Red Cedar Zen Community, 1021 N Forest, Bellingham Washington

2010-10 RCZC Board Minutes

Red Cedar Zen Board of Directors

Board Minues                                                                                 Weds, Oct 6 and Sat Oct 16, 2010

PRESENT: Jeff McKenna, Tim Burnett, Joan Dow, Don McClary

VISITORS: Oct 6th: Kate McKenna (Membership Workgroup), Oct 16th: Steve Hansen, BIMS Board President


encouraging words

full value contract

We commit:

  • to maintaining physical, psychological, and emotional safety
  • to working together to foster both group and individual goals; giving the group what it needs and individuals what they need.
  • to speaking and listening fearlessly to one another and fully talking things through.

review agenda and set time limits


Our Guest’s Business

Kate McKenna preparing for membership drive in November

1)     Member interested in increasing membership contribution and would like to also do some laundry at the Dharma Hall.

Decision: Agreed with the suggestion that she do any Dharma Hall towels and laundry as well.


2)     November Library display:
Kate offering to help with November library display but not having that much time then.
Decision : Joan will make more pictures as needed, including looking at Tim’s Japan pictures online.


3)     Membership Appeal:  Kate wondering whether to say that membership is decreasing x% on the letter.  Concerns from Don and Joan on whether we might be painting RCZC as a failing organization, Kate encouraged to tie that into the broader context of the economy, etc. Tim feeling strongly we give members full fiscal information to help them in making their decisions. 
Decision : Kate will draft an initial letters soon, hopefully with input from Keith.


4)     Request for one time donation form on the website.
Decision: Tim will get that done (or ask Terry to).


Steve Hansen, BIMS Board President

Steve visited with us at the Saturday 10/16 meeting to discuss BIMS presence in the Hall now and in the future.  


Jeff thanked BIMS for their support and expressed the hope that we can continue to share the building and the practice.


Tim reviewed the history that brought us to the Hall and to our current lease – that we had both signficiant support and a rushed timetable from a major donor who subsequently pulled out before completing the agreed donation. Steve did note that a few BIMS members with legal/real estate/negotiating skills would have been glad to be involved in that initial lease negotiation. Tim remembeed that at that point BIMS had made only a tentative commitment to staying at the Hall and were still pursuing purchase of their own facility.


Steve said that BIMS is largely happy practicing in the Hall.


Steve noted that size is just big enough for regular events but for some in-town retreats it’s a little small. Some issues with stairs. A few BIMS members have a strong preference for getting their own place. Some issues with layout of lobby (bulletin board could be arranged better, donation slot hasn’t been working for them). Some wishes for more of a BIMS presence on the outside of the building and/or in the name of the facility. However Steve told us that from his point of view the issues are minor and the Dharma Hall is well suited to their use for now.


And Steve told us that $800/month in rent in exchange for access to the Hall 1/3 of the available times is comfortable. BIMS would like to know going forward if that is likely to increase.

Most important part of a facility for BIMS use is a single large room for practice. Also use the kitchen and downstairs dining room. We did not discuss how important a separate meeting room is for regular meetings but they do use it during retreats.


Steve noted that most other spaces, other than owning their own which would be a large increase in operating expenses, would involve substaintial setup and cleanup at each practice meeting (example: a Montessori school invited them to come and use the classrooms for practicce). And Steve noted that it’s a nice feeling to practice in a room dedicated to meditation.


We agreed that any agreements on the size of BIMS’s share of the rent in a future lease depend on the size of that lease. We did not discuss whether there would be a rent increase for BIMS during the next two years of the current lease as the overall lease increases.


Don noted that his research agrees with BIMS’ that the current lease is above market prices.


We agreed that should we renew in this building, or perhaps sooner, we can look at the layout issues such as in the lobby and see if some adjustments can be made to make the building better suited to BIMS use. And that we may invite BIMS experts to the table to help us with new lease negotiations. Also that Red Cedar Zen is working on an exterior sign which will include a place for a plaque from BIMS.


Old Business

·        Standard Support Announcement

At the previous meeting we agreed to draft ideas for a standard announcement about how RCZC is supported to be read off at all meetings. Draft statements were considered with one quickly rising to the top, and with minor edits made in the meeting we have:

Thank you for being here.


Red Cedar Zen is a member-supported organization with no outside sources of funding.


Donations and memberships pay our rent and a stipend for our Spiritual Director.


This enables us to continue our programs and maintain the Dharma Hall.


Membership forms and a donation slot are in the lobby.


Todo: request all zendo hosts to read this announcement after every practice session.


New Business

  • October Study Retreat debrief.

Jeff: make it clear to people how much we appreciate their coming here to practice with us. That it’s an honor to host a gathering where people hear the dharma.   

TODO: Jeff write a thank you which Tim or Karen will help him email to all participants. 

Dharma Hall capacity was explored with this large group as we had up to 46 people at a time during the retreat. We could have added a few more. Call it 48 maximum. 50 tops.  

The food worked well – two soups cooked ahead on Friday.  Make a map of the serve up table to make it easier for volunteers to serve up.


Ongoing Business

  • Facilities Research. (note also information about BIMS in the Guest’s Business section above).

Facility Options:

1) renew with current lease terms at 1021 N. Forest
2) negotiate lower rent at 1021 N. Forest and stay
3) lease another commercial space at end of lease (Fall 2012)
4) lease a residential space at end of lease (Fall 2012)

5) purchase a residential space at end of lease (Fall 2012)
The Board is leaning towards option 2 - renegotiation of the lease and staying up to 5 more years at the current location if we can reach favorable rents levels with the landlord.  Sangha input will be taken before a decision is taken.


The option to renew at current levels (option 1) has been dropped. Financials show that we are currently treading water at those lease levels and no longer adding to our reserve.


In order to negotiate strongly with the current landlord we will need to look at comparable commerical locations and also residential locations about 1 year from the end of our lease in Fall 2012 (e.g. start looking Fall 2011 into Winter 2012 to see what’s out there).


Some members made a strong case for purchasing a residential building (option 5), noting that we nearly have a down payment already in the bank and that the mortgage payments would be comparable to current lease payments and that our membership contributions go towards a lasting home for the Dharma. Board members earlier expressed concern about whether it’s a good time for a capital campaign for a new building. Tim will bring this option back to the Board at its next meeting with the note that the capital campaign and increase in membership support would actually be relatively small given our current high lease payments.


Negotiating Strategy at 1021 N. Forest:

1)      Determine our Number: Based on membership support data and trends in that data Don and Marti will determine the amount of support we are likely to have going forward and a comparable commercial rents research package to be requested from commercial realtor Mike Parry we will determine theamount of rent we are willing to pay. This is our number. Guesses on this number range from $1800-$2000 currently but we await data to determine more accurately. Current rent after recent 3% annual bump is nearly $2500. And total utilities comes to about $250/month on average.

2)      Stick to our Number: Tim and Jeff, perhaps with a BIMS member who has legal or negotiation experience will meet with the landlord to explain that our current rent level is unsustainable and to stay beyond this lease we must reduce to our number. Red Cedar financials and commercial real estate comparison will be provided as supporting documentation if needed. We will not be willing to negotiate the rent number up at all.

3)      Offer that Landlord look for a replacement tenant: Propose to landlord that he has up until about 90 days before the end of our lease to find another tenant willing to pay more than we are who can legally use the space (there are many limitations from the zoning and occupancy permit). If so we will move out, if not we will request a new lease with the rent as our number. No annual increase. At this point the Board expects to feel comfortable offering a 5-year lease option to landlord but the length of term is not determined. Given interest in purchasing a residential property a shorter term might be better.


Details / Notes about negotiating strategy:

All Plans Here subject to sangha input. This is a major decision, once we have some information from landlord we will take this to the sangha, probably at the annual meeting on January 15th and/or on email.


Building Search: as we plan to offer to move out if the landlord can replace us with a higher paying tenant we must be prepared with alternate locations (commerical and residential, probably lease options but consider residential purchase).  Building search to commence Fall 2011.


Early Renewal Option: we will offer the landlord the option to do this whole scenario sooner (landlord searches for new tenant and then reduces to our number if none found) but the Board expects he will stick to the full lease term to capture maximum rents for his family foundation. (Side note: primary purpose of foundation turns out to be support of the landlord’s mother).


Removal of our possessions if we leave: We will document and make clear to landlord that should we leave 1021 N. Forest we will take everything with us as allowed by law. Probably including: furniture, all cabinetry we installed, heating panels, lighting, all shelving. The $10,000 tenant improvement allowance from landlord didn’t even cover the cost of the flooring (raw materials), electrical work, and insulation. Need to check with a lawyer whether we can legally remove items attached to walls such as heating panels and lighting fixtures. We did purchase and install these with our funds


Facilities Search TODO:

Tim: request that Mike Parry research similar commercial properties in Bellingham and prepare report on lease costs.  Offer Don’s services to photograph those properties as we believe visual information will be helpful to landlord.


Tim: list of items in the Hall we own to Don and ask Greg Greenan for legal advice on what we can legally remove.
Don: photograph those items.


Jeff: contact Steve Hansen again to offer to include one BIMS member in the negotiating team that will meet with landlord.


Board: solicit sangha input at the point when we have a more clear sense of our options. Most importantly if the landlord will not negotiate at all on the lease cost we will be leaving the current facility.


meeting reflection

on relationships, process, values and mission

of good value


upholding the contract

sangha on the horizon

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