Timberline HOA Front Yard Garden Dispute

Michael C. Hamilton, Sammamish, WA

20418 NE 41st St.

    

The dispute centers on a front yard garden that has been in place for three years, since 2018.  The photos below show two front yard views, with only minor differences from 2018).  (Click on the thumbnail for an enlargement.  Click the browser "back" arrow to return here).

The Timberline Community Club (HOA) has referenced  Article V, Section 10 (b) of the HOA regulations to cite me with a violation.  The relevant part of that section is given below.....

“Article V. Section 10 (b) - Noxious Use of Property. No trash, garbage, ashes, or other refuse, junk vehicles, underbrush or other unsightly growths or objects shall be thrown, dumped or allowed to accumulate on any lot or building site or public street.”

The only specific complaint identified in the Notice of Violation is "raised gardens".  Since "raised gardens" are not referenced in the section cited, the complaint can only be in regard to the view being "unsightly".  That is the only, and the core issue.  I wonder if you agree.  Many neighbors and passersby have said they do not.  I invite you to come by and form your own opinion.

My response to the Notice of Violation is below: 

1.  The garden has been in place for at least three years.  I have the opinion of an attorney that, after that period without ACC complaint, the garden is "ipso facto" approved.  So, any complaint now is, in effect, an attempt to reverse approval already in place.  It is only reasonable to assume that the ACC members of past years exercised due dillegence.  We should not allow any current ACC to retroactively enforce their prejudices.  

2.  Simply put...the garden is not "unsightly" to most reasonable viewers.  The majority, if not all, of the neighbors on my street agree.  Many passersby agree.  Some say they have gone out of their way, walking or driving, to enjoy it.  Many have asked for advice on doing something similar.  I contend the HOA should not enforce viewpoints that do not reflect a majority of the neighborhood.  I propose an email vote, easily managed by Navigate Community Services.  They have the email list.  They write a one-page argument for enforcing the violation.  I write a one-page argument against.  Votes are sent to both Navigate and myself.  I agree to abide by the majority.

3.  The desirability for gardens in yards is indisputable in today’s world.  Front yard gardens are popular and encouraged in many areas of the NW.  Flowers for mental health…..vegetables for physical health.  Mother Nature has dictated that certain conditions must be met for success.  One of them is provision of adequate sunlight.  In some situations, such as mine, that comes the southern exposure of my front yard.  It’s there or nowhere, and “nowhere” is patently unreasonable and unfair.  Why raised beds?  Obviously things can get better care and better protection from pests.

4.  In our modern world, people working at home...many, such as my daughter, permanently.  COVID cases rising again.  The HOA should be encouraging residents to spend more time at home in outdoor activities, especially ones that enhance the appearance of the neighborhood.  This interference by the HOA with trivialities is unwelcome and inappropriate for the times we live in.

5.  Presumably, the underlying movtivation of the ACC is the protection of property values.  There is an indisputable example in support of my particular garden.  While it was in place as seen in the photos, the property across the street sold for around $1.25M in a couple of days in a bidding war.  The garden apparently had not the slightest negative impact on that property value.  In fact, the owners like the garden view and have expressed that to the TCC Board of Directors. There is an impact on property values regarding this issue.  I have heard from and about others also having problems with arbitrary, inappropriate enforcement attempts by the TCC Board and ACC.  If the neighborhood becomes known for an HOA that is attempting inappropriate enforcements, that will indeed negatively affect property values.             

6.  If there is not a reorientation of the current TCC HOA policies and views, the solution if to "vote the rascals out" at the next opportunity.  Think about it.........

If you agree with my view of this dispute, I encourage you to click on this link.... contacts .....  for ways to express your opinion to the HOA.  I hope you will also email me at mikeham44@comcast.net to let me know that you did, or just to give your opinion.  Please say whether you are a Timberline resident or not.  Thanks very much. 

Below, I have copied text from an email sent by me to the TCC on April 13th that expands on my point of view on this matter.  A chronological compilation of all communications between the TCC and Navigate Community Management is found by clicking on this link.....chronology So far the board has not extended the courtesy of personal contact.

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The text of my April 13th email to the Navigate and the TCC.....

Haley Graham,
 
I am emailing you because I trust this will be a reliable method of delivery.  I trust you will pass on my comments to those needing to see them regarding my alleged violation of the Timberline CC&R’s.  But first let me say that I find it insulting for your Notice to point out to me the importance of maintaining community appearances.  I moved into Timberline 34 years ago.  I am sure I have lived here longer than most, possibly all of those on the board or ACC.  I am not one who disregards clear requirements for approval.  I have applied for and received approval for fences, roofing, and painting.  I strongly contend that raised garden beds are not covered by Article V and should not be.  Here’s why………..
 
As a preface, I include the key relevant text from Article V below…..
 
“Article V. Section 10 (b) - Noxious Use of Property. No trash, garbage, ashes, or other refuse, junk vehicles, underbrush or other unsightly growths or objects shall be thrown, dumped or allowed to accumulate on any lot or building site or public street.”
 
As your photos and mine clearly show to any reasonable person, the raised garden beds in my front yard are not “unsightly growths”.  That’s the only part of that section that could possibly be construed as applicable.  Consequently, it seems to come down to the subjective opinion of a small minority.  I point out the board and committee members hold those positions not through a process of a seriously contested election and so, do not necessarily reflect a majority view of the community.  In the case of my front yard I have every reason to think the opposite.
 
Regarding my front yard garden, I enclose a photo copied from the Zillow street view, taken in 2018, that shows the garden was there at that time.  Where was the ACC three years ago?  Or two years ago?  Or last year?  I can only surmise that there wasn’t a perceived issue up till now.  It is unacceptable for the ACC to have such vagaries of viewpoint and to apply new standards retroactively .  I don’t believe that authority exists without a majority vote.
 
I remind you that after I pointed out the apparent irrelevance of Section 10 (b), you replied by bringing up the question of “curbside appeal”.  I’m so glad you did!  It’s irrelevant but let’s talk about that.  Almost everyday last year and again this year,  Timberline residents passing by when going into and out of the greenbelt, stop to complement my daughter on the beauty of it.  One neighbor has commented that we have the best looking yard on the street.  I know that the majority of the other neighbors on the street, possibly all, also approve.  So tell me how the term “noxious” can apply here.  Please do!
 
But why the concern about curbside appeal!  Wouldn’t it be an adverse effect on property values?  That would concern me!  But let’s look at the facts.  The property value most affected would be that of the house across the street.  But that house sold for $1.25M in competitive bidding just last year.  We know from those buyer’s that the curbside appeal of my house was no factor whatsoever.  Quite the opposite.  Likewise, the house on the corner sold for $1.3M in a bidding war, unaffected by the alleged lack of curbside appeal of my house.  My point is conclusive.
 
Now, about raised garden beds.  The desirability for gardens in yards is indisputable in today’s world.  Flowers for mental health…..vegetables for physical health, especially home grown.  Mother Nature has dictated that certain conditions must be met for success.  One of them is provision of adequate sunlight.  In some situations, such as mine, that comes the southern exposure of my front yard.  It’s there or nowhere, and “nowhere” is patently unreasonable and unfair.  Why raised beds?  Gee!  Obviously things can get better care and better protection from pests.  Simple!  Of course, if we end up removing the raised beds, they will be replaced by large pots.  These have been pervasive in the neighborhood for years, so are clearly not in violation……
 
What I strongly recommend is that those supporting the “noxious” point of view meet with me on the street in front of my house and we discuss it and we look around us.  If this issue is serious enough for this attention then I feel I am owed that.  Unless those involved don’t have the courage of their convictions.  Perhaps some of my neighbors can be present and weigh in.
 
Unless this is resolved soon I will be adding a section to the webpage that I pay for and maintain that addresses this situation.  I will include photos of my yard and my case in favor it.  I will include a copy of the CC&R’s.  I will include copies of all communications between us so far and in the future.  I will advertise the link to the website through word of mouth and notices on local electronic bulletin boards, and perhaps other means. I will suggest that those agreeing with me should contact Navigate, the TCC Board, and ACC members to express their opinion.  I request that you send me the names and email addresses of board and committee members for that purpose.  I don’t really expect you to respond but I want it on the record that I asked.
 
What should happen next is that the Timberline Board sends me a certificate of congratulations for beautification of the neighborhood, but I guess I won’t hold my breath.  If you really want to do something to preserve the northwest character of the neighborhood you should focus on forcing the removal of invasive English Ivy from front yards, as I have done, instead of raised gardens.
 
 
 
Regards,
 
Michael C. Hamilton