At the Clary Lake Association’s Annual meeting back at the beginning of August, we approved major changes to our bylaws including to the membership and voting rights definitions. The old definitions, in place since 2001, specified that to be a voting member of the Association you had to own property on Clary lake or have legal (deeded) access to it, and pay dues. This entitled you to one vote. Married? Good luck deciding which of you is going to vote! Multiple owners of the property? Sorry, still only one vote! Have you been a long-time supporter of the Association and recently gave the property to your kids? Sorry, no vote for you!
The new membership definition is in fact very much like the Association’s original (1975) bylaws language: ANYONE who supports the purpose of the Association and pays their dues can be a member, and this entitles them to vote on all matters put before the membership. Simple. One membership, one vote. Don’t own property on Clary Lake but still want to be a supporting (and voting) member of the Association? No problem! Married and you each want to be able to vote? No problem! You and your wife can both pay dues and vote. Your children want to be members too? No problem! They can each pay dues, and vote. The more the merrier!
Section 1. Members. There shall be one (1) class of Members. Membership in the corporation shall consist of all persons who support the purpose of the Association as stated in the bylaws and who pay annual dues to the Corporation. The Board of Directors or the membership is granted the authority to refuse membership to any person who it determines does not support the purpose of the Corporation.
Section 2. Voting. All members in good standing shall possess the right of one (1) vote on all matters put before the membership.
There were several reasons why the old language was originally put in place. First, it was believed that membership should be limited to Clary Lake shore owners because they paid property taxes and therefore should have a greater say in matters affecting the lake and Association business than those people who didn’t own lake front property. This point of view is understandable perhaps, but I think in this day and age, rather short sighted. It has slowly been replaced over the years with an more realistic understanding that Clary Lake is not OUR lake, that it in fact belongs to the People of the State of Maine, and that our personal interests as littoral property owners, and the interests of the general public who are equally entitled to use and enjoy the lake, are in fact, one and the same. Our current water level crisis highlights the issue: it isn’t about a few disgruntled lake shore owners who can’t go swimming any more. It’s Whitefield’s problem. It’s Jefferson’s problem. It’s the State’s problem. It’s everyone’s problem.
Another reason for limiting membership to lake shore owners and their voting rights to one vote per property was to prevent someone from packing the membership with voters whose interests were not aligned with those of the Association and as a result, unduly influencing the outcome of important votes. This may or may not have been a legitimate concern; I am not aware of it ever having been a real issue, only a potential one, and one that actually still concerns some people. Out of an abundance of caution and on the recommendation of Association counsel Ron Kreisman, language was added to the membership definition giving our members or the Board the authority to refuse membership to any person who it determines does not support the purpose of the Corporation.
A few people at the Annual meeting expressed concern over this language. Let me assure everyone that this provision was not intended to, and will not in practice be used to prevent, any Clary Lake shore owner from joining the Association. However, the Clary Lake Association is entitled to accept or refuse requests for membership as it sees fit. However, simply not agreeing with the general membership on all matters is not sufficient reason for the Association to reject someone’s request to join. I personally don’t expect this provision of our Bylaws to ever be used.