Saturday, July 12, 2008

Neighbor Insanity

We have some neighbors across the street with whom we have absolutely no relationship at all. They keep very much to themselves and between zipping in and out of the house at odd hours of the day, letting their dog run free (and go to the bathroom on my grass -- the nerve!), and having a lot of punk teenagers hanging around their too-sparsely-dressed teenage daughter, we don't exactly have a lot in common. We've had quite a history at a distance with them, as they tend to do whatever they want to do with their yard. In most neighborhoods, this wouldn't really be a big deal, but we live in a community with a Homeowners Association (HOA) with some fairly stringent CC&Rs (covenants, conditions, and regulations). CC&Rs are defined as:

The restrictions governing the use of real estate, usually enforced by a homeowners' association and passed on to the new owners of property. For example, CC&Rs may tell you how big your house can be, how you must landscape your yard or whether you can have pets. If property is subject to CC&Rs, buyers must be notified before the sale takes place.

A lot of people complain about having an HOA with CC&Rs, but one of the reasons we moved here was because it had an HOA. You see, when we lived in our old house, we got burned by some nuts-o neighbors -- one who wanted to sue us for damage that the roots of the tree in our front yard had done to his driveway (years before we moved in), and the other who kept sheep in their backyard -- ten feet away from our bedroom (imagine hearing "baaaah!!" at 3 am in the morning and having flies constantly swarming your yard).

Needless to say, we were delighted to move into our new house where people couldn't park their RVs in front of their house year-round, permanently leave (unused) basketball stands at the curb, and have their roof torn off for years on end with only pretty blue plastic tarps covering it while they did the work themselves to replace it.

So it has been that our neighbors across the street have been the source of much frustration. We have taken cookies over to them, but only had them rebuff our attempt at cordiality. Now we pretty much just let them be, and would be content to do so except that they have a tendency to landscape any way the please. With our HOAs landscaping rules, that's a serious no-no, the consequences of which can be monthly fees and even law-suits. Our neighborhood is surrounded by HOA-maintained hills, public walls, and stretches of grass and shrubbery. In addition, architectural changes to their property, such as landscaping (even in the backyard) must be approved by the HOA's landscape committee and have the approval of nearby neighbors.

They treat all of that with disdain. Some examples:

-- They cut into the HOA-managed hill right behind their house by about 5 feet in order to lengthen their back yard.
-- They re-routed the fencing around their yard to surround it, building an extension to the community property wall.
-- They gutted the HOA-controlled landscaping on the side of their house (they live on the corner) and replaced it with landscaping of their own choosing.

This family has been the source of nothing but consternation to the HOA board members, many of whom I know very well.

Well, this past week, they've been re-landscaping their front yard. Again, their plans needed to be approved by the HOA landscaping committee, and I have serious doubts that they were. Some of my neighbors have called it "Jurassic Park" landscaping, where they've been putting in funny concrete walls and shaping them to look like jagged rocks. I was just going to let it ride for the front of their house, which really doesn't face me directly, until this morning when I looked out my window and discovered that they were covering the entire HOA-controlled wall that faces my house with gray concrete and were shaping it to look like rocks.

I was appalled, first; infuriated, second. I got on the phone and called four of the HOA board members, and the HOA management company. I'm really glad I did, too. If I hadn't, the concrete on the wall would have dried overnight and it would have been far more difficult to remove. As it was, one of the HOA board members took a walk and instructed the workers to remove it immediately.

I took several pictures of it. Their landscaping doesn't even match their home -- their home is "French Country" style. Click on the image and scroll from left to right to get the whole story.

These pictures were taken from my front door. You can see on the left that they've added some odd, low walls to basically surround the entirety of their front yard. They've also put in these large concrete block-like things, which we believe they intend to shape to look like boulders. We anticipate they plan to put in similar shrubbery to what you see to the immediate right in front of the slump-stone wall.

The slump-stone wall itself is that brownish color. You can see where they were covering it with the concrete, and putting grooves in it and shaping it. To the right of the image, you can see the workers taking it off at the behest of the HOA. They took square nosed shovels and scraped off what they could, then used a hose to wash it off. It looks mostly back to normal right now.

I am sooo glad that I saw them doing this and was able to make some calls to stop it. My wife and I intend to stay in this house for "the next 30 years" and I really didn't want to face that wall for all that time. The landscaping along that wall, as you can tell, which they put in without asking permission (but got subsequent approval from a too-kind-hearted architectural board) is tastefully done, even if it doesn't match the foliage in the rest of the community. It isn't even their property to manage -- it's HOA property that is cared for by the HOA gardeners and watered by the HOA!

So, a close call this time. I'm very grateful that the HOA board sees things my way.

1 comment:

Melissa said...

I don't understand why they would be going to all the expense to do this. Hopefully they'll move....

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