DRCC Change Approval Process
By Tommy Britt -
Like anything you do long enough, if you pay attention to details and try your best, you usually get better at that task. So it is with the DRCC’s administrative procedures for approving major projects by property owners.
In the past, we reviewed plans and, if they met the guidelines of the Deed Restrictions, we would send out a formal letter of approval. When we first started this process, we relied on the U.S. Mail for that final step. Times have changed and now instead of my living room being inundated with rolls and rolls of house plans, we generally receive the plans via e-mail and the approval letter goes out as an attachment to an e-mail. Very few face to face meetings with property owners or contractors ever happen until there is a problem. In the end, that was a problem onto its own. Recently, it became abundantly clear to us that with various projects had been approved, particularly on new houses, the plans got altered for the final product. Most involved the paving plans that were submitted and then did not match the final product.
Why is this a big deal? Section VI-G of the Deed Restrictions limits the paving in front of our structures to 30% of the total front yard. Despite the fact that I was on the drafting committee that came up with this restriction and thought it was a good idea at the time, I think I could make a good argument now that the maximum amount should have probably been 40%. I don’t speak for the majority of the committee on this – that is my personal opinion. It’s a case of the lofty goal of more green space meeting the reality of double car garages. That said, 30% is the number we have to work with, and without good cause the members of the DRCC make every attempt to stay true to the document.
Here is the rub – what do we do with those folks who didn’t stay true to the approved plans? Obviously we could file liens against the homeowners and make them correct the problem but practically speaking that seems a bit over the top.
After discussing this with a property owner who had the courtesy and forethought to come back to the committee with a change request, I think the committee members would agree that most property owners give little thought to driveways and sidewalks until it’s time to start pouring them. Obviously the “big project” is what they are excited about, so when it comes to mundane subjects like concrete, they put on their Scarlett O’Hara hat and take on a “I will think about that tomorrow” attitude. Then when the time comes, they get creative with the concrete contractor and landscaper and proceed without thinking about the fact that they are required to contact us prior to altering the plans that were approved. In other words, I honestly don’t think the majority of these cases involved someone being dishonest or sneaky. Their priorities changed.
The other solution would be to look at what the members of the DRCC can do to keep this from continuing. Obviously, if I or the other committee members were doing our jobs, we would stay on top of every project and bird dog them from beginning to end with a tape measure and a calculator. That is not practical either. We are all non-paid volunteers with lives. We fit our DRCC responsibilities in as we can. The other alternative is to start a dialog with all parties from the get go and explain to them, in person, that the plans that we approved are the plans they have to live with. If they want to change the approved plans, they MUST involve the DRCC in that decision.
To that end, in the future, a member of the DRCC will hand deliver a copy of the approval letter to the property owner and if possible the general contractor. During that face to face meeting we will make it abundantly clear that we will not be merciful should we find that they change things without consultation from the DRCC. Honest mistakes can take place and obviously priorities can change. But the old days of impersonal approvals are over. It’s extra work for us, but in the end it is the right thing to do.