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The Villages
Friday, July 12, 2024

The ‘I didn’t know’ defense should never fly with the Architectural Review Committee

We’d like to start by applauding the members of the Architectural Review Committee for standing pat, doing their job to the best of their ability and rightly rejecting a recent “I didn’t know” argument in a case centered around unauthorized work at a home in The Villages.

Without these volunteers, we can assure you that The Villages would be a much different place. The high quality and consistency of the aesthetics Villagers bought into when they become residents of Florida Friendliest Hometown largely wouldn’t exist. And there could be plenty of shoddy pool additions, landscaping nightmares, wacky colored sidewalks and driveways, and obtrusive arbors, trellises or pergolas that could really trash up the place.

The home of Mary Jo Overland and Mark Corner in the Rosedale Villas, in the Village of Duval.

Those who serve on the ARC – again, let us remind everyone that they volunteer their time every week and can hear more than 100 cases at any given meeting – clearly take the mission quite seriously of keeping The Villages aesthetically pristine and making sure everyone is following the rules set forth. We should all thank them for their hard work because we’ve all been in neighborhoods where aesthetic rules don’t mean squat. And we all know what happens to property values in those areas.

Which brings us to a couple of recent ARC meetings where an ongoing battle from the Rosedale Villas in the Village of Duval reared its head. In February, the ARC voted to deny an application from Ridgeway Court residents Mark Corner and Mary Jo Overland for unapproved work at their residence. Mind you, the work already had been done, so Corner and Overland were seeking retroactive approval for the unsanctioned work.

Their irate neighbor, Linda Lane, appeared before the ARC and made it quite clear that she’d tried to stop the work.

Now let’s fast-forward to last Wednesday’s ARC meeting, where the case rolled back around. Corner told the ARC he didn’t see the work being done at his home as “significant” and that he did not know he had to apply to the ARC for its approval.

Irv Markley

Not surprisingly, that “I didn’t know” defense went nowhere with the ARC, whose members have heard that same excuse time and time again.

“It’s your responsibility as a property owner,” ARC Chairman Irv Markley admonished Corner.

“I understand that now,” Corner said.

Lane came armed with a stack of photos she was eager to show the ARC. She said they detailed the couple’s unsanctioned work, which she claims encroaches on her property. And she refuted a claim from Corner that the couple’s illicit patio extension is 23 inches.

“It’s more like 35 inches,” she said.

Lane said her main objection to her neighbors’ work has to do with drainage. She said plants and stones were replaced with concrete.

“The water is not going to drain away,” she said.

Corner quickly objected to her claims.

“The information presented by my neighbor is totally false,” he said.

Corner had previously made that contention in a March 1 Villages-News.com letter to the editor and he does again today in a similar letter to the editor.

Once again, based on the rules that govern the ARC’s actions, its members rightly denied the application submitted by Corner and Overland a second time.

This case, like many others the ARC has heard, brings up some points homeowners in The Villages need to consider. More than once, Markley has had to remind Villagers to “do their homework” before making changes to their property or home without getting ARC approval. Otherwise, they might find themselves tearing out whatever they had put in, which will prove to be a huge waste of money for them.

Every Villages homeowner receives a packet that explains all of this and more when they sign on the dotted line. They each bought into a community with strict rules when it comes to protecting the aesthetics of the place. And all they have to do is read up on the covenants and they’ll know what requires ARC approval and what doesn’t.

It’s really quite simple when you think about it.

That said, going forward, we’re hoping that homeowners will take these responsibilities a little more seriously. The “I didn’t know” defense should never be accepted by the ARC, because every homeowner has the responsibility to know what’s OK to do to their property and what isn’t. Can you imagine what The Villages might look like if the ARC caved in and OK’d changes every time somebody claimed they didn’t know the rules? It wouldn’t be good, we can tell you that.

So, as we said earlier, we applaud the members of the ARC for rightly enforcing the covenants all Villagers agree to abide by when they sign the paperwork to purchase homes here. Every new homeowner has a responsibility to read all of that paperwork and to understand and follow the rules. And the ARC has every right to enforce those rules – regardless of the excuses they hear – to keep the aesthetics of this community intact so that it remains a place retirees from throughout the world want to call home.

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