Home Owner Association Open Space Management

The common area within a cluster/open space development is often owned and managed through a homeowners association. Homeowner association open space, or HOA open space, has become a typical part of subdivisions and land developments in Chester County. These common areas involve a management plan, often limited to mowed fields, even on wetlands, steep slopes and stream banks. In many cases, HOA open space could be better-managed as natural areas or as internal loop trails, enhancing the environment while reducing maintenance and energy costs. Such properties need to be managed in perpetuity.

HOA open space management concerns include maintaining native vegetation and biodiversity, providing security and liability coverage, trail access and maintenance, and securing maintenance funding and staff. The key to managing HOA open spaces is developing guidelines for the HOA to follow. These guidelines can call for retention basins to be properly managed rather than just mowed, or for riparian buffers to be maintained. The guidelines should also address access to HOA open spaces where appropriate so that the public can "connect" with nearby natural resources. In most settings, trails are the preferred mechanism for providing this access. Access must be balanced to avoid overuse. Furthermore, there should be guidance regarding security and liability coverage, trail access, and maintenance.

Advantages

The maintenance of HOA open space areas offers the following benefits:

Limitations

The maintenance of HOA open space could be difficult due to the following:

How to Use This Tool

HOAGuidelines can be developed by the HOA, or natural resource protection measures can be included in municipal ordinances and regulations, and then applied to HOA property. Municipalities can also adopt provisions requiring that HOA maintenance guidelines be created for all new developments which include HOA open space. Trails within HOA open space can be designated in a municipal comprehensive plan or in a official map.

Municipalities should also require that the HOA is adequately capitalized to ensure that the open space areas can be properly maintained in perpetuity, and that future repairs that require large capital outlays can be funded. Municipal approval of subdivisions and land developments should include provisions for contacting responsible persons who serve on the HOA board to ensure that emergency repairs can be completed quickly.

Related References

Related Tools

Landscapes2 Relevance

Proper maintenance of undeveloped land is consistent with Landscapes2, which encourages citizens and other partners to develop and implement HOA management plans in which HOA open space serves as small scale trails or greenways. The maintenance of HOA open space applies to any landscape in which multiple unit development is appropriate, which includes all landscapes except Agricultural. The proper management of HOA open spaces creates opportunities for sustainability by establishing recreation opportunities close to home which do not require the energy consumption of driving. Also, the natural processes of vegetated steam corridors improve water quality reducing the energy expenditure at water treatment plants.