Dad Who Built Amazing ‘Backyard Wonderland’ for His Kids Might Be Forced to Destroy It

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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

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Pinst... Pinstripes4

Home owners associations just suck. That is all.

jalaz77 jalaz77

Don't feel one bit sorry for this guy. You are in a HOA neighborhood, FOLLOW THE RULES. This gets old. Why do people continue to do this? I will never understand. The only nice thing about HOA is people that live around you can't live like slobs on the exterior of their home. Still will never do HOA.

Cel7777 Cel7777

I think HOAs are lame, but if you choose to move into an area with one you accept the rules and the consequences of violating said rules. It depends on who's telling the truth here...were the plans pre approved? Did the homeowner change the design without approval? Or is the HOA just being petty?

Coles... Coles_mom

When you join certain neighborhoods- you, as well as your neighbors- want a certain look. If you can't adhere, go somewhere else!!!! I wouldn't be happy if a neighbor changed the look o the area I searched for and invested in. My neighborhood is insanely strict and I'd throw a fit too with a tee box, AstroTurf, and flags next door!

nonmember avatar Lexasmom

This story is lame... He knew that the community he lived in had a HOA and he agreed to abide by their guidelines when he moved in. And if he deviated from his original submission, the HOA has every to sue him. Finally, who wants a basketball court close to the sidewalk or near a front yard? There is annoying kid my neighbor who walks around our courtyard bouncing his basketball at all hours. It's annoying. Wish I had a HOA.

PonyC... PonyChaser

I agree with the "if you move there, follow the rules" idea, and for that reason would NEVER EVER live in an HOA situaion. However...

HE DID FOLLOW THE RULES. According to the article here (I have not clicked through and read any links), he had the entire project pre-approved.

It sounds to me like the neighbors were fine with the idea at first, until nosy Mrs. Kravitz started her whining, and now the entire group has decided to back down on their own approval of the plan.

Happy... Happydad73

Hey stupid, you bought a home with an HOA, you get no sympathy. You knew the rules going in.

nonmember avatar Beka

This is the height of the pettiness by the HOA. He had the plans approved, and then after it was built, they changed their minds. If you read the article that Jenny links to, you'd see there are actually threats being made against this man's property. Not right.
Aside from that, why don't we all take more exception to HOA's in general, telling people what they can and can't do on land they bought and pay taxes on???

MokaM... MokaMommy

The guy is a total douche. If you read the article he didn't follow the plans he submitted to the HOA. They informed him in 2008 WHILE HE WAS STILL BUILDING that it did not follow the plans and if you look at it the backyard creates what is called an attractive nuisance. He has a pool and other things kids would love to play on and it's only partially fenced in. That could pose a saftey issue. The board should have never threatened his property that was uncalled for and not professional at all, but you do have to wonder if you have that kind of money to spend and the desire to create such a detailed and wonderful playground for your family, why on earth would you buy a home in a HOA neighborhood?

A quote from the article;

"It ends in total submission by them,” Marsh said. “You don't go to court with someone with more resources than you. You don't go to court with someone smarter than you. I did things the right way and I've tried pretty diligently to be a good neighbor. I'm not going to back down.”

Elena... ElenaMarie4

He chose to live in a neighborhood with a HOA.  Now he has to follow the rules. If they made an exception for him they would have to do it for everyone, then what is the point of the HOA? 

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