Rusty Bradshaw | 04-01-2013
SUN CITY, Ariz. – As Arizonaresidents watch for signs of a housing recovery, home renovations appear to be rising.
“Last year we were processing between 400 to 500 permits a month countywide, now that up to about 500 to 600,” he said.
In most communities with homeowners associations, a renovation triggers a series of processes at the community level. The first step is to present plans to the HOA architecture committee for approval, then go through a permitting process either in a city or Maricopa County, if the property is in an unincorporated area of the county. However, Sun City property owners do not have to face guidelines as stringent as others.
“We don’t have design guidelines per se and we don’t have an architectural; committee,” said Bill Szentmiklosi, Sun City Home Owners Association general manager.
That leads to some homes taking on an interesting appearance in a community completed in the late-1970s. Three years ago, the SCHOA board heard complaints from a couple who objected to a 2-story home constructed near their property. Some residents also complained that same year about a home remodeled to look like a castle. A caller to the Independent late last month, who did not provide her name, complained about a home on Cameo Drive nar Buttercup Drive, claiming neighbors were upset about the new look. The home, in its new format, resembles the Alamo.
The Independent contacted four neighbors, none who spoke on the record, and all were comfortable with the home’s new look.
“While we don’t have design guidelines, color palate or architecture committee, some things are addressed in our CC&Rs,” Mr. Szentmiklosi said. “But those are loosely interpreted right now.”
Those issues are addressed through SCHOA’s Compliance Committee, but issues about design are few, he added.
“We might get two or three per year,” Mr. Szentmiklosi said. “But when we do get one, we do investigate it.”
Some believe residents who oppose any home appearance other than the standard is detrimental to Sun City. On the Independent’s Internet Public Forum, rizona.newszap.com/forum, ReElect NoOne posted, “Remodeling in Sun City goes a lot further than personal residences. Sun City has an image problem, as in out-of-date image. Case in point, drive west along Union Hills Drive from 83rd Avenue. You pass Westbrook Village and as you approach the golf course and cross into Sun City it is like an immediate step backward in time. The ‘white walls’ of Sun City are in great need of major attention!”
However, others disagree. As posted by 62gthawk, “Those of us who live here like it ‘white.’ Go screw up your own neighborhood and quit (complaining). We don’t want you driving through here either!”
Mr. Szentmiklosi said SCHOA officials have discussed establishing design guidelines and starting an architectural committee. However, creating the guidelines would mean changing the organization’s governing documents, which is a costly endeavor because of the written notification requirements. Mr. Szentmiklosi said CC&Rs can only be changed by a vote of residents and a campaign to change the CC&Rs could cost as much as $500,000. He said a CC&R change requires several rounds of notifications to all Sun City residents required.
When SCHOA investigates a complaint about the design of a home renovation, it rarely shows a clear violation of the HOA’s CC&Rs.
The complaint about multiple story homes three years ago prompted SCHOA officials to research a policy statement opposing such structures. But the Del Webb Corp. built 2-story homes during the community’s development and the precedent was set. Also, the Sun City CC&Rs do not restrict height.
The “castle” home on Cameo Drive, owned by Pat and Carolyn Healy, is a 2-story dwelling. It is not much higher than their neighbor’s house.
“The home originally had a low, flat roof, so when we built up the major portion of our roof line, it is actually somewhat lower than our neighbor’s peak,” the couple stated in an e-mail in 2010. “The upper portion of our home is only four feet higher than our neighbor’s peak and we put parapet walls up to modify the levels and create a coordinated appearance from the street side and the golf course side.”
The Healys noted their reason for building the addition was to share time with others.
“We like to have our family, grandchildren and friends come for visits and be able to stay with us. We added a guest suite upstairs and a small kids ‘Bunk House,’” the couple stated. “We also were able to finally take advantage of a portion of the existing flat roof and develop a small deck ‘Roof Garden’ that overlooks the golf course.”
Mr. Ewers said property owners can submit building permits in-person at the county offices in downtown Phoenix or online. He added the turnaround depends on the project.
“Some simple ones can be done overnight,” he said. “But we usually try to get that first response out within two weeks.”
Additional time is required if county building officials require changes to the plan, he added.
Maricopa County also has no design guidelines or architectural committee. However, county officials recently adopted the International Building Code.
“The Board of Supervisors can set some guidelines beyond the code and county ordinances on a case-by-case basis,” Mr. Ewers said.
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