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Demise of an Observatory... Death by HOA

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#1 johne

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 10:48 AM

Just a little over four years ago, when I moved to Prescott from Ft Wayne (IN), one of the first things that I did was come up with the best location on my property to place a small roll-off observatory. I followed the CC&Rs, drew everything up and submitted the Obs'y plans to my HOA. They approved everything within a week, with no restrictions. Within a month or so, I had completed the construction and this was the result...
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Now, four years later... a little over two weeks ago, I received a letter from my HOA stating that the observatory was in violation of the CC&R's and that it would have to be removed within 10 days.
Flabbergasted, I phoned the president of the HOA board to discuss the letter/demand. Even though I had followed the rules, the HOA board said they had the right to override the HOA's architecture review committee's decision from four years earlier.
I did some digging and found out that one or more people in our small addition (35 homes) as well as a few realtors complained about the "storage shed" in my driveway. So the boards response was to rescind the approval and order its removal... and they would not reconsider.

So, the observatory is no more. Dismantled, saved all of the parts, hardware, cables, etc. and hauled it off to the dumpster. A very sad day for me.

The episode has pretty much ended astrophotography me. I'll be selling most everything and just keep my Meade LX90 for some visual use from my deck and driveway.

While I only contributed to these forums on occasion, I pretty much visited here almost daily. Without CN, I have no idea how I would ever got everything to work correctly. Many, many thanks to so many who have shared their experiences over the years... from which I benefitted.

Thanks,
John

#2 Footbag

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 10:53 AM

If you had permission to build it, and spent money based off that permission, then it's worth a call to a lawyer.

You may still be required to remove it, but they may have to foot the bill for any losses you incurred. Google "detrimental reliance".

With HOA's it's tough, though. I'll never live in a HOA neighborhood.

#3 lambermo

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 11:06 AM

Curious: are you allowed to build a rooftop dormer with a flat roof ?

#4 Christopher Erickson

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 12:27 PM

How about a big, fake planter and a hollow fiberglass palm tree?

I would certainly follow-up with a lawyer.

#5 GJJim

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 01:38 PM

It's sad to see you treated this way by a committee of busy bodies. But without negligence or malfeasance on the part of the ARC or the HOA, a court will award only actual damages. Situations like this create tremendous negative mental energy and that has its own price. Given the time required and cost of hiring an attorney, it's probably not worth pursuing beyond a simple appeal to the HOA.

#6 piaras

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 02:33 PM

Lawyer up. Time to move. HOA are bogus.
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#7 Glen A W

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 02:46 PM

I used to live in a town that was ruled over by realtors. We lived on a regular street without an HOA, but I would still see the realtors driving around taking notes. A few days letter, the complaint letters from the city would arrive. Many of the neighbors got them, as well.

I know plenty of people who live in non-HOA neighborhoods in towns and cities and there is in fact no great tendency for the homeowners to do ridiculous and ugly things!

I think the Universe is trying to tell you something. Move to darker skies.

Glen

#8 proteus5

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 02:53 PM

I agree lawyer up and fight to the fullest. It's your property. Why anyone would allow bogus hoa dictate what you do on your own property is beyond me. Get a few old cars and put them up on blocks out front also, but by all means fight back.

#9 Glen A W

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 03:25 PM

I will have to disagree, Robert.

The HOA cannot be beat. If it is like many HOA neighborhoods, a bunch of the people in the HOA are lawyers themselves. These people know what they are doing.

One way I could see to save the observatory in such a case might have involved making it religious, in some way. The courts have allowed holiday decorations which were against HOA rules in the past. But, you'd have to fight them in court and spend big money.

And, once you get the reputation as someone who does not "go along with what the 'community' wants," you won't want to live there, anyhow! You might even find your kids being ostracized and so on...

After I moved away from my old high-property-values town and got back into a real-life area, my stress level decreased greatly. I lived there in PerfectVille from 1977-2011 and there was not a year that went by without several concerns of this nature which negatively impacted my quality of life.

Glen

#10 dawziecat

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 03:38 PM

Apparently there are HOA-type people . . . and non-HOA people.

I went into an HOA ignorant. I left wiser. I've heard all the arguments about how they're supposed to make it better for everybody.

HOAs are just not for me. Never again.

#11 Calypte

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 09:07 PM

I lived in an HOA for 19 years. Among the restrictions, we couldn't have any structure in the backyard that projected above the height of the fences, which was about 5 ft. There was no way I could build even a minimal telescope shelter under those conditions. As it was, by the time we moved (2012), trees had grown up, a casino and hotel had been built nearby, and the very dark sky I had in 1993 was only a dim memory. But it would have been nice to have a permanent scope for those nights when I just wanted to take a quick look at the Moon or Jupiter. HOWEVER -- the restrictions were spelled out in the CC&Rs and architectural guidelines that we willingly signed when we bought the house. It's essential to read those things. Most buyers don't, and then they're surprised when they get cited. I'm not sure our HOA board could have gotten away with rescinding approvals previously granted, but maybe it was in there. The OP's structure in the driveway would never have been allowed in the first place. In my current area, where we don't have an HOA, we've had instances where county code enforcement has rescinded previously-granted approvals. You never know when something you thought was safe is suddenly illegal.

I should add that any permanent structures or even significant landscaping changes required signoffs from surrounding property owners. I never heard of an instance where a subsequent property owner successfully brought a case against an approved project that antedated his moving in.

#12 Digital Don

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 09:13 PM

"They approved everything within a week, with no restrictions."

I would demand that they show you the specific changes made to the HOA that now render an approved structure in 'violation'. Also, were you given the opportunity to vote on any changes in the agreement?

If they insist that it must be dismantled, demand that they pay for it's removal since it was originally built with their approval and in compliance for four years.

Then contact an attorney.

Don :usa:

#13 TCW

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Posted 19 July 2014 - 09:20 PM

I hope you have the original approval in writing. If so a good attorney should be able to knock them back on their heels + costs. ;)

#14 rimcrazy

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 07:01 AM

I live in a residential area that has an HOA. The driveways in my neighborhood are miniscule. It is technically impossible for me to park my truck and my wife's car in our driveway without banging our car doors into each other. I submitted plans and received approval, in writing, for an improvement whereby I increased the width of my drive by 3' on each side using driveway paver stones. In addition my cars, around that same time, were vandalized so I installed security video cameras that overlook my driveway. There was and is NOTHING in my CC&R's covering security cameras. Fast forward 5 years and I get some nasty-gram from my HOA saying I'm in violation as my truck is not always on my pavement but on my pavers and I have unapproved security cameras. I wrote them back and went to the meeting explaining how my driveway was approved by them for the purpose it was used and their was nada in their rules regarding security cameras. They backed down on both accounts. In general, however, I would agree with all of the comments. HOA's have far outlived their usefulness and in general are puppet committees for a few to force their capricious will on others.

I'm a little surprised you could not put your telescope in your back yard? Is your yard as such as that would not work at all?

#15 CharlesW

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 10:32 AM

It is unfortunate that you received an earlier pass on your project but as a neighbor I would have been screaming bloody-murder nonstop. Even in non-HOA environments there is a limit on what you can do. Sometimes HOA boards get populated by stupid people and in a gene pool of 33, I'd say that was the initial problem. I'm not even sure my HOA would allow that in my back yard.

#16 Raginar

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 11:10 AM

Charles,
Even if that is the case, they should pay him for the mistake. He followed proper procedure and it was approved. To come back after the fact is their problem.

I'll never live anywhere with a HOA. No one tells me what I can do with the property I own.

#17 CharlesW

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 12:17 PM

I agree that the HOA should refund any fees paid for the original approval.

As far as Rapid City is concerned, unless you live in an unincorporated area of the county, RC has a fairly vigorous code enforcement unit, 1314 actions up to today. They can tell you what to do with your property whether you like it or not.

Maybe not fair to the OP but certainly not fair to his neighbors. An I'm sure the OP is a very nice guy. But let's take a walk down memory lane. I also bought into an HOA community four years ago. It was the bottom of the housing market. Lot's of houses in foreclosure, lots of houses in short sale. Fewer and fewer residents paying their HOA dues. Probably the same for the OP's neighborhood. It hit everywhere. And in an HOA of 33, each loss hurts. Then the OP moves in and the Board actually sees someone willing to pay the dues. Maybe they are so happy they decide on the down-low to cut him some slack for his shed. Again, stupid people with no foresight as to the problems this is going to create down the road. Now the market is improved, more houses occupied, more people paying dues and it's time for the new board to address past transgressions.

What the OP has stored in the shed matters not. Imagine his chagrin if a neighbor across the street received an approval to place a couch and washing machine in their driveway because that was the "best" place to watch cars drive by and do the laundry at the same time.

People move into HOA's for a reason and that's regulation. Nobody is forced in.

#18 Aquarist

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 12:31 PM

With HOA's it's tough, though. I'll never live in a HOA neighborhood.


Likewise. I am also willing to spend money on lawyers to keep a HOA being put into place in my existing neighborhood.

#19 Raginar

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 12:51 PM

I agree that the HOA should refund any fees paid for the original approval.

As far as Rapid City is concerned, unless you live in an unincorporated area of the county, RC has a fairly vigorous code enforcement unit, 1314 actions up to today. They can tell you what to do with your property whether you like it or not.

Maybe not fair to the OP but certainly not fair to his neighbors. An I'm sure the OP is a very nice guy. But let's take a walk down memory lane. I also bought into an HOA community four years ago. It was the bottom of the housing market. Lot's of houses in foreclosure, lots of houses in short sale. Fewer and fewer residents paying their HOA dues. Probably the same for the OP's neighborhood. It hit everywhere. And in an HOA of 33, each loss hurts. Then the OP moves in and the Board actually sees someone willing to pay the dues. Maybe they are so happy they decide on the down-low to cut him some slack for his shed. Again, stupid people with no foresight as to the problems this is going to create down the road. Now the market is improved, more houses occupied, more people paying dues and it's time for the new board to address past transgressions.

What the OP has stored in the shed matters not. Imagine his chagrin if a neighbor across the street received an approval to place a couch and washing machine in their driveway because that was the "best" place to watch cars drive by and do the laundry at the same time.

People move into HOA's for a reason and that's regulation. Nobody is forced in.


Guess it' a good thing I don't live in Rapid City :). I used to be a fire inspector, I'm well aware what we go after. However, Rapid City wouldn't tell you you couldn't build a shed. There are HOAs around here that would probably would. Thankfully I don't live in that sort of a neighborhood.

Placing a shed in his front yard is probably the least of his worries and isn't remotely the same as putting a car and a washing machine on your side lawn. However, that's the argument most HOAs use to justify their abusive behaviors. 99% of people just want to use their properties as the OP did.

For the realtors, he most likely would remove it when/if he moves off the property. It looks fairly temporary IMHO.


#20 dawziecat

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 01:26 PM

I owned an HOA property in FL for about 4 years. It was never my idea but that's besides the point.

I did learn that I'm one of the "95%."

What does that mean? Well I had a complaint that I left my garage door open too much and I got a complaint about that!

When I expressed my incredulity at such a complaint, my neighbour told me that I was one of "the 95%."

I pressed for an explanation and he put it this way:"

"5% of the people want to tell the other 95% what to do."

And people on HOA committees are a bit like politicians . . . they are in the "5%.".

The very people that aspire to serving on such committees are, too frequently, about the last people you want to be in such "positions of power."

If an HOA is for you, that's fine. I agree no one forces anyone to buy into an HOA-controlled neighbourhood.
But, for me, "been there, done that." Never again!

The very idea of someone telling me what colour I can paint my front door raises my hackles!

It's a good thing we left. It was only a matter of time before the yard nazis objected to the G-11 I left out in the yard.

#21 Christopher Erickson

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 01:39 PM

The absolute best defense against a renegade HOA is to bite the bullet, go to all of the meetings and get on the board.
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#22 jgraham

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 03:37 PM

HOA's sound like a great source of fertilizer. If you could only bag this stuff. Too bad about your observator.

#23 TCW

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 05:06 PM

HOA boards seem to attract power mad despots at heart or the power and lack of accountability brings it out in people. There is nothing worse that a Mrs. Grundy going around with a tape measure and camera looking for the tiniest infraction.

Note to self - NEVER EVER live in a HOA development.

#24 choran

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 05:37 PM

Lots of control freaks are attracted to these boards. Of course, some are just there to try to keep everybody happy, and correct egregious violations, but there is that type that relishes running everyone's life. Thankfully, I have been able to avoid HOA's in my lifetime, at least so far, but have several friends who live under absolutely tyrannical nincompoops. Ms. Grundy is an apt analogy.

#25 Schube

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Posted 20 July 2014 - 07:14 PM

Pensacola, FL here. Facing the same issue with a roll-off roof observatory in my backyard. Unfortunately, in this city, if you do not have HOA, trash can live and build next to your beautiful home. My engineer has had this issue before and feels we can work around the restriction of now secondary, detached structures (permanent or temporary). Hope it goes well as I need a home to park my scopes.






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