More Cluster Funning

So, after carefully assembling applications to Reston’s Committee for Public Safety Design Review Board we were approved for cutting down ugly bushes and trimming the giant silver maple looming over the house. Which is good, because I had already done it two days after closing.

There was a note that I should “consider notifying my neighbors” beforehand. That might be because a small army of three trucks and about ten guys showed up one morning and knocked it out in about an hour and a half–while scaring the heck out of the neighbors. In fact, as I drove away I noticed an RA truck with a guy on the phone–someone probably thought I was clear-cutting the lot (not unheard of in NoVA) and called it in! Fair enough, next time I’ll put the word out.

We also applied to paint the house, which desperately needs it. See my previous post on the subject. So, I submitted a perfectly respectable blue with gray trim, and it was rejected. Along with an application for very boring, ordinary gray gutters.

At which point I decided it would be best to ask my husband the Diplomat to take over. He contacted the apparatchnik DRB person in charge who suddenly recalled that the Benjamin Moore store had actually created a current palette for the cluster that we could refer to. Gee, that would have been helpful about three weeks ago. Even Mr. Diplomat could not resist employing the term “Kafka-esque” in his correspondence with her. (That was a heck of a lot more diplomatic than I could have been under the circumstances.)

Anyway, we found a blue color among all the various beiges, taupes and browns on the palette that we like OK, and the house will be painted next week. Yay.

Finally, as the house has no garage or basement, we submitted an application for a lean-to shed to go in a small side yard. I read the rules carefully and could see no reason why the shed couldn’t be built. I had a shed guy come out  and draw up a proposal, and submitted that along with photos and a clear description of the location. Installation was scheduled for next week.

But that was rejected, too.

Disapproved shed (12’ x 4’ x 8’6”, siding to match house siding color, white trim, roof to match house roofing, with lattice) in side yard as not in conformance with the Design Guidelines for sheds which state that sheds must be no higher than the fence, and must be finished to match the structure to which it is attached

Note that the shed is first described “to match house siding color” and later in the same sentence it says that the shed is “not in conformance” because it “must be finished to match the structure to which it is attached.” Uh, OK. They also asked for a “detailed site plan drawn to scale” which is not required in the guidelines. Nice.

I said, that’s it: I don’t have time to deal with this before the move, and canceled the shed for now. I felt kind of bad about it because the guy went to a lot of trouble to draw up the proposal for me and we both looked at the guidelines and could see no reason why it wouldn’t be approved. I told him I would definitely call him first when we come back in three years and tackle the issue again.

The Diplomat asked about this when he visited Committee HQ, the RA office, and apparently, in addition to contradicting themselves in the same sentence, they thought the shed would be at the back of the house despite 8′ x 10″ photos of the location and my written description of the SIDE YARD location.

If you’ve read this far, it’s obvious that I am more or less venting. But (Foreign Service angle here) it is interesting to note that HOAs have so much in common with third world companies and bureaucracies. You think when you come back to the States that things are actually going to function efficiently for a change, and well, kind of make sense. And usually they do. But HOAs? Not so much.

On a lighter note, the inside of the house is almost done! (It’s a good thing the DRB can’t tell us what to do inside our houses–we’d all be living with knotty pine paneling and brown shag carpets.) I’m planning to take photos tomorrow to advertise it for rental, and I’ll post some before-and-afters in the next few days. Liking it very much now!


  1. HOAs can be total nightmares. We went round and round with ours in TX before we joined the FS. A board members was caught peering over fences into backyards trying to catch any infringements that weren’t apparent from the street. One of our neighbors was a cop and explained is short clear sentences that if was ever caught doing that again he was going to get arrested for trespassing. Another would drive the neighborhood every single day with a notepad. You could be sure if she stopped in front of your house would would be getting a letter in the mail soon demanding something be changed/fixed/painted/removed. But my personal favorite was the Christmas lights. My husband is weird and would leave the Christmas lights up until his birthday in late January and then light them on his birthday one last time before removing them the next day. Annoying but not outside the rules which states they had to be down by Jan 31st. After the board figured out what he was doing they changed the rules requiring all decorations to be down by the day before my husbands birthday. Nice.


    • That’s pretty sad–I thought leaving Christmas lights up until Easter was a southern tradition!
      Our elderly neighbor put up a “no trespassing” sign at the edge of his yard after we bought the house. I don’t know why: he seems perfectly nice. But another neighbor told us that he had gotten skeeved about all the people tromping around the property. Who were those people? The HOA inspectors, haha!


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