By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
Here we go again. Another HOA dispute over a child’s playhouse. Rockhill HOA, Blue Springs, Missouri, insists that the charming pink structure, tucked away in the back yard of the Goolsby family, must be removed.
According to a report by KSHB 41/WISN, Kansas City, the HOA leadership says the play house looks like a shed, and sheds are prohibited by the community’s covenants, conditions, and restrictions (CC&Rs). But homeowner Bobbie Goolsby says that she and her Realtor inquired prior to purchasing their home in Rockhill HOA, and both were told by the HOA that they could have the playhouse.
Both sides threaten a lawsuit.
Blue Springs HOA denies child’s playhouse, says it violates ‘no shed policy’
10:39 PM, Sep 15, 2017
10:40 PM, Sep 15, 2017
BLUE SPRINGS, Mo. – A tiny house sits at the center of a huge controversy in the Rockhill neighborhood of Blue Springs, Missouri.
The pink playhouse belongs to Bobbie Goolsby, who bought the structure for her six-year-old granddaughter, Emma.
“Ask anybody, they’ll tell you. She’s everything to our family,” Goolsby said.
The family almost lost Emma to a serious autoimmune disorder. Now, because of her illness, Emma goes to her playhouse each day for breathing treatments.
“It’s my world,” she said of the tiny pink house.
But Emma’s world is at risk of being taken away.
The Rockhill Home Owners Association claims the playhouse violates its “no shed policy.”
Read more (video):
There are several issues here. First of all, if Emma is deemed to have a medical disability, and the playhouse serves a therapeutic purpose documented by a physician, the HOA could face charges of violation of the Fair Housing Act.
Second, there is really nothing apparent in the CC&Rs and ByLaws that would forbid the playhouse, or, for that matter, a shed. A careful reading of the CC&Rs for Rockhill merely states that such a structure would be subject to pre-approval by the Declarant (developer or builder), or after developer control is relinquished, to a 3-person Architectural Review Board (ARB), appointed by the HOA Board.
The rules are the rules…
It is really up to the ARB to decide if the pink playhouse can stay or go, as some “other structure” not specified by the vague provisions in Section 1 above. And critics would point out that the HOA statement made to news media about the HOA approving some play structures, but not the Goolsbys’ playhouse, smacks of selective enforcement.
But, looking at the bigger picture, when did the U.S. become a country that tolerates either a real estate developer or a small group of neighbors dictating what we can and cannot do in our own backyards? It is not as if the 6-year old’s playhouse disturbs the peace, blocks a scenic view, or creates a threat to public health or safety. Why should it be your neighbor’s business to pick and choose what looks attractive in your backyard?
It is yet another example of the excessive powers of association governed communities. It is a clear illustration of overreaching private covenants – restrictions that are subject to insufficient Constitutional constraints upon individual and private property rights.
If U.S. law can prohibit enforcement of racially restrictive covenants (and forbid inclusion of these in newly drafted CC&Rs), then why can’t U.S. law also prohibit restrictive covenants based solely upon subjective aesthetic preferences or design standards on privately owned property?
Micromanagement and silencing dissenters?
Just to give readers a better sense of the attitude of the HOA board and management that rule over Bobbie Goolsby and fellow homeowners, see the following excerpts quoted from the HOA’s recent letter, as featured in the KSHB/WISN report:
We have recently deleted your Rockhill HOA Facebook post this evening due to its negativity and accusations. We’ve newly created and want the HOA Facebook page posts to be positive, encouraging, referring and provide helpful information and communication to our home owners. It is not designed as tool to complain, vent, berate or begrudge anyone or anything in the neighborhood.
The pink play house has been denied, although the Board did consider and review the request both times. We do request that it be removed as promptly as possible to avoid further legal action (as this was unanimously confirmed at the recent HOA annual meeting that we do not wish to be a shed/separate structure community and that it is clearly in violation as a structure that was not approved). We do wish that you would have submitted your request and photo/description/design (as required) to [email for the association] for proper approval PRIOR to purchasing this product (especially as it does not look like any other playset in the neighborhood). We will stand firm on this issue and would prefer not to take legal action; but will move forward if not resolved.
A few more details about Rockhill HOA (not to be confused with Rock Hill historic district of Kansas City):
Travis J. Graham and Maqual A. Graham are the Declarants and developers of the community. According to Declarations posted here, the HOA community was established in 1999. According to the restrictions, the Declarants are entitled to 12 votes for each lot they own.
Travis J. Graham is the owner of Graham construction, and the website for his company still lists Rockhill HOA as one of the communities with ongoing construction. Travis is also a member of the Planning Commission of Blue Springs, MO.
Jackson County records list three parcels owned by Graham Construction in Rockhill HOA.
Rockhill HOA lists a management contact from Results Investments LLC. A Google search for resultsinvestments.com redirects the user to the website for CJ Real Estate, Inc. The 30-year-old company specializes in sales, management, and maintenance of residential investment properties. The website lists several single family detached homes available for rent in Rockhill and nearby communities.
Looking at all the facts, one has to wonder – are the people managing Rockhill HOA are more interested in maximizing their real estate investments than creating a welcoming community for living and raising a family? Or is this issue simply an unfortunate misunderstanding?