Sedona AZ (January 21, 2013) – There are three things that will always come out eventually. The sun, the moon and the Truth.
No one seems to want to have a straight discussion about VOCA, and its responsibility to its owners. Everyone seems to have a corner where they want to retreat or a hole in which to firmly place their head.
VOCA has never been well liked. We, the home and property owners in the Association, are all members of a club we seem to dislike. We have neighbors that feel lucky to live on a property just outside its boundaries, and no one really wants to try to change things because, then, we’d have to participate in the meetings we can’t stand.
So, here’s my understanding of how we got to where we are – in the money pit we now call “Redstone.”
There was an old building that had a snack bar. It was the VOCA home for offices and a community meeting room, a library of paperbacks, a computer on a stand, a couple of spacious bathrooms for golfers to change into golf attire, some bulletin boards covered in lists and notices, and some ambling room. The building was pretty outdated.
The Association could afford to upgrade. Many months of planning and voting and debating ensued.
Fears of building a “Taj Mahal” were paraded and a “Taj” was not built. A swimming pool was crossed off the list of amenities, but a nice building with a real restaurant was built, for, if I remember correctly, about $650,000, paid for in part by cash and a bond with money loaned by folks in the neighborhood.
The bond was very short term and was paid back, punctually. It came around after that, for all that, the kitchen was still the old snack bar enclosed within this (otherwise up-to-date) building! Hard to believe but, as I understand, true.
Wait, I’m ahead of myself.
Kathy Chambers leased the space for a restaurant she called “Mulligan’s.” Serving breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as catering for VOCA and golf meetings and luncheons, Mulligan’s was the restaurant in the VOCA clubhouse for seven years.
Kathy had previously run a golf course restaurant in Lake Montezuma. She built the Village of Oak Creek Association business slowly, developing a bridal business catering weddings from which VOCA benefited by banquet room rental fees and tee box to the bride for the ceremony.
When the VOCA restaurant lease came up for negotiations, the mud began to fly. Why? Don’t know.
The Red Rock News became the forum for this way to public negotiations. From what I humbly understood, some people at VOCA felt VOCA should be making more money from the business built by Ms. Chambers. I wonder who started that?
So, it was decided that the restaurant would be run by VOCA.
Exit, Ms. Chambers.
Then, and here’s where I become fascinated, confused, and frustrated, the kitchen is ”not up to code.” It is a terrible horrible mess.
“NOT UP TO CODE?” But wait, it’s a new building. Less than ten years old! How did this happen? So, okay, let’s not quibble about a few grease traps.
Well, they are “verrrry” expensive to bring (shiver) up to code.
Okay, so what could that cost really?
Holy Moley, realllllllly?
Okay, so now while we’re at it, how ’bout a nice patio? Some new carpet and bar?
Now we’re looking at closing the restaurant all together, and killing the bridal momentum for a year! What else?
Let’s buy sandwiches at IGA, bottled water and soda for the golfers.
We (the Association) are out the Mulligan’s lease money and the utility contribution. Seems like a small sacrifice for when we re-open, but the renovation costs, wait for it, comes with the price tag of (cymbal crash) $800,000!
Yeah, high five digits. Most of a million.
How’d that go down? How’d that happen? Who authorized that check? Checks?
And where do I stand on line for mine?
What happened to all the busybodies that previously screamed ”We don’t want a Taj Mahal built!” – those same folks that patrol the VOCA streets, looking for homeowner violations of regulations and who turn in reports regularly? A fence too high, an unsightly propane tank, messy yard. Sigh, I am missin’ those busybodies right now because I finally understand they cracked their whips on both sides of the VOCA fence.
For the VOCA regulations to work and be meaningful, everyone has to play by the same rules. If there was an agreement about these expenditures, a nod to the check writer by the membership, I haven’t heard about it. Have you? Did you give the nod?
Was it you who said this was a sound idea in the middle of the worst economic times we have seen in decades?
Now, it’s hard to win back the brides, win back the family diners, the on-the-fly golfers and ladies that lunch, or older folks that relied on Kathy Chambers for her home-styled cooked meals.
The newer VOCA place looks a bit more upscale, the ambiance is lovely, but the Friday night fish fry looks bashful (even apologetic) in such romantic lighting. Whose strategy was this?
My money, poorly spent, points to the guy the Association hired to run the businesses, Tony Rizzo. He seems to continue to run the businesses.
Rizzo is the only one not getting fired, or being asked to quit. There is another question I’d like an answer to…How does Tony Rizzo keep his job?
What is it that VOCA says now? Dial back expenses, dial back hours and personnel. Nope, these don’t seem like the answers to “How to run a restaurant well.” Another bad plan.
The brilliant alternative plan now being actively researched? Lease it out to someone who knows the restaurant business.
If only this was an episode of Seinfeld, I’d be smiling and nodding. Wait, I am smiling and nodding, because we have come full circle just like Seinfeld’s standup and, frankly, I get a bit Schadenfreude-ish even when it’s an extension of me that is in an accident.
Why is leasing the only right answer for a restaurant at the VOCA clubhouse? Because the restaurant business is a tough, low margin business with tough hours. It’s really, really, hard to pay someone enough for all the expertise, long hours and tinkering with the menus, getting to know the customers, all the details that it takes to be successful.
Especially in Sedona. Anyone know how many eateries there are in the Village of Oak Creek? No less than eight and this doesn’t include the fast food joints.
It is true that VOCA is not a public but a private business, however, as part owners, all the homeowners in the Association subdivisions should quit ignoring the off key singer who is directing the choir. We should at the least get enough respect from those who have been elected – even if it was through low voter returns (a kind of default win) - to come clean with an accounting of the funds.
Forget respect, it’s in the bylaws.
How much were those grease traps, bills for the patio, the new fireplace, carpet and chairs? Why was it decided and who decided to redesign, redecorate, and discard what was still serviceable? I want to see that $800,000 dollar price tag justified.
If we don’t ask for it, we won’t get it. I’m tired of the aw shucks, it’s not as bad as it looks routine. It’s worse. Much worse. What does this say for a precedent of how the Association is run and how we go forward responsibly?
I am not of the opinion that selling the golf course is, even remotely, a fix. The course pays for itself and it’s attractive for many reasons. To sell property of that beauty and size is opening the VOCA community up for losing control of the property. Eventually land designations can (read “will”) be changed from open space/recreation to residential and density increases. Visual beauty, peace and quiet, as well as, the wildlife will be lost forever.
The community and those at the helm of VOCA need to know what Lance Armstrong has recently experienced: There are three things that always come out…eventually.
This SedonaEye.com Village Voice is written by Gari Gold Richardson, a Sedona area resident since 1988. She became a VOCA property owner in 1996. Active in the area as a local artisan, ballet teacher, and hatha yoga instructor, Gari and artist husband, Peter Richardson, are the proud owners of Sedona Fine Art of Flowers, open daily in the Village of Oak Creek on SR 179.