The Paradise Hills Homeowners Association has filed for an injunction in district court asking one of its members to remove a structure that the association says violates the HOA covenants against unapproved fences.
But the homeowner, Christine Arnold, says the enclosure is needed to protect her children and pets from the neighbor’s dog and is refusing to take it down. She has filed a counterclaim, attacking the HOA for a breach of fiduciary duty and asking for unspecified damages.
Both sides have hired attorneys. The case, which was filed over a year ago, appears to be headed for the courtroom in the near future, although a hearing date has not been set.
“It’s not at all about personalities,” said Don D’Antuono, president of the homeowner association. “I’ve met Christine Arnold, and I’ve been gracious to her, and she’s been gracious to me.”
The foothills enclave of Paradise Hills is known for its classic, mid-century homes on large lots surrounded by natural plants, trees and grasses.
“The association has certain covenants,” D’Antuono said. “The covenants discourage fences because of the character of the mountain. It’s old Lookout Mountain. It’s not like in town where people have fences. It’s the antithesis of that. But there is an exception for dog enclosures. … The standard has been established for many years. Christine Arnold feels that she ought to be able to have a larger fence in a larger area. It has nothing to do with the look of the fence or anything else.”
“There is some scuttlebutt a neighbor had a dog, and the claim was that it was aggressive,” he said. “The position of the board was, you take that up with Jefferson County animal control. This is a good-faith dispute. The position of the association is, go talk to the Jefferson County Animal Control Division. Animal Control has basically no reports of anything dangerous or allegedly threatening … The board’s position is, don’t try to change the covenants.”
The Paradise Hills Homeowners Association frowns on fences in general in favor of open property lines, which are desirable “in order to preserve the natural quality and aesthetic appearance of the existing geographic areas within the property,” according to the Declaration of Protective Covenants, as quoted in the lawsuit.
The dispute began last year when the homeowner built a fence enclosing a 15,000-square-foot area, allegedly against the wishes of the architectural review committee.
The HOA states in its complaint that Arnold was informed the fenced area would be limited to 1,500 feet. In 2007 Arnold submitted two formal requests for a bigger fence, and both requests were denied, the HOA alleges. Nevertheless, the homeowner proceeded to install the fence.
In her answer to the original complaint, Arnold admitted she built the fence, but she denied it covered 10,000 square feet, or that she was told the limit was only 1,500 feet. She admitted she sent follow-up requests that were refused, but she denies asking for a fence “greatly in excess of the allowed 1,500 square feet.”
Arnold rejects the allegation that her conduct breaches the covenants, rules or regulations of the association.
In her counterclaim, Arnold asserts that the plaintiff’s actions are “arbitrary and unreasonable,” and the complaint itself is “frivolous, groundless and/or vexatious.”
In turning the tables on the HOA, Arnold’s attorney, Otto Hilbert of Denver, claims the Paradise Hills Homeowners Association is guilty of abandoning its responsibility to “promote the general health, safety and welfare of persons within the association and act to protect and preserve property and property rights.”
“The fence requested by Ms. Arnold is needed to protect Ms. Arnold’s children and pets from a dog that resides on the adjoining property. The dog in question has attacked several dogs in the neighborhood, including Ms. Arnold’s dog,” the lawsuit states.
Contact Vicky Gits at Vicky@evergreenco.com