LOP homeowners association slams vet’s furniture donation hobby
It’s been more than 50 years since Dennis Kocher fought with the U.S. Air Force during the Vietnam War, but now he’s facing a battle at home.
Kocher, 72, a disabled veteran who served from 1961 to 1965, is appealing a July 11 order from the Lake of the Pines homeowners association to shut down his garage hobby woodshop, where he makes furniture to donate to military families in need at Beale Air Force Base.
“They’re trying to enforce the rules without discretion,” said Kocher, whose hobby has produced more than 50 pieces of furniture over the 14 years he has lived at Lake of the Pines.
“They said I couldn’t paint, saw, sand or do anything in my own home.”
Lake of the Pines officials, who declined to comment on Monday, gave Kocher three days to shut down operations or risk fines of $100 to $1,000. Kocher says he has closed up shop for now, but he intends to come back.
“I’m not doing anything wrong, I’m not hurting anybody, I’m not producing any noxious fumes — and it’s certainly not unsightly,” he said, responding to allegations made by the southern Nevada County gated community association.
“When you’re trying to do good things for other people and you get your hands slapped — and someone’s trying to close you up — you can either crawl into a corner or try to fight back,” Kocher said on Monday. “I have no intention of crawling into a corner.”
Kocher says none of his surrounding 15 or so neighbors have had any complaints and are instead sending letters of support to the association’s covenants committee appeal hearing, which will be at 6 p.m. on Aug. 5 at the association headquarters.
Kocher says at least one officer at Beale has volunteered to testify at the appeal hearing.
“I have been contacted by 50 veterans organizations around the country, and they are offering support,” said Kocher, whose story aired over the weekend on Fox TV News, Sacramento CBS-TV Channel 13 News, and the Drudge Report online.
He said the American Legion chapters in Grass Valley and Auburn have both called to offer their backing.
Toni Thompson, director of the Nevada County Food Bank and a Lake of the Pines resident, says the situation is “really unfair.
“It’s just mean and ugly,” she said.
She said Kocher, whom she described as “an incredible person,” and his wife Marjorie have volunteered weekly at the food bank for the past three years. They also helped deliver food to hundreds of military families at Beale during the government shutdown last fall and at Thanksgiving, she said.
“This really stinks,” said Thompson. “I don’t like what I see (in the homeowners association).
“Why would anyone get a fine for trying to do something good and decent?” she added. “When I see an injustice like this, it makes me so angry.”
Kocher, a former police officer, bank vice president and real estate agent, said he started his hobby 14 years ago when he moved to Lake of The Pines.
“It was Christmas and I knew that many of the men and women were deployed, so I knew things may have been difficult,” he said. “I wanted to bring a little sunlight to them.”
He had no complaints or incidents until 2012, when the homeowners association claimed he was running a business, “due to the volume,” according to Kocher.
They said he needed to get a Lake of the Pines home business permit.
Kocher said he went ahead and paid the $25 for the permit, even though he knew it wasn’t a business. He said he has put out $2,000 of his own money for wood and other materials, and has taken in perhaps $600 from furniture he made for friends and family — all recycled back into purchasing supplies.
“I earned no profit,” he said.
Then, in 2013, the homeowners association said it would not renew the home business permit because Kocher had violated a provision of the permit prohibiting him from placing more than two pieces of furniture outside of the garage in his driveway.
“The (association’s) environmental committee said the furniture was unsightly,” he said.
Kocher subsequently pulled in all the furniture and kept the operations confined to the garage, but it didn’t help, he said.
The July 11 letter, signed by association General Manager Fred Turner, cited noxious fumes and odors and demanded that Kocher shut down.
Turner did not return a phone call seeking comment. At an in-person visit to association offices on Monday, officials said he was out of the office and they declined to comment or give their names.
Kocher said he asked Turner at one point to identify the person who filed a complaint. Turner, Kocher said, first told him it was “anonymous,” then later admitted that it was he, Turner, who was the complainant.
“He does not live in Lake of the Pines,” Kocher said. “According to the association rules, only residents can file a complaint.”
He added that no one from the association had ever actually visited his shop or his home to investigate the allegations.
To contact Staff Writer Keri Brenner, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 530-477-4239.
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