Our view: Rules are meant to be … followed
August 6, 2014
Reports of a Nevada County man's duel with his homeowner's association made headlines well beyond the county borders in the past week, after he said his furniture-building hobby was ordered to be shut down.
Much of the media coverage — including national TV exposure on Fox News — focused on the fact that Dennis Kocher is a veteran of the United States military who says he donates much of his hand-crafted furniture to fellow veterans and their families.
News reports, including a story appearing in Tuesday's edition of The Union, eventually led the Lake of the Pines Association to issue a news release through its attorney stating, "Lake of the Pines Association hereby provides this statement in defense of the accusations by Dennis Kocher that Lake of the Pines Association is discriminating against him because he is a United States veteran. Lake of the Pines Association has never discriminated against anyone in its 47-year history as a residential community association."
That portion of the news release was unfortunate, as to our knowledge Kocher had not publicly accused the LOP Association of discriminating against him as a veteran. And it was also unnecessary, as the issue at hand has little to do with Kocher's military service.
Essentially, it all comes down to an association's rules and whether one of its own members was following them.
Lake of the Pines Association says Kocher "failed to comply" with a rule exemption it had previously granted to him to operate his "furniture-building business." Kocher said his furniture building was no business — and not a profitable endeavor at all — but merely just his hobby.
The LOP Association stated "noise and fumes were so severe that other Lake of the Pines residents understandably complained." Kocher says his neighbors support him and the association's general manager was the source of the complaints.
Upon buying a home within the jurisdiction of a homeowner's association, the homeowner is typically presented with copies of the covenants, conditions and restrictions (CC&Rs in HOA speak) and one has to sign a statement stating that they have been read and understood. In buying the home, one is essentially agreeing to follow the HOA's rules, whether one agrees with them or not.
Each of these issues are expected to be reviewed at an Aug. 5 hearing on Kocher's appeal of a July 11 notice of the association revoking his exemption. And that hearing will likely be based largely in the bylaws of Lake of the Pines Association and whether Kocher followed them.
Although his altruistic efforts — donating his work to the families of veterans and assisting area food banks — are to be acknowledged and honored for the selfless acts they are, just as should his service to our country, in the end Kocher will likely have to abide by the association's determination.
In the wake of media coverage, Kocher said he has received substantial community support, even extending to a call by Dan Rossovich, of USC Supply Inc. in Auburn, offering free space for Kocher to build furniture in his 10,000-square-foot warehouse.
Whether or not Kocher takes him up on the offer, that's clearly one positive aspect to the highly publicized story, that there people here focused on finding potential solutions to community issues through such public discussion.
This editorial represents the views of The Union editorial board, which is comprised of members of The Union staff, as well as informed members of the community.