BoA approves variance and chides HOA
Wednesday, April 15, 2015 by Elizabeth Pagano
Rules may be rules, but this week one northwest homeowners association learned that it takes more than dogma to get the Board of Adjustment on board with nudging a backyard shed and foundation.
Homeowners Yaguo Wang and her husband, Jian Ku, were seeking a variance that would allow them to reduce the rear setback at their 7012 Quill Leaf Cove home from 5 feet to 3 feet 10 inches. That variance will allow them to retain a shed in their backyard, which the city’s Code Department has asked them to move 1 foot further away from their back fence.
Wang explained that they had an irregularly shaped yard, and it was difficult to comply with the setback. Moreover, the shed is on a foundation and iron bars, which makes transporting it difficult. They did not need a permit from the city to construct the shed.
Board members voted unanimously to approve the variance, 7-0.
Board Member Will Schnier personally extended his sympathies to the homeowners, and deemed the emails in the backup “harassing and wholly inappropriate.” Those emails, sent by an unidentified neighbor, detail various rules of the neighborhood and complain about parking and Wang’s barking dog.
“The person who wrote these emails should be ashamed of herself,” said Schnier.
Wang said that she had contacted both the HOA and the city to confirm that they did not need a permit to build the shed, which is not the only one in the neighborhood.
“It’s basically our attitude not to obey or listen to their advice, (which is) irritating us,” said Wang.
Neighbor Becky Kirkpatrick told the board that she stood in support of the variance, along with 23 other neighbors.
“The people who can see the shed voted ‘yes’ for the variance, and they are the people whose opinions really count. The people who can’t see it voted no, but those same people had no issue with my neighbor’s 9-foot fence,” said Kirkpatrick. “I can’t help wondering, what difference does 1 foot make to those who oppose the variance?”
Chair Jeff Jack also questioned the impact that moving the shed a foot would have.
“It would have no impact whatsoever,” answered Janet Asghar, who spoke in opposition to the variance. “It’s all to do with the rules.”
Though several adjacent neighbors and 24 neighbors within 500 feet of the home supported the variance request, others did not. Opposition included the Jester Homeowners Association, though 7012 Quill Leaf Cove is not part of that HOA.
Asghar said that when construction on the shed began, she informed the homeowners that they would need to get permission from the Jester HOA architectural review board. She worried that allowing the structure to remain would set a bad precedent.
Asghar explained that the other sheds were built in 1984, before the HOA was established. She further explained that their HOA had three tiers of membership, and homes built before 1989 did not need to be members of the HOA, but they did need to get approval from an architectural firm that had control.
Neighbor Luther Parker told the board that he came from a perspective of “compliance, of observing all appropriate rules” in a community where they had never had a conflict in the past 20 or 30 years.
“This conflict has originated in the last year,” said Parker, who attributed the current case to misinformation, misinterpretation and erroneous advice. Specifically, Parker said that the homeowners possessed an incorrect belief that, because they are not required to be a member of the HOA, they are not bound by its rules and regulations.
“It just seems to us that granting this variance will corroborate this independent action and approach on their part,” said Parker. “Our interest, truly, is in the integrity of our neighborhood.”
Their interest failed to sway board members, however.
Board Member Michael Von Ohlen explained that the board could not enforce private restrictions. He said that he wanted to see the shed himself, but could not see it from the street when he drove by the property. He insinuated that there might have been a loss of perspective in the midst of the variance fight.
“I think everyone is trying to teach someone a lesson,” said Von Ohlen.
Board Member Stuart Hampton seemed to agree, saying, “I’m just surprised at how contentious this is for such a small variance and such a small shed … I find it disappointing.”
Join Your Friends and Neighbors
We're a nonprofit news organization, and we put our service to you above all else. That will never change. But public-service journalism requires community support from readers like you. Will you join your friends and neighbors to support our work and mission?