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NC HOA Failure To Respond to Application for Construction Permit (Tree-cutting)

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Ananisapta

Junior Member
Is there anything in NC case law (or elsewhere) that would support my cutting down some of my trees when the homeowners' association board won't act on a written application to do so?

We retired to a beautiful part of North Carolina, with a potentially breathtaking view of the Blue Ridge mountains. Unfortunately, nobody ever pruned or thinned the woods around our home, so they are full of crowded, deformed hardwoods, a few of which (out of the four wooded acres we own) are smack in the middle of the view. A local realty expert has advised us to remove those trees to improve our property value. Due to health issues, we may have to sell in the next year or two, though we hope to continue enjoying our view a bit longer.

Unfortunately, our homeowners' association has been taken over by some fairly backwards folks who enjoy saying 'NO' to anything their neighbors want to do. They are legally vulnerable in that they often don't follow their own charter nor applicable NC laws. One hates to fuss too much with neighbors, especially those who lack good verbal skills, have never managed a business, and have no clue what they're doing. But....

On December 2, I mailed a written request for permission to cut down six trees, mostly large, all blocking the view, some of which appear dangerous because they're leaners, most of them rather poorly formed and unattractive. As in the past, a few vocal individuals have responded with inappropriate suggestions about lopping off branches (giving an unattractive 'bare poles' look and not alleviating the visual clutter above the horizon) and topping (which is universally abhorant to the experts). In past cases like this, I've been able to get the full board to side with me, but this time I've had no decision after more than four weeks, not even a preliminary one. What I have had are some patronizing remarks and inappropriate suggestions from the board chair, who seems to be acting out some sort of capricious, malicious, spiteful game with me. She's very good at it.

An election for new board members is coming up, and I hope they'll have had enough of this particular woman. Unfortunately, her husband volunteers a lot of time to the community and has amassed enough proxy votes from absentee owners (as certified by his wife when she was secretary with no other member involved in the certification) that this one family has essential ownership of the association (which I helped start more than a decade ago). I could go on at length about the various examples of malfeasance recently, but I'm looking for concrete advice about remedies.

The long-range remedy is to get an expensive plan from a state-licensed landscape architect that I can then (expensively) get approved by the county board of supervisors to make sure I'm not creating an erosion hazard. In the meanwhile, I could wait for the new board to take their seats and raise the issue again, but we're running into nature's own deadline when the sap starts to rise in March and makes the job more expensive.

I've not found anything in the association's foundation documents nor in NC 47f that gives any sort of time deadline for this process, so I'm wondering if there's anything in case law that would support my going ahead with limited tree cutting after an unreasonable delay in getting the permit approved.
 

FarmerJ

Senior Member
So are you telling us that there are written covenants and restrictions that require you to get HOA consent before cutting down trees on your own property ?
 

Mass_Shyster

Senior Member
What is the HOA's recourse if you go ahead and cut down the trees without their approval? (You may want to consult with an attorney to find the answer to this question)
 

not2cleverRed

Obvious Observer
You come across as rather patronizing in your post. While I might perhaps share your opinion, were I to meet this people, I have also found that people don't like being treated with contempt. As @#% Yankee, I found that people in the south were more helpful when I was polite.

I believe that the opinion of an arborist would also carry more weight than a "local realty expert". An arborist could assess the health of the trees, whether they are in danger of falling, and the best way to prune them.

Good luck.
 

Ananisapta

Junior Member
Thanks for the input! Here are some pertinent excerpts from the covenants:
No tree 6” on diameter or larger may be cut without written approval of the Committee, except for approved driveway, home-site, well, or placement of a septic system as required under permit issued by the Henderson County Health Department, except where such tree or trees lie within an area defined as the footprint for the residence and a shoulder of forty (40) feet in with around said footprint.

If the parties hereto, or any of them, or their heirs or assigns, shall violate or attempt to violate any of the covenants herein, it shall be lawful for any person or persons owning any real property situated in said development, or the Developers, to prosecute any proceedings at law or in equity against the person or persons violating or attempting to violate any such covenants and wither to prevent him or them from so doing and/or to recover damages or other dues for such violations.

Enforcement of these restrictions, easements and covenants shall be by action against any person or persons violating or attempting to violate any covenants, either to restrain violation or to recover damages, or both. the party bringing the action shall be entitled to recover, in addition to costs and disbursements allowed by law, such sums as the court may adjudge to be reasonable for legal services and fees.
From the bylaws:
Powers and Duties of Board of Directors --
To enforce the provisions of the Declaration, the Bylaws, and the Rules and
Regulations of the Association by all legal means, including injunction and recovery of monetary
penalties;
to levy reasonable fines
for violations of these Bylaws, the Declaration, or the Rules and Regulations of the Association;
To exercise all other powers that may be exercised in North Carolina by legal entities
of the same type as the Association;
From NC 47f:
Unless a specific procedure for the imposition of fines or suspension of planned community privileges or services is provided for in the declaration, a hearing shall be held before the executive board or an adjudicatory panel appointed by the executive board to determine if any lot owner should be fined or if planned community privileges or services should be suspended pursuant to the powers granted to the association in G.S. 47F-3-102(11) and (12). Any adjudicatory panel appointed by the executive board shall be composed of members of the association who are not officers of the association or members of the executive board. The lot owner charged shall be given notice of the charge, opportunity to be heard and to present evidence, and notice of the decision. If it is decided that a fine should be imposed, a fine not to exceed one hundred dollars ($100.00) may be imposed for the violation and without further hearing, for each day more than five days after the decision that the violation occurs. Such fines shall be assessments secured by liens under G.S. 47F-3-116. If it is decided that a suspension of planned community privileges or services should be imposed, the suspension may be continued without further hearing until the violation or delinquency is cured. The lot owner may appeal the decision of an adjudicatory panel to the full executive board by delivering written notice of appeal to the executive board within 15 days after the date of the decision. The executive board may affirm, vacate, or modify the prior decision of the adjudicatory body.
 

Just Blue

Senior Member
You come across as rather patronizing in your post. While I might perhaps share your opinion, were I to meet this people, I have also found that people don't like being treated with contempt. As @#% Yankee, I found that people in the south were more helpful when I was polite.

I believe that the opinion of an arborist would also carry more weight than a "local realty expert". An arborist could assess the health of the trees, whether they are in danger of falling, and the best way to prune them.

Good luck.
Everyone is more helpful if one is polite. :)
 

Stephen1

Member
My HOA covenants has a clause relating to requests that go to the architectural committee (e.g. paint color, construction modifications). That clause says that if the committee doesn't respond within "X" days then the request is approved. Check your covenants to see whether there is any such clause that applies to your request. I like that clause because it doesn't allow the HOA board to just ignore requests
 

Ananisapta

Junior Member
My HOA covenants has a clause relating to requests that go to the architectural committee (e.g. paint color, construction modifications). That clause says that if the committee doesn't respond within "X" days then the request is approved. Check your covenants to see whether there is any such clause that applies to your request. I like that clause because it doesn't allow the HOA board to just ignore requests
Unfortunately, no such luck. The covenants used by the developer were not very sophisticated and don't comply well with current law. I've been trying to get them changed for the past three years; this has been one of my most frustrating experiences.
 

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