East county residents attend Manatee County Neighborhood Services workshop.
After Manatee County Neighborhood Services representative Odgen Clark gave his 10 a.m. presentation on the importance of communication in a neighborhood, Cathy Woolley was the first to say social media apps really work.
Woolley was trying to get a few tips about building a better community at the Manasota Neighborhood Summit Feb. 23 at the Manatee Performing Arts Center.
“Next Door is a good platform for learning about the community,” Woolley said. “It costs no money, even our least sophisticated members can use it, and it’s a good source for information.”
It was just one example of a social media tool that can work. Communication was just one of the workshops that included using history to improve the value of a neighborhood, crime prevention strategies, water and energy conservation and disaster preparedness. The last Neighborhood Summit was held in 2008.
During Clark's presentation, he covered four other social media tools that could help communication in a neighborhood.
Several concerned homeowners from East County attended the Neighborhood Summit on behalf of their neighborhoods to talk about various problematic themes, including communication.
Woolley, a Tara resident, also attended talks on stormwater retention ponds.
“But I think the toughest place to make a change in our neighborhood is just going to be communicating,” Woolley said.
She said she has had problems getting her homeowners association to listen to her concerns about the ponds. She said those concerns included flooding.
“Someone else here [at the summit] mentioned that (the ponds) need to be wider and there needs to be more of them,” Woolley said. “They don’t want to listen when I try to tell them.”
Howard Hammerman, from Mote Ranch, said he has experienced similar problems, so he was seeking ways to make his community better.
“There needs to be more planning,” Hammerman said of his neighborhood. “Our neighborhood association prides itself that it hasn’t raised fees in six years. That’s commendable, but the fiscal climate is changing, the physical climate is changing, and we need the money somehow to keep up.”
Ruth Harenchar is a board member for the Palm Aire HOA, and from her perspective, having open communication with her community's residents is of the utmost importance.
“There was a time when I asked a resident to not put her dog on the tennis courts,” Harenchar said. “And she accused me of being ageist.”
Going forward from the summit, Harenchar said she would have approached that situation differently if she could do it all over again.
“I would be more open. Like in the presentation, I would talk to her instead of about her. I would invite her to be open about what she was feeling. I would say, ‘Okay, let’s talk about it.’ We’re both homeowners.”