Re: Consensus and voting bylaws
From: drmaryanngroups (
Date: Sat, 12 Jan 2013 12:58:21 -0800 (PST)
It  took us a long time to solidify our use of consensus and until we learned 
to deal with blocks the community was often at the mercy of a small minority. 
Things have gotten much better since we laid out both our criteria for a 
"legitimate" block and our procedure for resolving it.

First of all, anyone standing aside or blocking must explain their reasons to 
the community. It is possible that a person standing aside or blocking has a 
concern that the community hasn't fully considered. Also our procedures require 
that a "legitimate" block must be rooted in a sense that the proposed action 
will violate an explicit group value. This means blocks are generally tied to 
our Vision/Mission Statement.

If possible we try to deal with the concerns of blockers at the time they occur 
but if the block can't be resolved we have a process whereby the blocker can 
bring forward an alternative proposal at a future meeting. (The alternative 
proposal might be to completely reject the original proposal completely. In 
that case, if the alternative proposal is accepted, things remain at whatever 
was the status quo.) That alternative proposal is subjected to the same 
scrutiny as the original proposal. The final result can be either acceptance of 
the original proposal, the alternative proposal, or some new proposal the 
incorporates ideas from both proposals. If after serious considering all of 
these options, we can't reach consensus we have the option of using a 
super-majority vote (85%) to reach resolution. Our procedures also allow us not 
chose not to go to a vote but to set the issue aside or send it to a committee 
or task team for further consideration.

The more we've worked with this process the easier it has become to deal with 
blocking concerns and move forward with a decision everyone can live with. The 
whole procedure is long and drawn out but we have never had to go all the way 
to invoking the vote.

These procedures are laid out in our Policy and Procedure manual where they can 
easily be modified and refined and not in our CC&Rs or By-Laws.

Mary Ann
Manzanita Village, AZ

On Jan 11, 2013, at 11:05 AM, Willow Murphy <willowm7 [at]> wrote:

> Thank you all so much for your input.  Our community discussion on this
> starts in a week, so your input is timely and helpful.  Two more questions.
> Does your community require consensus in order to decide to vote in
> community meetings?
> A suggested amendment to our bylaws has been put forward by our board which
> states that if a decision has not been made by consensus during three
> community meetings, then any community member can ask for a vote at any
> time until a decision is reached.  Even though we can't legally deny a
> request for a vote, can we codify that our priority is to use consensus in
> order to make that decision to vote?
> What kind of back up process do you use?  Our community does not yet have a
> policy for when consensus is blocked, other than a general understanding
> that the block should relate to what is in the best interests of the
> community or fits our guiding principles, which are also unclear right now.
> Should that be accomplished as part of this and included in the amendment?
> Thanks again!
> On Fri, Jan 11, 2013 at 10:11 AM, Sharon Villines <sharon [at] 
>> wrote:
>> On Jan 9, 2013, at 7:07 AM, R Philip Dowds <rpdowds [at]> wrote:
>>> I don't know your jurisdiction, but your state likely has enabling
>> legislation for condos or HOAs, and this legislation probably spells out
>> strict notice and voting rules for certain decisions, like Board elections
>> or special assessments.  To stay legal, you should comply with BOTH state
>> regs AND your own consensus practices
>> Agreeing with Philip, and adding: Legislation for condos in DC does not
>> say they have to actually take a vote. It only states the minimum number of
>> votes necessary to make certain decisions--sometimes 51% and sometimes 75%.
>> Consensus represents a 100%  positive majority vote which is recorded in
>> minutes from organizations using parliamentary procedure as a unanimous
>> vote. I doubt if it is necessary to state this equivalency in your bylaws
>> but there it is.
>> Another helpful thing our lawyer told us about the board dominance
>> specified in condo legislation is that the Board can always delegate
>> authority for decisions. The thing it cannot absolve itself of is the
>> responsibility for the decision. This means if the membership makes a
>> decision that affects the standing of the homeowner's association, the
>> board is still responsible for that decision.
>> This is good because the Board can be inexpensively insured against bad
>> decisions made in good faith so Board members cannot be financially
>> endangered personally.
>> So when our membership makes a decision, the Board at the next meeting
>> "ratifies" that decision. It assures the powers that be that the decision
>> was properly and legally made and the Board stands behind it. (I doubt if
>> "stands behind it" is legalese but Phillip would know the correct
>> terminology.
>> Sharon
>> ----
>> Sharon Villines
>> Takoma Village Cohousing, Washington DC
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Mary Ann Clark                                                  drmaryann49 
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