Aside from being the Broker/Owner of Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices, I am also a residential land developer. I began my development career almost forty years ago and specialize in single family new home communities, including Kempton Park, Turnagain View Estates, more recently Huffman Timbers and currently Sandhill Reserve. Being a residential land developer is a very creative process, starting with the land selection. Then, you work through the entitlement process, zoning and platting requirements and creating a site plan that not only fits in the surrounding neighborhood but contributes to economic development on a broader community wide scale.
It is the developer’s vision of what she would like the neighborhood to look like, from the roof pitch of the homes to the landscaping requirements. It’s a balancing act between giving a home buyer the freedom to make their own choices about the color of the front door to the siding. The goal is to create a compatible community with individual distinctions for each home selected by the home buyer. Some of the decisions that need to be made by the developer are items you might not even notice when driving through a new home community. What about the use of drones with cameras in the community? Are alternative energy generation and solar panels allowed? Where are satellite dishes allowed? What is the number of pets? Fencing types and locations? Where to put the RVs and fishing boats? Whether or not home businesses can be allowed? Child care and beauty salons are the most commonly requested businesses. Are detached garages and outbuildings allowed, and if so, what are the sizes and locations on the lots? How much of the lot can be cleared and trees removed to enhance a homeowner’s view of the mountains or inlet? And what about growing marijuana for personal consumption or for sale? And then what about ADUs (accessory dwelling units)? Attached or detached, can they be used as an Airbnb, or do leases have to be more than thirty days? Local ordinances govern ADUs, so whatever the ordinance says must be obeyed. However, the covenants, codes, and restrictions can make them stricter but not more lax.
There is a difference between landscaping requirements on small lots versus large lots. The smaller the lot, the more important decorative landscaping becomes, including fast-growing non-invasive ornamental trees and shrubs like cotoneasters that quickly grow and turn to beautiful fall colors. Sometimes, the cotoneaster red is the only red we get to see in Alaska Lilacs and Sitka wild roses also have an Alaskan flavor, as does wildflower mixes in backyards and open space tracts. Along with landscaping, the type of fencing is also very important. Wood fencing creates privacy but wire fencing is very popular because it creates a feeling of open space.
However, none of these tough decisions can be sustained after the developer establishes them unless you have a Homeowners Association. The developer controls the first home built by the recorded covenants, codes, and restrictions. But once the developer completes his work and moves on to the next project, there is no one or entity to continue ensuring that the CCRs are upheld without an HOA. The Association elects a board from the homeowners to ensure that all follow the requirements to project the original community’s vision and future value and maintain its attractiveness in the broader community.
Without the HOA, the only recourse a neighbor has for getting the three junk cars removed on the adjacent lot’s driveway is to sue in Superior Court which is expensive, time consuming and is rarely done. However, not only does there need to be an HOA but the HOA also needs to have the ability to issue reasonable fines with a 30 day notice to correct which is an excellent reminder that CCRs are there for the protection of future values. Without fines there is no enforcement. The two, three, five years that the developer has control of a community before it is turned over to a board is when it doesn’t seem important to have an HOA. But seven or ten years later when your neighbor decides to paint his house canary yellow, you will wish you had one.
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