The annual membership meeting again revealed deep and bitter divisions in Surfside. The conflicts that surfaced may be inherent in a community as diverse as ours. Each group has differing interests and while I won't pretend to fully understand all the interests, the way they were presented was counterproductive for just about everyone.

Differences in Surfside come from the wide variety of reasons people own property here and their needs. Some came here to invest and need a profitable bottom line. Some came to recreate and need the freedom to enjoy the outdoors. Some came to build a second house and get away. Some came to retire and enjoy active and pleasant surroundings. Some live and work in the community. Some found low cost housing and the best value available.

For some with second homes or expensive modern RVs, the costs of Surfside may not seem unreasonable. For a retired person on a fixed income or a person working in a community where there are limited well-paying jobs, the costs may represent difficult budget choices and may well interfere with their enjoyment of life.

We also have differences in our public conduct. Some were appalled and disappointed in the shout-outs, anger, and insulting comments at the annual meeting. I suspect that for others it was just life as usual and they rather seemed to enjoy the raucousness of the meeting - so what if it upsets others!

The effort to recall two dedicated Trustees at the annual meeting proved to be misguided. Unfortunately, it also proved ugly and demeaning. Luckily, when calmer voices shared the facts the members understood that the removal would be unjust and withdrew the action. One important message - at least get the facts before doing things that hurt others.

The conduct in that meeting will reinforce comments I've heard from realtors and others such as, "You don't want to live in Surfside; you should see how they treat each other!" The uncivilized behavior will harm the value of all our property not to mention undermining our sense of community.

Conflict in Surfside is inevitable. What we can choose is how we handle conflict. How could that be more constructive?

? Don't assume you know someone else's intentions until you talk it over with them. Disagreement doesn't necessarily mean bad intentions.

? Seek the facts and understand the complexity of the decision.

? Understand what in the situation is really important to you and causing strong emotion and concern.

? Present your issues and convince, rather than ridicule others. People will feel respected and will respect you more than if you intimidate and coerce.

Given the diversity of Surfside, the board has a difficult job to balance the interests of different groups. I have never seen the board take that responsibility lightly. The discussions are long and often tedious, but there is no other way to get at the facts, balance the interests and make the best decision for all.

I remain hopeful that we can learn to resolve our differences more constructively. I'm ready to listen. Give me a try. Meanwhile, remember we have much in common; take a walk on the beach and remind yourself why we came here.

Warren Olson, newly-elected president of the Surfside Homeowners Association, wrote this appeal to his fellow Surfsiders.

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