We were especially pleased that 13 “original” OFE owners responded to the survey. That means they’ve watched OFE grow for 50+ years! We’d love to hear more from the owners who have called OFE home for shorter times. Incidentally, about half of all respondents provided their names and/or addresses.

surveyq1.jpg

Question #2.  Ways residents want the trustees to communicate with them

One homeowner suggested trustees create an email ‘group’ of only OFE homeowners and communicate via email, and noted email is free (no postage, printing, etc.) and faster for time sensitive items. Another listed timely communication as his #1 choice for improving community in OFE.

surveyq2.jpg

Regarding long term or capital expenditures (Question #3):

A number of homeowners had well thought out suggestions for other projects not listed on the survey and 9 of them listed their new idea as their #1 priority (“other” on the chart).

surveyq3.jpg

Question #4.  Comments related to how homeowners want to spend assessment money including ideas for additional items not listed (No chart, just comments):

Residents wrote plentifully on this question.  Predictably, based on Question #3, [better] “lighting” was cited one way or another the most often of anything. Specifically, 33 separate people emphasized that better lighting would help keep OFE safe and attractive.

 

Another 22 residents stressed that signage, landscaping, and improving the “street appeal” of all common grounds areas would not only improve life for current residents but increase OFE’s attractiveness to young families, build neighborhood pride and “family friendly atmosphere,” and go far in maintaining home values.  Another 7 families explained that they believe that expanding/improving/updating the playground would be important for similar reasons.

 

At least 13 families want the trustees to either take over or at least pay for maintaining the cul-de-sacs. (Note:  OFE already does reimburse owners for specified costs related to maintaining the cul-de-sacs although no more than one or two people each year ask for reimbursements.)

 

Numerous people listed “other” services or amenities they think OFE should consider spending money on or at least contract for.  Some of the services include the following: leaf pick up in the fall; mosquito spraying; more police drive-throughs; street and sidewalk repair; reducing the deer population; additional speed signage throughout OFE; painted crosswalks especially on Bookbinder by the pool; maintaining the path from OFE to Creve Coeur Park; and speed bumps to name a few.

 

Some of the projects “that may not cost as much money but would make big differences to residents and potential buyers” (quote from a survey response) include these:  a tennis court; bike trail; sand and/or grass volleyball court (at least 6 people); full size basketball court; dog park; community garden; sports field (for soccer, football); a fitness course (I’d use this one!). First, though, say some, we need to solve the water issue (“swamp”) that plagues the baseball field.

Question #5: Whether residents would approve a special assessment:

Slightly more people were willing to at least think about a special assessment than those who simply said “no.” Specifically, 64 or a little over 52% of the 122 people who responded to this question answered “Yes” outright or “Depends” on what the assessment will be used for and about 47.5% of the 122 people who responded to this question said “No” to a special assessment. Interestingly, more people (19) indicated interest in a special assessment for a clubhouse of some sort and pool improvement and other outdoor amenities (15) than lighting (11). Another group will pay extra for playground/”park” facilities (5), speed signage/speed bumps (3) and improvement of the grounds and landscaping (9).

 

One person who strongly argued for the need for a clubhouse suggested we purchase a house in OFE near the pool common grounds and turn it into a clubhouse.  It could generate revenue as a sometimes B&B and party rental, etc.  At least two others also suggested using a new clubhouse for revenue generation through rental fees.

surveyq5.jpg

Question #6: Prioritizing current OFE social events/community building activities:

 The top rated events (summary of first 3 priorities) were the 4th of July event and --- surprise --- block parties! Another surprise was the interest in maybe an adult “dinner and evening at the pool.” What were intriguing and exciting, though, were the written comments follow-up to this question expressed in Question 7.  

surveyq6.jpg

Question #7: Ideas from residents for community building activities:

Several people complimented trustees on the events we sponsor (“You are doing an excellent job…”) and at least 3 said that even though they did not attend the events (mostly because of age), they are happy to support them financially because “they are good for the neighborhood.”  

 

Residents had some really interesting, creative, and doable ideas for other community building OFE events.  Again, residents expressed interest in block parties, for fun and “to welcome and introduce new neighbors.”  A solid group of Old Farmers promoted OFE trustees instituting more organized community outreach events, that is, “things that make a difference in our lives” (quote from survey). Their ideas would foster community growth as well as helping others both in and out of OFE, such things as: fun run to raise money for “x,y,z”; service projects incorporating older kids as well as adults, for example, food drives, diaper drives, and school supply drives.  One neighbor suggested establishing a volunteer “club” for pre-teens through adults that would plan and organize assistance to older OFE residents with yards, shopping, etc. 

Numerous respondents desire more physical activities:  neighborhood sports clubs/teams; intramural softball, soccer, basketball, volleyball; and “for the older people,” shuffleboard, croquet, bocce; and for anyone, corn hole or washer tournaments. Others listed just plain “fun” activities: movies at the pool; potlucks with neighbors; frequent game nights such as bingo, cards, Bunco, mahjong; scavenger hunts; dinner with entertainment at the pool for adults and/or teens; popsicle days.  Clubs were favored by many:  neighborhood men’s club; women’s club; golf club; garden club; book club; cooking (or “gourmet”) club. Several people endorsed continuing neighborhood garage sales and 2-3 others talked about bake sales that would bring people together and make money for something.

 

Ideas on the practical side included:  age specific health and safety fair; a speaker’s series (on Zoom?) to include experts on home improvement, health, building for aging in place, landscaping; purchasing or obtaining larger and more speed limit signs; a community garden on the common grounds that could pay for itself through rental fees (OFE would need to provide water and fence).

 

One idea that seemed especially timely was to institute annual tours of OFE homes that would give other owners ideas for remodeling and landscaping specific to OFE.

 

Another idea that was not as much community building as community improvement was that the trustees would institute a campaign (1) to encourage people to take better care of their homes, especially their exteriors, yards and the sidewalks in front of their homes; and (2) to stop people from speeding and running stop signs.

 

The overriding theme was residents wanted more of just about everything that would build community and support the “family feeling” innate to OFE, and they wanted the events to be broadened to include older kids, teens, adults and seniors.  Incidentally, whether people realized it or not, a majority of their ideas seemed to assume that OFE had some sort of “event place” to hold the activities suggested.

Question #8 – Homeowners’ favorite things about living in OFE:

In short, homeowners simply love almost everything about living in OFE.  One original owner summed up why for almost all the other respondents: “Loved living here for 55 years!! Great neighbors!  Close to everything! Indeed, 54 respondents listed ‘friendly,” nice,” “helpful” ‘neighbors’ as a main reason they enjoy living in OFE.  Another 50 respondents love ‘where’ we live, that is, where OFE is located.  Many people are happy about our proximity to Creve Coeur Park as well as OFE’s proximity to shopping, medical care, major highways, walking/biking trails, and our ability to “go into Saint Louis and yet live in the country.” Homeowners value greatly our dual sidewalks/“walkability”; the pool and playground; our mature trees and green spaces; the community feeling/family orientation of OFE; the planned activities; the schools; and finally even the wildlife.  Other reasons homeowners listed as favorite things about OFE include its (“for the most part”) well-maintained, spacious, well-built houses and beautiful yards; that it is “quiet,” “peaceful,” “safe” and the ethnic and age diversity of OFE’s residents. One homeowner of 45 years noted that OFE has “aged gracefully” and another said simply, “OFE is a great neighborhood.” Finally, one respondent commented that OFE had an “effective indenture.”

Question #9 – Things homeowners dislike about OFE:

While “neighbors” are the number one reason Old Farmers love OFE, things that neighbors do and don’t do is the number one thing do not like about OFE. Well more than half of the respondents listed something that would fall into this category.  Neighbors who do not take care of their houses and yards top the list by far with 22 people specifically listing  “unkempt houses . . . weedy lawns and gardens, overgrown shrubbery … “junk” on porches and side yards.” Also listed are neighbors who “complain about everything,” “sued the trustees,” “grouchy,” “people who don’t want change,” “neighborhood politics/division over the pool,” and “not talking over things before taking actions.” Falling into this “neighbor” category would be rental homes, barking dogs, neighbors who have more than the limit of pets, and people who don’t clean up after their dogs. (Note:  OFE has only between 21-25 rental homes out of the 558 houses in OFE.)

 

Cars and vehicles are a problem to Old Farmers --- speeding cars (2nd most frequently listed item on the dislike list); cars that run stop signs; too many cars parked on both sides of the street (tied at #2 with speeding); cars that don’t stop at stop signs or even for school buses; commercial vehicles and trailers parked on streets and driveways (“unsightly”). 

 

One fourth of the respondents included the overpopulation of ‘deer ‘ as a problem citing destruction of property, quality of life (“I can no longer garden”) and driving safety.  They suggest professional assistance because the deer are “out of control.”

 

In Question 8, many respondents listed OFE’s sidewalks as a positive thing in about OFE, so their disappointment about the poor condition and upkeep of the sidewalks is even stronger as supported by their comments in this question. Most understood that the sidewalks themselves are Saint Louis County’s responsibility, but the “walkability” of sidewalks is the responsibility of homeowners.  Respondents were adamant that people must keep their sidewalks clear of debris (“gumballs” especially, but also “slippery leaves,” “piles of mud,” “overhanging trees,” “overgrown shrubbery”). “Everyone walks now, so many young families with strollers and toddlers, elderly residents, ” said one respondent, “making the condition of the sidewalks even more important.” 

 

Ten respondents listed the lighting at night as something they dislike about living in OFE, and 7 respondents elaborated on the need for improving the front entrance of OFE one calling it “embarrassing.”  Half a dozen respondents said the pool was too small for the neighborhood or needed improving while 2 said there was too much emphasis on the pool.

 

Several respondents took much time in explaining why trustees need to change how we communicate with residents.  Unanimously they called for trustees to use E-mail for most communications citing it is “fast/timely,” “enables fast responses,” and is “free.”  (Note:  E-mail was not on the list on Question #2.)  They suggested offering to use snail mail to those who request it, but, like many businesses, providing on-line communication to the majority. 

 

Three people said the trustees were a reason they disliked OFE with one calling for term limits for trustees.  Another 8 folks want the trustees to better enforce the indenture.  

 

On a positive note, 15 people wrote that there is nothing they dislike about living in OFE.

 

If you did not return a survey but would like to have input, go ahead and complete your survey and mail it either to City & Village in the envelope that was provided in the Directory or mail it to me directly.  My address is in the Directory.  Good ideas are invaluable. 

 

Submitted by Mary Anne Speck