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The Orchards @ Anderson Heights Homeowners' Blog

The Official blog of The Orchards @ Anderson Heights – made by homeowners, for homeowners

Appealing the ARC

I received the third rejection in the mail today from the ARC since I moved here, and I’m losing my patience with that in a hurry.  I’m tired of playing games so I’m going to lay it all out on the line here and hopefully make a little leeway.

First–I’m the infamous BB gun shooter aka ‘The Sniper’.  I had fun on that thread and found it both entertaining and informative, albeit a little ridiculous.  I suppose we’ll have to agree to disagree on the seriousness of what transpired that fateful day.  The person that blew the whistle on that was in fact lying about my son, and that upset me the most.  I haven’t been back there since, and I sure as hell will never do anything inside the confines of this neighborhood again that might upset someone.  If the HOA Borad or EnTrust sees fit to fine me or penalize me for telling the truth, and trying to find some resolve, I suppose that’s out of my control.  Principle is more important to me at this point that anything else, and I hope to see some good faith from their end as well to accomplish the same.  Give a little, get a little, that’s what my old man always preached to me.

So, on to business…

Earlier in the year, I submitted a letter to build a porch in my back yard.  I never got a response, so I assumed it was a ‘no’.  Then, a few months later, I submitted a proposal to build a sunroom on top of my garage, with flowers, a pitched roof for shade, and columns stuccoed to match the house.  The ARC denied me that go-round, stating that the load of a porch was too great for the roof, and that I’d have to have an engineer do a private evaluation of whether or not the garage would be structurally sound enough to support the porch.  The cheapest engineer I could find was $240 an hour, and told me a report would be about $500 on top of that.  That doubled my budget for the porch, and quashed my idea for the job, which, I believe, was the ARC’s intention.  Rather than saying, ‘No, you can’t do that, because your house will look different,’ they said, ‘shell out the bucks for an engineer, and throw the dice again.’  Nice play.  Touche.  I work with contractors and engineers on a daily basis, and asked a dozen of them or better about the minimum snowload regulations for houses in ABQ, and the figures they gave me dwarfed what my porch would’ve weighed by about 8 times, based on the  24″ centers of my studs.  Oh, did I mention I was a union carpenter for ten years too, and built houses in Alaska, where I moved here from?  Yeah…we get a little snow there too.  Besides…if my roof caved in, would the HOA foot the bill for repair?  I appreciate the safety angle, but that wasn’t why they did this at all, now was it?

So, about a week ago, I submitted a third proposal, for a small storage shed in my front yard, adjacent to my driveway.  10 feet long, 6 feet deep, 7 feet tall.  D-E-N-I-E-D.  This time, the letter from the board stated that my project didn’t ‘fall within the guidlines.’  However, in reading the guidelines (furnished in the same rejection letter) the plan that I submitted for the structure DID fall within those guidelines, but didn’t get the stamp from the ARC and the Board.  I bought a motorcycle, and want to store it out there for the winter, out of the elements, and still put both my rigs in the garage.  In the BB gun thread, Mark himself told me that,  ‘ landscaping the front yard is absolutely allowed. Let me also tell you that Pat (enTrust as a whole) has VERY limited authority to deny things, so if you submitted something and the denial came right back from Pat directly…well, I want to know what was denied. The ARC wants to help people make some customization possible, as long as the modifications fit aesthetically within the community.’  You wanted to know?  Well man…ask and ye shall receive.  My shed would look exactly like my house, and like I paid a contractor to do it.  And it would cover the ugly electrical box that’s out there to boot.  Justify to my why I can’t do this.  And be original…not just, ‘It will upset the evenflow of the community,’ or ‘it won’t be aesthetically in juxtaposition with everyone else.’

I moved here and married my wife, who already lived here, about two years ago.  We like it here, and have done a lot of work inside our home to make it really nice.  But our hands are really tied as to what we can do outside, and that’s really, REALLY frustrating, and borderline ridiculous.  If I were asking to build a pink castle for the kids in the front yard or something, I could understand.  But none of the things I’ve submitted have been unreasonable, at all.  I’d like to abide by the rules that came with the house I live in, and the neighborhood, but they seriously cramp my style, and stymie any progress I try to make.

You said the board, ‘wants to help people, and wants to promote construction and landscaping.’  Prove it.  Work with me here.  At the very least, tell me how to forward an appeal to the Board for an ARC decision, so I can at least see some justification on paper, if not here in public.

My mask is off, as are the gloves.  I don’t want to fight, but I don’t want to be stonewalled anymore either.  I’ve never felt welcomed once by the HOA since I’ve moved here, so a little good faith would work wonders right about now.

Ball’s in your court.

Jim

10 Responses to “Appealing the ARC”

  1. Mark says:

    Jim-

    Thank you for the information. I have asked enTrust to send me the forms you submitted so the ARC can review them. I will keep you posted (here) on status updates – (1) when the Committee gets them and (2) when we have a response to send. After we make a decision, enTrust puts together the formal response letter and sends it. If we have questions, we work through enTrust to collect answers before we make a decision.

    If the ARC’s decision is not to your satisfaction, I encourage you to let Pat know that you want to speak to the Board on the day of the annual meeting, since that is the next best time to get us all in the same place to discuss the request. You will be given time either before or after the formal Meeting to air your concerns. Since I am on the ARC, I cannot vote as part of the Board when they make their decision on your appeal. enTrust will send out the formal results letter within 72 hours of that discussion.

    Mark Racicot
    Vice President, The Orchards HOA BoD

  2. Mark says:

    Oh…before I forget:
    1. The ARC is required to respond to all submissions. If you (or anyone else reading this blog) submits a form and you don’t hear anything within two weeks, please do NOT assume either way…approval or denial. Sometimes, enTrust doesn’t get the forms. Sometimes, they forward and we get busy and don’t respond. Sometimes, they forget to forward to us. Hey, it happens. We’re human, not perfect, and there’s no shame in saying that…just don’t assume anything.

    2. For legal reasons, the Board and the ARC do NOT make engineering decisions, nor does either team enforce Albuquerque city code. We do not make calls to the city to complain about so-and-so violating codes. If someone in the neighborhood wants to take that route, that’s an individual’s decision, not the Board’s and not the Committee’s. We do not bring the city into ARC decision-making. It has happened in the past that KB has done so, but our policy is NOT to be watchdogs for the City. They get paid to do their job of code enforcement. We stick to our responsibilities of ensuring the look and feel of the community is preserved.

    3. We normally do not require engineering plans or formal drawings. We might suggest submission of something more detailed than a sketch, and we might even ask if any formal evaluation by a professional was done, but since none of us are engineers, we don’t usually ask for such documentation. If someone builds something that caves in and crushes someone, that’s on the owner/builder to sort out. (Exceptions do exist, so if enTrust recommends we go down that path, we would ask…but that is VERY rare.)

    4. On aesthetics… This is the most difficult area to resolve to everyone’s satisfaction since we’re talking about ‘taste’. What color goes with the palette currently in use on a lot? What about when taken in context with the street or the community as a whole? What design is appropriate for the construction style prevalent within the community? Once you get beyond “pink castles in the front yard” (great visual, by the way), it heads into murky, grey area. The ARC tries VERY hard to work with people and has been able to do so successfully on most requests. Sure, some have grumbled, but who doesn’t when they don’t get exactly what they want?

    The ARC’s primary aim is to approve requests. If we can’t approve, we can conditionally approve – that is, approve the request as long as ‘x’ happens. We try to offer suggestions or alternatives. Finally, if we can’t come up with an alternative, we will issue a denial as a last resort along with the reasoning behind it. When it comes to denials, we seek unanimous decisions – if anyone has a doubt, we discuss it thoroughly to see if there is wiggle room for an approval or a conditional approval. If denial is the answer and the cause is “aesthetics” is the reason, how do you come up with a logical reason for something that is so emotionally based?

    I hope this additional information gives you some insight into how we try to conduct business.

    Mark Racicot
    Vice President, The Orchards HOA BoD

  3. Sean says:

    We’ve have lived here for almost 6 years and I would like to know if you got a copy of the covenants? That really gives a good guideline of what you can and can’t do. This subdivision has some uniformity, so I don’t see how a sunroom room on top of your garage could be acceptable. As for your shed have you tried asking someone in the subdivision how they got theirs approved? Maybe it is as simple as your wording.
    As for the BB situation, I don’t know what happened or want to go into details but remember this..you should really check with the city/county ordinances to see if you can even do that in the city limits. There are acres upon acres of open field to the west of us that people use to motocross, shoot, and dump some stolen vehicles. I would think you could probably find a valley or a dry runoff bed to use that’s within walking distance to target practice.
    Those are my opinions, merely suggestions…take them as you see.

    Sean

  4. the Sniper says:

    Pat from EnTrust called and left a message today for my wife, asking that we resubmit all the plans that were rejected. She said that the porch would more than likely get approved, the sun room was iffy, and the shed in the front was an absolute ‘no’. Funny, I gathered through your posts that decision wasn’t up to her. There seems to be some grey area on who actually makes decisions, and who has the most pull and influence in said decisions. I’ll submit my plans again and see what comes up. If it boils down to standing in front of the board and pleading my case, I’ll gladly do that as well.

    In closing…when I originally posted about building my porch way back in April, I recall being told by a board member (Travis, I think his name was) that he’d scarcely or never seen the ARC reject any proposals. I’m 0 for 3, so it makes me question the truth to that statement.

    I’ll try to get those out in the next day or two. My artistic skills are pretty limited compared to my building experience, so my drawings were all pretty archaic. For the record…I’m more interested in the shed more than anything else. It’ll look like a million bucks, and work wonders for covering the green electrical box in the front yard. It’ll really make our block look nice. Trust me.

  5. Mark says:

    The drawings may be the key here, especially in terms of the sunroom and the shed.

    Pat can offer her opinion as to what she thinks would or wouldn’t be approved, but the decision for most things rests with the ARC. There are a few things that we consider “automatic disapproval”. Buildings in the front yard are on the list of things that get disapproved, and that may be what earned that reaction. However, that isn’t the final answer because everyone has the right to appeal to the full Board. Appeals to the full Board are the final answer, and that is how we will treat this case. If the exterior makes it look like the shed was designed and installed when the house was built, then we can grant the request.

    I think that this experience makes it important for us to follow what happens with enTrust… Although we have the list of “automatic denials”,if something comes through that might be against “normal policy” but which the submitter says will blend in, then that should have gone to the ARC for review.

    If we do approve this kind of special exception to our normal policy, we can always use the “stick” (fines) if the final product doesn’t look as promised (“as though the builder put it in”).

    Mark Racicot
    Vice President, The Orchards HOA BoD

  6. Mark says:

    Sean-

    If you didn’t get a copy when you moved in (or bought), contact Pat at enTrust to get a copy (pat@entrustam.com) or look in the downloads section of this blog. You must register in order to access the download section.

    Mark Racicot
    Vice President, The Orchards HOA BoD

  7. Ben says:

    Jim says

    “…The cheapest engineer I could find was $240 an hour, and told me a report would be about $500 on top of that. That doubled my budget for the porch…”

    This sounds too ghetto for my taste if that is the budget. I really hope nothing like this is built because I can see everyone who thinks they can build additions and ends up with something very “arts and crafts” looking. Maybe a new home at the D. R. Horton Sandstone Trails would be a better match.

    Jim says

    “…I bought a motorcycle, and want to store it out there for the winter, out of the elements, and still put both my rigs in the garage.”

    The perfect solutions are 1) get rid of the motorcycle, or 2) get rid of at least one of the ‘rigs’ and put the motorcycle in the garage, or 3) find room in a corner of the living or dining room or unused bedroom or 4) storage offsite. The thought of a storage shed in the front yard again sounds too ghetto. Maybe a new home at the D. R. Horton Sandstone Trails would be a better match.

  8. Jim says:

    @ Ben;

    $1500 sounds ‘ghetto’? For a pitched roof, with clay roof tiles, privacy lattice, greenery and flowers, and matching paint? Are you on dope?

    The materials I estimated at about $700. $740 more makes roughly $1500. That figure doesn’t include the man hours it’ll take me, either. I was a contractor for 10 years, and rest assured my addition will look fantastic, thanks very much.

    As far as the shed? It’ll look like a million bucks too. And as much as I’d love to push a motorcycle in my living room (did you really spit that nonsense out?) I’m thinking that storing it outside would leave a lot more space for the Christmas tree, my dogs, and the occasional naked twister orgy I throw from time to time.

    Your ideas and objections are noted. But sadly, I’m going to do what I want, once I have the fine, fine folks of the ARC in my corner.

    Peace, bro.

  9. Mark says:

    Ben, the ARC doesn’t get into the discussion of what a person spends on a project. If you can construct a good looking porch, patio cover, shed, or whatever and if you can do it for $350…more power to you! Heck, you’ll probably have people banging on your door to see how you did it so inexpensively (notice I did not say “cheaply”). So, to the Committee, the budget is irrelevant. Also outside our authority is telling someone to sell vehicles or park them inside the house. I’m sure those comments were just venting on your part – but seriously, the ARC won’t go there.

    As we’ve said before, the ARC’s primary focus is aesthetics. We take care to review how the exterior improvement will fit into the overall design (look-and-feel) of the community. We generally don’t get involved with ‘safety’ concerns of a person’s project because the minute we do, if we miss a safety problem on some other project, we become partially lable for not stopping the ‘unsafe’ thing. Nope…project safety is the submitter’s concern. The ARC also doesn’t get too deeply involved with permit requirements or easements. The top of page 2 (first quote) and the bottom of page 3 (second quote) of the Design Guide says it this way:

    NOTE: No approval by the ARC or Board of Directors shall be construed to imply that such request complies with City ordinances or restrictions. Each requestor bears responsibility to ensure that all proposed work is in compliance with City Codes, regulations, and policies.

    It is not the responsibility of either the Committee or the Board to police encroachment into utility easement areas. If possible, the Committee will advise the owner of a possible encroachment and recommend that the owner seek approval or waiver from the appropriate utility. However, the Committee will not be liable for any expense incurred by an owner as a result of action by a utility if such encroachment occurs, even if the Committee approved the change or addition without comment.

    This means that *if* we notice that a project would violate an easement or should have required a permit, we can disapprove the project. We’d say why, of course, but if we miss it…well, we’re not engineers, we don’t know all the City’s codes, and we are not experts on every lot’s particular setbacks and easements.

    The ARC tries to help people figure out things to do to make improvements. We disapprove only when there is no logical way around it… For example, we’d never approve construction of a big pink-and-lime-green castle in a front yard, and there are no “alternatives” we could offer to let anything like it proceed – it would be denied. Someone wanting to build an exterior closet/storage space on the wall of a garage…well, depending on the layout, property lines, and so on, there may be room to work with someone on that.

    Mark Racicot
    Vice President, The Orchards HOA BoD

  10. Matt says:

    @Ben
    Sell one of your vehicles, your motorcycle, or park your motorcycle in the living room? Amazing logic.

    Best of luck Jim.

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