- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
As a lakefront lot owner in the Chesapeake Ranch Estates, I received a letter from the Property Owners Association of CRE, the homeowners’ association, in regard to the health of Lake Lariat. The letter describes efforts over the last decade to improve the health of the lake and recreational opportunities. Listed among the efforts is the need to control erosion. The letter asks for volunteers to possibly help in these attempts because, as lakefront lot owners, we have a special responsibility and vested interest in maintaining our property values.
If you are a baby boomer, you’ll remember Jimi Hendrix’s song, “If Six was Nine.” In the song, Hendrix sings about how the world could be topsy-turvy, but he lives in his own world and doesn’t care because he has his “own world to live through.” In his world, the “mountains fall into the sea,” but as long as they don’t fall on him, it doesn’t matter. This upside-down world is represented by the numeral “6” being simply inverted to become “9,” an entirely different value.
Our current world can sometimes become upside-down with inverted values. This happened to me and my wife when a neighbor constructed a “privacy” fence in April. The fence was built with the express purpose of blocking our view of Lake Lariat. My neighbor submitted his application to build his fence to the Architectural Review Committee, of which he was a longtime member. According to the ARC’s regulations, my neighbor should have had his fence approved by Calvert County before submitting it to the ARC. But the ARC approved the fence without it first being approved by the county. Secondly, in my neighbor’s ARC application, he noted that the fence was to be 6 feet in height. But unfortunately, like the song, six turned out to be almost nine. The ARC regulations state, “The ARC Coordinator reviews submitted applications for completeness, verifies that the applicant is a Member-in-Good-Standing and inspects the property.” The ARC regulations also state, “Construction will be monitored by POACRE to ensure that it complies with the approved application.”
The ARC’s regulations further state, “On Waterfront lots the setback is 25 feet. Structures including, but not limited to porches, stoops, steps, entries, decks, bay windows, roof overhangs, eves and retaining walls must be within the setbacks.” Well, I guess the ARC thought this regulation didn’t apply to a fence even though fences are not specifically listed as being exempt. But the ARC’s regulations stipulate the definition of a fence: “A fence is defined as a barrier enclosing a property.” My neighbor’s fence is 32 feet in length, starting 14 feet from the shore of Lake Lariat, and is free standing. It does not enclose his property.
At an initial meeting with the ARC members in regard to the discrepancies, we were told the issue had to be taken before the POACRE board of directors. Other neighbors who also had an interest in seeing that the fence did not block their view testified. At that meeting, we were told the board would take it under consideration, consult with its legal counsel and let us know of its decision. After three months of disregarding requests from neighbors for a status update, there was still no response from the board president. After five months, and thanks only to a former board member, we finally received a response from POACRE’s attorney in which she essentially indicated that the fence was not in violation. As of that date, not one board member had even visited the property to see exactly what their attorney had determined was not in violation. Again, with the efforts of the former board member, we finally had a face-to-face meeting with the board. We insisted they visit the property and see the fence for themselves. Three board members finally did. I was encouraged when the board members met with me at our lot and took a good look at the fence — until one of the board members said she heard the buffer setback is measured from the center of the lake, not the shore.
Even with all of the evidence, the board ruled that our neighbor’s fence was not in violation. Of course, we were astonished it could ignore its own regulations. It provided no reasoning. The board then refused to meet with the neighbors in executive session to answer our questions. The board even ignored requests to bring the issue in front of an arbitrator or mediator.
The board’s charter lists the preservation of property values as its primary goal. The letter we recently received confirmed this goal and further asks for volunteers to help preserve lakefront property values through efforts to minimize erosion, among other things. It’s ironic that Jimi Hendrix and certain POACRE board members have much in common. They ignore the reality of their regulations when the regulations don’t affect them. A 9-foot fence looks like a 6-foot fence because it doesn’t matter to these board members. My neighbor’s fence could be, in reality, 20 feet tall, but as long as his ARC application lists it as 6 feet in height, the mountains can crash into the sea. A fence could contribute to the erosion of soil into Lake Lariat, but it doesn’t matter to the board. The majority of the board is disconnected from the members it supposedly represents.
If your world is being turned topsy-turvy by the actions or inaction of the POACRE board, I’d like to hear about it.
John Turner, Lusby