By Rusty Bradshaw
The Sun City Home Owners Association began in earnest the process of making changes to the community’s covenants, conditions and restrictions.
The agency board of directors approved a plan to commit funds to the effort and its CC&R Review Committee will now develop a strategy to move forward. Part of that strategy will be deciding just how SCHOA officials will convince at least 51 percent of about 17,500 property owners to approve the changes.
CC&R changes were prompted last year when residents complained about large detached garages being built in multiple neighborhoods. Tom Wilson, SCHOA general manager, said he has wanted CC&R revisions for years because the current document has some sections that are unenforceable.
“This will be a major effort and it will take more than just money, we’ll need volunteers, too,” said Jim Hunter, SCHOA board president.
“The board has authorized funds for the legal review of the proposed amendments to the CC&R’s. While that review is underway, I will be gathering the review committee back together, possibly with a couple more members, to brainstorm ideas on how to best approach the big task of getting approval of the amendments.”
The committee’s proposed revisions took Sun City’s CC&Rs from a 12-page document to 10 to five pages with printing on both sides.
“They are not real complicated,” Mr. Hunter said.
The bulk of the changes are incorporating the clarifications added in the early-2000s into the CC&Rs, with some of those clarifications being rewritten. In addition, some CC&Rs were rewritten or added to conform with Maricopa County ordinances.
“We want to avoid areas where we are in conflict with the county,” Mr. Hunter said.
While SCHOA officials have been trying to enforce the entire CC&R document, they were advised by their legal counsel that the clarifications may not be enforceable.
“Those clarifications were not approved by residents, so they really have no standing,” said Art Jenkins, SCHOA board member.
The CC&Rs also needed revision because some of the clarifications contradicted sections of the CC&Rs.
Recommended CC&R changes include:
• Requiring detached garages be no taller than the adjoining home and a driveway must lead into the garage.
• Detached utility buildings will be allowed if they are screened or walled so they are not visible from the street.
• Gazebos and other outdoor living structures will be allowed and eliminate the phrase “servants’ quarters” from the document.
• Rentals of 29 days or less would be prohibited.
• Fences and setbacks must be consistent with Maricopa County codes and ordinances.
• Prohibit wooden fences.
• No parking on street longer than 72 hours in a 30-day period.
• Added language to provision dealing with prohibiting parking on yards and landscaping.
• Removed the phrase “except in a garage” from parking provision.
• Will allow variances for underage spouses who inherit property, as long as they do not bring in anyone under 55.
• Move the provision about inoperative vehicles from the condition of property section to the vehicles section.
Research and proposal
Sun City’s CC&Rs were last revised in the late 1990s. The proposed changes came after 10 months of research by the committee, and after it received input from residents through in-person testimony at meetings and an online survey.
“Our existing CC&Rs have been in place since 1963,” Mr. Hunter said. “The last time they were revised it took 2.5 years to get it done.”Sun City’s CC&Rs concern only properties with single-family homes.
Shared roof properties — called condos and patio homes — are governed by their own set of CC&Rs in 386 separate homeowners associations for those properties. While each condo association CC&R document is similar to SCHOA’s in many ways, there are some differences specific to each association. Enforcement of the condo association CC&Rs is the responsibility of the boards for each entity, but most include a clause allowing them to request enforcement assistance from SCHOA, according to Jerry Walczak, Condo Owners Association president and a SCHOA board member.
Gaining resident approval for SCHOA’s CC&Rs will be no easy task, according to Bill Pearson, CC&R Committee member.
“I don’t know how we’re going to get it passed,” he said. “It can’t be done with just volunteers.”
Mr. Hunter said the campaign, if approved by the SCHOA board, will likely include hiring people to go door-to-door to explain the changes and the importance of making them.
“But we will have volunteer leadership,” he added. “We have a lot of work to do.”
Mr. Pearson said existing conditions on properties would be grandfathered, if the CC&R changes are resident-approved. However, the grandfathering would not last forever, according to Mr. Hunter.
“The condition would need to change to comply with the CC&Rs before a deed changes hands,” he explained.
But changes to comply would not conflict with county codes and ordinances and would not place an undue burden on a homeowner, he added.
Much of the recommended CC&R changes revolve around condition of property issues. Those make up the majority of SCHOA’s complaints from residents.
“We are in our busy time right now,” said Gary Owens, SCHOA assistant compliance manager. “We’re handling about 14-15 condition of property complaints per day.”
When a complaint is investigated — for condition of property or any other violation — SCHOA officials send a notice calling for compliance and if that brings no resolution two more notices are sent. If there is still no resolution, the case could go to legal action. In the case of conditions of property for bank-owned properties, SCHOA officials give 30 days to resolve the issue. After that, in the case of conditions of property, they send in a crew to clean the property then put a lien on the home to reimburse costs.
“We have court dates for April 17 and April 22 for two non-bank owned issues,” Mr. Owens said.
The legal route is always the last resort, according to Mr. Hunter. He also said SCHOA officials want to use the “clean and lien” method on one problem area but it has been posted as seized property with no trespassing signs.
“We are working to get access to the property to clean it up,” Mr. Hunter said.