Board by the Rules

snowman 1219
Riverwalk Estates: where we’re friendly until we don’t like your lifestyle.

Our homeowners association (HOA) president, who at the moment is our closest (in proximity) neighbor, is a very congenial man who volunteers much of his time at our local food pantry. He and his wife take personal responsibility for maintaining the subdivision entryway with its abundance of flowers and trees, and he keeps an eye on the ponds, coordinates snow and tree removal and generally does a lot of thankless tasks in his unpaid position in this place where they have lived longer than almost everyone else.

Our president also owns a four-wheel all-terrain vehicle (ATV) that doesn’t seem to see a lot of use, spending most of its time neatly under a brown tarp to the side of the garage. When he breaks it out, it seems to be for the purpose of taking grandchildren around the subdivision, utilizing some of the walking paths. They drive slowly and carefully and this should not cause any problems — except all of it is in violation of our covenants.

As you know, I am a firm believer in all of our covenants, except the ones that pertain to no cats outdoors and dogs on leashes at all times. And no outside trash. And no sheds outside the building envelope. And possibly no vehicles stored outside garages, except that I can’t actually find that one anywhere but in an attorney’s assertion.

I kind of think most of our fellow homeowners are in line with me and the president, whose charming dog is also never leashed. Let’s take a look:

Two of 10 houses sport six-foot tall metal fences. The covenants say preferably no fences at all, but if there must be one, it should be no more than three feet tall and made of wood. Ideally, I suppose, they should match the split rail fence, some of it in need of repair, that goes around the entire development.

At least three homes and the guest house feature metal skirting, despite a prohibition on any type of metal siding.

Almost everyone has more outdoor objects — cars, trailers, snowmobiles and/or ATVs — than garage space. I still can’t find a covenant addressing the cars, unless they are “inoperable or abandoned,” but everything else is supposed to be garaged. And snowmobiles are only supposed to be used for trail grooming, and only then from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. Our president’s ATV is equally pointless, because you’re not supposed to use it anywhere on your own property but the driveway, and can only go on the subdivision roads 7 a.m.-7 p.m.

And if you put these items in a detached building on your property, that garage must under no circumstances — unless you’re the board member whose garage is currently under construction — be more than one story tall.

The way I’m reading the covenants, RVs aren’t allowed at all, garaged or not (I’m guessing that’s really more just poor wording in the covenants than intent, but that’s what it says), rendering the extra-tall door on the board member’s new garage completely moot.

And no more than two buildings total, which is an amendment made in 2017, after one house already added a garage, a shed and a greenhouse.

So when you get done with all this, there appears to be only one completely compliant house in the subdivision, and that’s the one that belongs to the attorney’s wife (he’s always very specific about this: it’s hers, not his). When they walk their dogs, they always seem to be on leashes.

So if someone is going to list concerns that have been added to next week’s annual meeting agenda, it might as well be the attorney. But I’m guessing he’s not really the driving force behind being offended by “outdoor storage” and “shed requests.”

(For the record, I’m the only “request” I know of. I verified with my new neighbor with a shed (and now a sailboat) that he did not seek supplication from the board, but just bought a shed and plunked it down. I told him he was a lot smarter than I was.)

I doubt it’s the HOA president, with his ATV stored outside, or the board member with the two-story garage that seems bigger than half the square footage of his house (also against the covenants), or the board member with the six-foot tall rusted metal fence (for which he did get board approval). That leaves the two board members who don’t live here and seem, on a routine basis, to be offended by nearly everything as people in this development go about their business of actually living here.

These covenants, which have been so selectively enforced that I think one would have a very difficult time legally justifying further and now punitive selective enforcement, were all written long before a single house went in place, which is how I imagine the process always goes. But a bankruptcy and economic downturn allowed life to go on while the covenants languished, and it seems to me that what would make the most sense is to rewrite the entire set of covenants to make this a nice, upscale (I guess that’s what it has to be, when people are listing their houses for more than $800,000) development but also a place where people can actually live.

Let’s stop and think a moment. Which seems more offensive, my old pick-up parked outside in front of my shed (sitting on cinder blocks outside the building envelope for all the world to see), or a three-car garage with a couple RV bays standing where all our trees are now? And when they tell me I can’t build that high, how do they respond when I point out my neighbor was allowed to do so?

At this board meeting next week there are supposed to be board elections. For some reason, everyone is expressing surprise that I am not already the HOA president. But I like the current HOA president and his laid-back style, and think that suits what I’ve seen of the neighborhood. The two board members I’d like to see replaced are probably the two most likely to fight for their seats.

One, who has yet to impress me, seems very impressed with himself as a huge fish in one of our tiny ponds, and the other is a member of the family trust that still needs to unload 15 or so lots (prices are still rolling back, from $95,000 now down to $79,000 across the pond from us). I imagine his focus is to remain on board, even though he doesn’t live in Gunnison County, let alone Riverwalk Estates, to “protect” the family investment against the likes of people who park old trucks in front of sheds (not prohibited anywhere in the covenants).

So it may not happen this year, and perhaps everyone, including the HOA president, will get a polite but stern letter from the compliant attorney telling us we need to conform or be fined. Or the covenants could be amended, but when you start counting votes, the people who live here really won’t count.

Or perhaps it is much ado about nothing, which was the result of the letter we all got last year. But I for one will be glad when more people who really live here are on the board.


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