A four-year battle has been raging in a quiet Orange community, one that's ridden with threats and attorney involvement.
The issue: a backyard play set.
Karl and Cindy Seppala live in the Colony Community, a gated community of 28 family homes. In August 2007, they put up a play set in their backyard for their three kids. It's a large wooden structure with swings, a slide and a fort.
According to the Seppalas, neighbors called it a “monstrosity,” and the homeowner's association ordered that the play set be made smaller, claiming that the couple needed permission to erect any add-on architecture.
“Someone made a comment that when you see this in our neighborhood, you assume there are a lot of loud, noisy children here,” Karl says.
Cindy created a website, Evil Play Set, that chronicles the “spiteful war with neighbors we had called friends for more than 12 years.” The Seppalas believe it's within their rights to have the play set in their backyard, and have hired an attorney to help defend them.
There are no rules in our CC&Rs addressing play sets specifically, and the closest thing says only that recreational equipment cannot be placed in the front yards or front elevations of lots. Other play sets have been installed in the past few years, some of which have been visible from the street and neighboring homes. All our board can say is that ours is “more visible” and “bigger”, but neither of these variables are mentioned anywhere in our rules. They also claim this is a “building” or a “structure”, but all the standard definitions of real estate and architectural terms (this whole fiasco is based on the “architecture” portion of our CC&Rs, so these are the key definitions) say otherwise. Further, in over 30 years of history, no item not attached to a house or to the ground has EVER been submitted to the architecture committee for approval, and no action has been documented against any such item.
She goes on to add, “The simple fact is, several people don't want to see it, and they want it removed from their sight. Further, they want us punished for our irreverent taste and gall.”
An HOA hearing took place last night, and Karl says it was a lot of “going around in circles.” The president of the HOA board could not be immediately reached for comment, but Karl says a decision should be reached in the next few days. NBC Los Angeles first reported the story.
For the Seppalas, their plan is to move as soon as possible. “We can't imagine raising our children in a 'community' of people so intolerant of children,” Cindy writes.