News and notes from Reston (tm).

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

'Tis the Season for Festive Displays, Equally Festive DRB Violations

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Maybe we're just way too cynical for this wondrous time of the year, but why do we wonder if people who submit photos of their "holiday displays" will be getting DRB violation notices in their stockings come Christmas?

Nah, that's crazy. They wouldn't arrive until after New Year's.


  1. That's exactly what I thought when I saw this! Don't fall for it, people, it's a trap! But I guess one that a little photoshop can fix - just be sure you know what potential violations you have first ;-)

  2. In my neighborhood they can come look in July and my neighbors will still have their Christmas lights on. Yet the neighbors across the street kept getting violation notices because their roof color was inconsistent due to prior owners not getting the moss cleaned off often enough. It's good to know they have their priorities straight. Yes to trailer park decor. No to anything that might actually look organically blended.

  3. Thank goodness we are moving out of Reston to McLean-

  4. anon 10:20- sounds about right. My parents live in Reston, and their next-door neighbor has a 80' dead oak which may fall on their house and kill them. The DRB will do nothing to make them take it out.

    Meanwhile, I am getting nasty letters because the light fixture by my front door does not conform to cluster standards. Even though the only way to actually SEE this fixture is to stand directly on my front porch and look up. So possible impending death- not important enough for the DRB to intervene. But God forbid someone standing in front of my front door with his head thrown backwards be offended by the lack of a 70's-era white globe fixture.

    Never again will I move someplace with an HOA.

  5. I am amused by those who sign the Reston oath of fealty, then complain of DRB restriction. I was visiting a former Reston neighbor. She crowed happily she was out from under draconian DRB regulation, then without taking a breath, began to bitch about her new next-door neighbor's above-ground pool!

  6. It's fun to bitch about the DRB and HOA's in general. I'm not all that keen on them, but I can't complain TOO much as we did move to Reston knowing full well that we'd have to deal with a sometimes fickle and nonsensical set of guidelines. So be it. I think it's fine to complain about it here and even to the RA, but just in a nice way. I have an ultimate (probably naive) faith in humanity that when you explain things in a cogent and courteous way, most people will see the logic and help you get what you need. And if that fails there are always threats of lawsuits ;-)

  7. Hickory Cluster knuckle dusterDecember 9, 2009 at 6:04 PM

    DVD and Scuba,
    I agree 100% with what you guys say. We all signed the covenant. There was no mystery. Anon 10:36, why don't you just fix the fixture?

    Anyhoo, I'm glad Reston has a DRB and covenants so that the place does not look like crap.

    Everytime I visit my friends in Herndon or Fairfax, I'm glad that Reston has some standards.

    My fiend in Fairfax has a neighbor who made a replica of a .50 cal machine gun out of wrought iron and has it square in the middle of their lawn. It is insane.
    (But kinda awesome just the same...)

  8. hickory cluster, I AM replacing the fixture. I think you missed the point of my post- what annoys me about RA is that they nitpick about things that are relatively minor, but completely ignore major things (lke the 80 foot dead, rotting tree threatening to fall on my parents' house, which could kill someone). I have another friend whose next-door neighbor took out about a dozen mature trees from her yard (turning a partial-forest into lawn) without permission, which is PLAINLY against RA rules. Their response? Nothing. They told her to replant, and when she didn't do it they refused to follow up. I live in a townhouse, and a neighbor has actually extended her fence into the common area, essentially turning it into part of her yard. Another neighbor turned part of the common area adjoining his property into a a patio for his personal use. Seems to me to be a little bigger deal than a light fixture. But nobody will do anything about either of those things.

    I could swallow the minor annoyances if RA would act on major issues. But they seem to be too chicken to actually do anything about things that really matter- they seem only to want to focus on whether your trim is the right color. It's like if anything "big" comes across the desk of the covenants folks they just freak out. I have no idea why this is.

  9. Peasant From Less Sought After South RestonDecember 9, 2009 at 9:05 PM

    Anon 7:57 makes a perfect point. I think we are all glad that there are regulations preventing junk autos on cinder blocks in front driveways, purple houses with lime green trim -- anyone seen the house on Lawyers Road in Vienna about a block before the post office that is actually painted in those shades? -- and (theoretically, at least) protection of our tree canopy from Paul Bunyan wanna-be's.

    But when the RA and DRB have hissy fits over the precise shade of blue my neighbor's shutters are painted, hidden light fixtures, and, worst of all, the use of red mulch and white stone -- does anybody really wonder why the DRB is the object of so much ridicule and even scorn not just on this filthy blog but also in the collective opinion of so many residents?

    I realize the DRB is doing its job, and the residents who volunteer to serve on it are owed a vote of thanks. But one would hope some common sense would be brought to the table as well. It's not exactly as if Frederick Law Olmsted laid out Reston and Frank Lloyd Wight and I.M. Pei designed the houses. So much of the housing here is standard 1970's suburbia in design, and the best definition of the 1970s I ever heard is "the decade that taste forgot and time cannot improve."

    So, I'd like to see the DRB go after the big-time violators, like the resident on my street who now carries the nickname of Treekiller for taking down about 10 mature, healthy trees (while his front and rear lawn both look like a piece of crap)or people like the ones Anon 7:57 pointed out who allow huge dead trees that pose a major safety hazard to remain as is. The DRB needs to get its priorities straight.

  10. I, too, signed up for the covenants, so I try not to gripe about them too much. But I do wish there was some consistency in enforcement and some sense in the rules.

  11. Peasant From Less Sought After South Reston, Speaking of I.M. Pei, as fate would have it, he actually designed the building I grew up in, in NYC - Kips Bay Towers. Except that there was some squabble because the developer wanted to do something not quite according to Pei's initial instructions and so Pei walked off the job before completion. They eventually reconciled, but in any case, just goes to show that even with famous architects there can be lots of problems.

    Since I'm new to Reston, and to HOA's, my question is if there are what seem to be very legitimate concerns about the DRB's priorities and lack of consistancy, can these somehow be addressed in an open forum - can the DRB be held accountable in some way, or are we doomed by signing our agreements into "you get what you get and you don't get upset"? I'm guessing that's the case. But hey, if the RA doesn't actually enforce serious violations, than how much of this is moot? Are there cases where people have been fined, sued, evicted, or anything other than getting warning notices from RA, or does almost no one other than the aforementioned random violator decide to tempt fate and risk the RA/DRB's wrath?

  12. dvdmom, I think the worst they can do is put a lien on your house. I know someone who had that happened when she refused to remove her screen door (which had a forbidden glass panel in the top).

    I have lived in Reston for over 25 years, since I was a small child. What I *wish* I had known is that if you live in a townhouse, RA sends people through on a regular basis and nails the whole neighborhood. They don't do this in single-family neighborhoods. They also review every house on a block every time one of the houses on that block goes on the market.

    So last year, one of my neighbor's houses went up for sale and we were busted for a few maintenence violations, mostly having to do with needing to repaint the chimney and so forth. I had just had my twins and we were broke, but we figured we had to fix things up, so we dipped into savings and did it. Now they have come through our entire cluster this year, and we are getting ANOTHER list, and half the things on it are things we *fixed last year* and are in perfect shape. I called the covenents person at RA, and she doesn't call me back. I had a handyman out here to look at the property, and he can't figure out what they are complaining about, either. I talked to a former DRB member, who told me that the folks who walk around and make these lists get NO training when it comes to mainenence violations- it's all up to the individual's discretion. So if you happen to get someone who is in a bad mood and feels like making a big list for your property, you're screwed.

    Had I known that I would have people poking around my house on a regular basis (I would say I have had people from RA on my property over half a dozen times in the past year, and that's just when I happened to be home), I'm not sure I would have bought in Reston. This is my home, and I love it here, but I don't know if it's worth the stress of having to deal with this over and over.

  13. Anonymous 10:29, all that does not make me feel good. We've had a couple of contacts with RA/DRB. One was when we were buying the inspector had said that there was a tree that was too close to the house that it might threaten the foundation. The owners were supposed to remove it but when we took a look the day of the settlement it still hadn't been removed. Apparently they'd misunderstood which tree was to be removed (although that seems a bit unlikely). Anyway, the agent went to the RA and got a quick ok on permission to do the tree removal. I don't know, maybe she had some friends there or agents have some pull with them. The other issue was that we have these kind of arch things that hang over the front entrence. They have a roof, but the roof is basically open to the elements. We wanted to put plywood down on top so that it would provide some shelter and so we might be able to use this as a rudimentary front porch. I don't think this roof would be visible by anyone walking by, but it was still rejected, ostensibly because we didn't have drawings or similar formal plans of how this would be constructed/built. So we may or may not be allowed to have this done.

    Since we've all signed a contract essentially to live here, I'm not sure exactly what rights we have other than to appeal the number of times that we're allowed. However, my only thought is that in your case and others where the violations written up by the RA/DRB were unjustified and to top that off they would not even engage you in conversation about it, this seems unreasonable and unacceptable. If there is no legal recourse, there is at least going public with these things either by blogging or better yet the mainstream media if you can manage this. The thought is that with continued exposure about the problems with the process, it obviously makes Reston a less attractive place to move to, and that's not what any of us want, including the RA/DRB. I still think that coureous dialog and reasoning are the best tactic to get what you want, but if you've done this and simply cannot get through because of a lack of responsiveness, or worse, then at some point threat of exposure of this stuff has to come into play. Of course, we complain about this stuff here a lot, but I wonder if there was some concerted effort to document these incidents and put them online and then get some media attention... I don't know, maybe this would jog the RA into actually cleaning things up a bit? Or am I being incredibly naive??


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