Eric Marsh, a 43-year-old software consultant, has constructed a backyard wonderland for himself and his three daughters at his home in Omaha, Nebraska. He purchased an additional lot adjacent to his Fire Ridge Estates property, and used the space to put up a putting green, a sport court, an infinity pool, and a hog-roasting pit.
The 10-year-old neighborhood is one of big houses (valued between $250,000 and $450,000) on small lots. Normally each lot has to have a house, but the association has made similar ‘backyard expansion’ arrangements with a handful of other homeowners. Marsh spent over $300,000 installing his playland, and now his homeowners’ association is demanding that he take it down, because it doesn’t fit into the design of the neighborhood.
Marsh says that he “took great care to follow Fire Ridges covenants and even used the neighborhood ‘motif’ as he constructed the backyard.” He even had his design plan approved before he began the project.
Mark Ringsdorf, the HOA president, sent Marsh a letter in response to the complaints he was getting from his neighbors:
“The board continues to field complaints about the improvements,” Ringsdorf wrote. “It is evident that some of the improvements were not on the plan that was approved … Fence was not approved. Granted it looks like it matches covenants ... but we would have required the entire backyard be fenced to help screen the backyard. As it sits the fence only circles the pool ... Tee box in the front yard. This is a safety hazard, not within the conformity and harmony of the neighborhood ... Flag poles in the back yard. Full sod is required. No astro turf.”
Oh no! An unapproved fence that only appears to match the covenants? FLAG POLES in the backyard?? Calamity -- absolute calamity. I don’t know how anyone could live on a street with such a flamboyant neighbor that he’d install a hog-roasting pit in his backyard. Better not make idle chitchat with him when you get your mail, or he might (horror of horrors!) invite you to his luau.
Seriously, what is the big deal? Are their panties really in a wad over this guy’s extravagant backyard? Or are they just jealous of Marsh’s funds and initiative to make something like this happen?
Since too much fun is apparently no fun at all, the HOA has filed a lawsuit against Marsh, claiming that he was defiant and didn’t follow his own plans. They didn’t like that the basketball court he installed was closer to the street than it appeared on the plans. Plus that whole fence fiasco -- let’s not forget that.
How will this story end? Fire Ridge Estate officials say both sides will have to give a little and they’re confident a compromise can be reached. Marsh tells it differently. He says, “It ends in total submission by them … I did things the right way and I've tried pretty diligently to be a good neighbor. I'm not going to back down.”
What do you think about this dispute? Is the HOA overreacting, or should Marsh back down? How many of you just want an invitation to his next block party?
Image via ColinsOldPics/Flickr