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Lake of the Pines vet wins right to continue woodworking hobby

Dennis Kocher makes furniture for Air Force personnel at Beale Air Forse Base in his Lake of the Pines garage in this file photo.
John Hart/jhart@theunion.com | The Union

A Lake of the Pines veteran, whose fight with his homeowners association sparked offers of help from near and far, has won the right to continue building furniture for military families in his garage.

“I think this was a very positive thing for me and for my neighbors who supported me,” said Vietnam veteran Dennis Kocher of the association board’s ruling, delivered to him over the weekend. Kocher, who served in the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam war, was seeking to continue building furniture for donation to military families at nearby Beale Air Base.

He appealed a July 11 letter from the association telling him to shut down operations due to complaints of noise and fumes.



The board’s decision came after an Aug. 13 appeal hearing where Kocher testified and was able to face his complainant.

The board, in a four-page letter signed by association board chairman Richard Walker, said Kocher could continue his woodworking hobby at his home, as long as he kept the garage door closed and did not display any furniture in the driveway. Walker could not be reached for comment on Monday.




Reaction to his story, aired nationally and regionally on FoxTV News, CBS Channel 13 in Sacramento and several print publications including The Union, has been intense.

Someone sent me $100, someone else offered to pay my fine up to $1,000, another person gave me warehouse space and someone else offered wood,” Kocher said. Others offered him help moving his equipment to another workspace.

“This is what happens when someone tries to step on you and enforce rules without discretion,” Kocher said.

The board, in its ruling, did not impose any fines, nor did they require Kocher to obtain a home business permit. The members did, to Kocher’s amazement, offer to help him move his furniture and equipment to a warehouse in Auburn where the company owner has donated 10,000 square feet of free space for Kocher to build furniture.

“It (the offer from the board) was buried on page three (of the letter),” Kocher said. “They never mentioned it during the hearing.”

Kocher has asked that a copy of the board’s ruling be mailed to the complainant “advising of the decision and prohibiting the continuation of any more nuisance complaints,” but the board so far has not agreed to do so, he said.

He said he was touched by offers of help from across the country.

“A woman in Georgia sent me a card,” Kocher said. “When I opened it, there was a $100 bill inside.

“She wrote, ‘Here Dennis, go buy some wood for your furniture to give to the people at Beale,’” Kocher said.

The woman signed the card with only her first name, but Kocher, a former police officer, said he was able to track her down through her return address to thank her.

“We had a nice conversation,” Kocher said.

He also had an offer via email from an anonymous person who said he would pay any fines imposed by the board, up to $1,000. Another man from Citrus Heights said he would help Kocher move the furniture and equipment for free.

In addition, an 87-year-old woman in Grass Valley said Kocher was welcome to take as much free wood as he wanted from her home.

“My wife, Margie, and I went up to see her,” Kocher said. “There was a whole shed full of cabinets and wood.

“We’re going to go up there and get some,” he said. “Some of those cabinets were really nicely made.”

Kocher said he still plans to have an occasional garage sale, as permitted in homeowners association bylaws, but he will keep everything in the garage and just open the garage door.

“People know I have things, they can just come up and see them inside,” he said.

He is planning to store any donations of furniture that come in from family and friends at the Auburn warehouse.

“Then, when I have the space in the garage and I’m ready to work on a piece, I can go get it and bring it back to the garage,” he said.

Likewise, cash donations — including several $100 checks from selling high-end cabinets to neighbors who supported him — will also go toward helping buy materials or to otherwise aid Beale families.

How will he celebrate the good news?

“I’m thinking of having a grand reopening sale for my woodshop,” quipped Kocher. “I’ll put up a lot of balloons — that should make them mad.”

To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email kbrenner@theunion.com or call 530-477-4239.


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