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Finding the perfect place to call home is a challenging task. Action Property Management’s Cottonwood Canyon Hills HOA in Lake Elsinore, California aims to simplify the process. Over 7,000 trees and 160 acres of pristine, irrigated landscaping welcome homeowners and guests into the community each day. Three pools, two tot lots, and a rose garden provide places for neighbors to meet each other, and a beautifully maintained three-mile road through the heart of the association furthers the tone of tranquility and natural beauty.

Despite all these amenities, this community is much more than a collection of buildings, parks, and trees. It’s a collection of people — people who refuse to let 3,000 homes get in the way of their small-town feel.

One of the primary distinctions of the association is its emphasis on neighbors meeting neighbors. Each year, there are several opportunities for families to be intentional about interacting with others in their community. Whether it’s an excursion to a local winery, music in the park, or a movie night at the ballpark down the street, the people of Canyon Hills always have an excuse to get together.

Living in community with neighbors goes well beyond the gatherings, however. Under the leadership of general manager Brinna Kerrick, the main office has become a place where residents feel welcome when they arrive and satisfied when they leave.

Instead of creating a system that’s punitive toward people who don’t comply with the rules, the residents of Cottonwood Canyon Hills are incentivized and challenged to keep things looking pristine. One way they do this is through the annual Spring Curb Appeal Contest. This friendly springtime competition offers residents a chance to showcase their front yards and encourage others to do the same. Contest entries can be submitted by either the homeowner or a neighbor, and the winners receive a $100 gift card.

The same spirit of cooperation extends into the summer with the introduction of the tree trimming program. Each year, the Action team works with the association’s tree care company to offer reduced rates for community members who want to take advantage of this service. At other times of the year, they collaborate with painting companies and other vendors to provide discounted services to the residents.

Living in a community requires ongoing coordination. The relationships between the management team, board, and residents mostly take place during regularly scheduled board meetings. Prior to Mike Payment taking over as the board president about three years ago, these meetings were consistently marked by a spirit of contention between the board and the homeowners. Mike’s desire has always been to reduce conflict and work together with Action and the homeowners so that they can all be seen as members of a common team. Previously, contentious meetings would extend well over four hours. Now they conclude in just over two hours. “Most argumentative people don’t even show up at board meetings anymore,” Mike recently said. “Now the meetings are like a party with happy people.”

Chris Tompkins, the board’s chief financial officer, agrees. “The goal of the current board is to listen to the community and make changes that make sense.” With a background in finance, Chris has worked hard to ensure that the assessments collected from homeowners are spent wisely. Given the cohesive nature of the current board, the residents of Cottonwood Canyon Hills know that they can trust their leadership to do just that.

As a matter of fact, HOA assessments have remained unchanged despite life-changing events like the Covid-19 pandemic and soaring inflation. By carefully allocating money to the most important areas and minimizing delinquent accounts, the board has ensured that the association’s finances have never been better than they are today.

Rose Garden

This community is much more than a collection of buildings, parks, and trees. It’s a collection of people — people who refuse to let 3,000 homes get in the way of their small-town feel.

Careful financial planning and event planning by Vice President Lori Michel and Secretary Krisy DeTate have enabled the community to maintain a healthy social event budget. Mike and other board members are proudest of a particular idea that originated within the facilities committee. The desire was to put up digital marquees in two main areas to announce upcoming events. Unfortunately, the City of Lake Elsinore had rules against such signage. Mike was undeterred; by using contacts formed at his job with the engineering department for the city, Mike was able to demonstrate to the planning commission that the signs were not commercial in nature and were thus permissible.

Today, in addition to various other online communications, two new marquees keep residents informed of all social events and festivals that are planned for the community.

To further promote a spirit of teamwork, the board recently adopted a list of guiding principles for its association. This list serves as a map that keeps the entire association working in harmony. Whether they are promoting a safe, harmonious, and friendly atmosphere, practicing solution-based communication, or applying any of the other guiding principles, the team of homeowners, management, and board members can be assured that they are all working with the same goals in mind.

While the natural beauty, amenities, and location of Cottonwood Canyon Hills all serve to make the community look appealing to outsiders, the insiders know that there are people behind every one of these elements — people who share the desire to improve their community both aesthetically and relationally. And when people work together toward a common goal, everything is better.